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St. Louis, Missouri
Paulie Leisure wanted to control St. Louis' underworld and he was prepared to kill anyone who stood in his way. In using car bombs to take out Tony Giordano protégé Sonny Spica and then Jimmy Michaels, the venerable head of the Syrian-Lebanese faction, he touched off a bloodbath known as the "Leisure War."
St. Louis' underworld was unique. It had three distinct, but cohesive, organized crime families. The most influential was the Mafia, controlled by the respected Anthony "Tony G" Giordano. The Syrian-Lebanese faction in south St. Louis was headed by James A. "Jimmy" Michaels Sr. Across the Mississippi River in Illinois, Art Berne ruled the third outfit. Like Giordano, Berne spoke with the authority of the Chicago Syndicate.
All three shared authority in many of the construction unions, the most important of which were Laborers' Union Locals 42, 53 and 110 in St. Louis. Not only were they a source of lucre for the mob, but whoever controlled them inherited considerable influence and power. For some time Giordano had been the overlord.
Paul John "Paulie" Leisure, a Syrian who was a suspected contract killer, headed a small dissident, but deadly, group of gangsters. He once had been close to Giordano and Michaels, but he had come to despise them. He coveted control of the St. Louis underworld and saw the Laborers' locals as an expedient to it. He already had a piece of the action, but he wanted it all. However, Giordano and Michaels stood in his way and someone had to die.
Just like John Paul "Sonny" Spica, a rising star in the Mafia who was a protégé of Giordano's. When the Mafia boss had placed him in a position of power in Local 42 in October 1979, he immediately challenged Leisure's influence and announced his intention to hit one of his associates. Leisure had him killed within weeks with a car bomb.
When it came time to make his move a few months later, Leisure chose Michaels as his first victim. The "Leisure War" was on.
"These f------ guys, we'll eat 'em like hamburgers. Getting' away from us is like walkin' between the raindrops."
11:55 a. m. Sept. 17, 1980 – Jimmy Michaels, 75, the long-time Patriarch of St. Louis' Syrian-Lebanese crime family, drove his brown 1979 Chrysler Cordoba into the parking lot of St. Raymond's Maronite Church on the near south side. He appeared aristocratic, more an elder statesman than a hoodlum. Nattily dressed with flowing white hair, mustache and a Roman nose, his gentle disposition set him apart from other gangsters. His grandson, James A. "Beans" Michaels III, arrived a short time later.
Michaels, as he did most Wednesdays, went to the church to have lunch. It was a popular event and the Lebanese cuisine was excellent. He mingled with politicians, government officials, civic and business leaders and the curious who came to observe the famous and notorious. Never mind that his career in crime spanned half a century. He was well respected in the Syrian community and the underworld throughout the country. He provided the political clout that the two other organized crime factions lacked.
A few minutes after Michaels arrived, a van with darkened windows drove onto the church parking lot and backed into a parking space. John Ramo was driving and Anthony Leisure, a brother of Paulie Leisure, sat next to him, holding a model airplane remote control. In the back were David Leisure, a cousin, and Ronald Joseph Broderick.
12:10 p. m. – Charles Lowe parked the tow truck two blocks from the church. He turned on the two-way radio and listened intently for any messages. Eight blocks away, in his office at LN&P Towing Co., Paulie Leisure monitored a police scanner. If he heard any calls concerning the van, he would contact Loewe by radio to alert the four men in the van.
12:20 p. m. – David Leisure alighted from the van, carrying an attache case. After scanning the area, he crawled underneath Michaels' Chrysler and quickly attached the briefcase to the underside with two rubber straps with hooks on both ends. It took him only about a minute.
3:05 p. m. – Michaels and "Beans" left the church hall. They chatted briefly by the Cordoba. David Leisure saw the opportunity. "Let's hit 'em now. We can kill them both." Anthony demurred. Killing them at the church would bring intolerable heat, he said.
Michaels drove from the lot. A few blocks from the church, Anthony activated the remote transmitter, but nothing happened. Again, he impatiently pressed the button, but the bomb underneath the Cordoba failed to detonate. They momentarily lost sight of Michaels' car as it merged with heavy southbound traffic on Interstate 55, but soon caught up with it.
3:30 p. m. – Michaels apparently paid no attention to the van. Anthony urged Ramo to get closer and when they were four car lengths behind he again activated the remote control. This time it worked. A deafening boom sounded and a plume of orange flame and black smoke erupted from the Cordoba. Michaels' body, severed at the waist, was hurled to the pavement like a rag doll. The van lurched to avoid it, careening through the smoke and debris that showered down on it. Other nearby vehicles screeched to a stop.
Debris and oil from the car splattered the van. They drove it to Illinois where they washed it three times. The windshield wipers were replaced because residue from the explosive might be imbedded in their rubber blades. They daubed shaving lotion on their faces and in the van's interior to disguise the acrid odor of smoke that permeated their skin. "We could still smell the burned dynamite on us. It was all over us," Ramo said later.
In taking out one of the most respected underworld generals in the Midwest, Paulie Leisure had just declared war.
Three months earlier, Leisure had called a meeting of the gang. His killing machine was well honed and it was time to boldly make a preemptory strike. Someone had to be made an example. The underworld needed to be given an unambiguous message about who would be the real power. No longer would Leisure remain in the shadows of the giants of St. Louis' organized crime. He would become the high priest of the underworld kingdom over the corpses of those who resisted him.
The awesome ability to grant life or deny it and to dominate the mob in St. Louis were aphrodisiacs to Leisure, arousing his passions to new heights. The bombing of Spica 10 months earlier had been the defining moment in his effort to gain control of the underworld. Leisure had drawn first blood and there could be no turning back. To do so would brand him and his crew as weak, as losers, and that was intolerable. The lack of retaliation for the Spica hit only emboldened Leisure because he considered it a sign of weakness.
The inroads he had made in Laborers' Local 110 were being eroded by Michaels and his nemesis, the Mafia. Leisure's brother, Anthony, had shared power with John Massud, a Syrian loyalist who was beholden to Michaels and who was drifting closer to the Italians. By mutual agreement, Massud was business manager with control only over the local's finances. But Anthony, as assistant business manager, was the real power. He had authority over hiring and firing. Three years earlier, Paulie Leisure had placed Broderick, a hulking
6-footer who weighed 270 pounds with a propensity for violence, in the local as an organizer. He was Anthony's muscle.
By early in 1980, Massud was usurping more and more authority. He already had brought several Italians into key positions in the union. Not only that, but over Anthony's objections Massud had hired "Beans" Michaels as an organizer. The job was to have gone to Ramo, one of Leisures' operatives. Paulie Leisure assessed it all as defiance of his authority.
Leisure and his minions discussed who should be killed to re-establish their authority. He decided Massud would be sacrificed. If nothing else, Leisure believed in democracy. He called for a vote and Massud's life was spared. The time just wasn't right. The consensus was that to kill him surely would bring down the wrath of the Mafia. It would be the ultimate act of insurrection. The Italians could muster an army from around the country that could quickly quell the rebellion. Leisure and his gang would be outnumbered and outgunned.
Leisure decided to wait until Giordano, terminally ill with cancer, died. When he did on Aug. 29, 1980, organized crime was left temporarily with no controlling authority. It was time for Leisure to act decisively and fill the vacuum. By then, Massud was moving overtly to oust Anthony Leisure and Broderick from the local. The Leisures decided that the death of the elderly Michaels, who they believed was calling the shots, would best serve the Leisures' cause and bring the least reprisal.
There were other reasons to eliminate Michaels. Paulie Leisure had several grudges to settle with the "Old Man." A cousin, Richard, had been killed in a barroom brawl in 1964. The Leisures blamed a close associate of Michaels, who had helped him leave town to escape the Leisures' vengeance. Besides, Paulie complained that Michaels had cheated him out of a considerable sum of money.
There was an equally compelling reason to kill Michaels. Leisure was among the elite St. Louis and Detroit mobsters, including Michaels, who had hidden ownership of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Upon Michaels' death, his share would be split among the other owners.
Paulie Leisure's determination was reflected in a comment recorded later by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"These f------ guys, we'll eat 'em like hamburgers. We got power structures. We got an organization. They're just punks. We got a power base, you know. Getting' away from us is like walkin' between the raindrops."
Paulie Leisure personally oversaw the Michaels' murder. Always the perfectionist, he left little to chance. He planned his hits with the precision of an engineer. That he was well experienced in the art of murder was brought home to FBI agents who monitored a conversation in which he bragged:
"But I'll tell you one thing … you can take all these people around here, put 'em all together and put everything they did, and this is true … I killed more people than all of 'em put together."
His soldiers went on high alert. They stalked Michaels using a Dodge van they called the "work car" that was registered in a fictitious name. They learned that he ate breakfast almost every morning in a diner. They would ambush him there. Michaels sometimes was accompanied by his brother, Francis, also an official of Local 110. "We'll kill the old man and anybody with him," Paulie Leisure told a trusted lieutenant, Fred Prater.
Broderick, Anthony Leisure and Ramo, wearing ski masks and gloves and armed with pistols and shotguns, were to enter through the side door. While Broderick held the other customers at gunpoint, Anthony and Ramo would kill Michaels. The door always was locked, but a gang member inside would unlock it shortly before the assassination. Over the course of a week, they tried three times, but each time the door had been relocked.
Broderick said he and David and Anthony Leisure one night attempted to shoot Michaels through a window in his home in south St. Louis County, but a barking dog frightened them away.
Paulie, at the urging of his brother, decided to bomb Michaels. It would be easier and less hazardous because it could be detonated remotely. And the message it would convey would be more effective.
David Leisure had learned about the Wednesday luncheons. He watched the church for several weeks from the apartment of a friend across the street and observed Michaels arrive and leave. Paulie Leisure gave Prater three model airplane remote controls and instructed him to assemble a device to be used in a bomb. Anthony Leisure provided him with dynamite and an attaché case in which to place the bomb.
He and Ramo stole a Chrysler Cordoba identical to Michaels' seven blocks from LN & P Towing Co., Leisures' towing and salvage operation. It belonged to a probation and parole agent. A cardboard sign on the dashboard identified the owner. David practiced installing the attaché case under the Cordoba while Anthony timed him. He could do it in about one minute.
The next day Michaels died a violent death.
The day after the bombing, Paulie Leisure and John Vitale, the revered Mafia elder statesman who became interim boss after Giordano died, met in a downtown hotel. Prater later related what Leisure said had transpired.
"Vitale said, 'What do you want? Local 110? Take it'. Vitale was angry that Michaels had been killed. Paulie told him, 'John, whatever happens to Syrians is none of your business. You take care of Italian business'."
But Vitale would make the death of his dear friend Jimmy Michaels his business.
FBI agents later listened as Leisure vented his unabated anger at the Mafia.
"F--- them stinkin' Dagos. All my troubles and everybody's troubles come from them Dagos. I ain't gonna take no back seat to them. That f------ Vitale ain't never gonna see the day he'll dictate to me. I mean, that's the end of the ball game."
But Leisure had accomplished part of his goal and he was on his way. Hours after Michaels was bombed, he bragged to Broderick: "Now I'm the top Syrian in town."
Michaels' wake presented a dilemma for the Leisure outfit. Their absence might arouse suspicion. If they went, they might have an unwanted confrontation. It was decided that as a show of strength they would attend.
A Costly Mistake
"I pray to God to let me walk to kill people.I'm motivated because I wanna go out and kill." Paulie Leisure
Paulie Leisure wanted to begin immediately his subjugation of Local 110 by forcing out all of Michaels' relatives. Anthony counseled patience, warning that to act too quickly would cast suspicion on them.
Michaels' death, although considered a family matter, caused concern among mob bosses throughout the country. Jesse Stoneking, Art Berne's lieutenant who would become an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation 18 months later, explained why.
"Mafia bosses all over the country were very disturbed by it. They figured what a way for a man who's been so respected all his life to go. His word was good. That's the main thing in the Mafia. If your word's good you're reputable."
An uneasy peace returned to the St. Louis underworld. Some intelligence experts believed whatever dispute had caused the Michaels' bombing had been settled. Others weren't so sure.
In May, Paulie was appointed an organizer and a member of the Executive Board of Laborers' Local 42 by Raymond Flynn, who was business manager, the highest office. It was the first fruit of the alliance between Leisure and him after the Spica bombing. Like he did with his proceeds from the Aladdin, Leisure shared his money from Local 42 with his loyal soldiers.
Five months later, the purging of enemies from Local 110 began. Michaels' grandson was dismissed from his union position and his brother, Francis, later resigned. Massud, now that his mentor was dead, would stay on for the time being.
While Leisure was consolidating his power, the Michaels' family, driven by revenge, was plotting its own warfare. They were no less fastidious than Leisure in planning murder. Sadie Faheen, Michaels' sister, contributed a $250,000 war chest for the killing of all those responsible for her brother's death. Bounties of $50,000 were placed on Paulie and Anthony Leisures' heads. A hit squad was assembled.
Through a friend, "Beans" Michaels rented an apartment in suburban Jefferson County. The lease was in a fictitious name. It was to be the "war room" where murder could be planned away from prying eyes and ears.
Milton R. "Russ" Schepp, chief of police of the small south St. Louis community of St. George, obtained two untraceable surveillance vehicles. Like "Beans," he insulated himself. He had the police department's mechanic purchase two used cars with cash he had given him and register them under fictitious names and addresses. By mid-summer, a powerful bomb had been assembled in the apartment. Investigators later would find many fingerprints of both Michaels and Schepp in it, including on a magazine, "Law And Order," a publication for chiefs of police.
Shortly after 8 a. m., on Aug. 11, 1981, Paulie Leisure left his home in south St. Louis. His mother walked with him to the front yard. He apparently didn't see George "Sonny" Faheen, Sadie's son, and Jack Issa in a car a block down the street. A witness later would identify them.
Even before Leisure inserted the key into the ignition, the car exploded. A bomb underneath it had been remotely detonated. The blast ripped out the undercarriage of the vehicle. He miraculously survived. He was near death when surgeons amputated parts of both legs and repaired the serious injuries to his face. His mother suffered partial hearing loss.
Not long after the Michaels' bombing, Leisure, like some of his soldiers, had installed a remote starter in his car. He was too well acquainted with the vagaries of the underworld not to. But in the absence of any retaliation for almost a year he apparently felt safe. That morning he did not use it. It was a mistake that almost cost him his life.
The bombing might have curtailed temporarily Leisure's quest for control of the underworld, but it only made unquenchable his thirst for vengeance against the Michaels' and the Mafia, particularly Vitale. He had learned that the Michaels' had gotten Vitale's approval for the hit.
During one conversation in his home with Ramo, he reflected about a man whom he had befriended in the hospital and compared him with himself. They had a lot in common because his legs had been amputated.
"I respected this guy because he was really good, a high spirited guy. What motivated this guy … he was real happy and real good. "That's not my reason for walkin'. Mine is even better than his. I pray to God to let me walk to kill people. Now, you know that's wrong. I'm motivated because I wanna go out and kill."
In his tortured mind, Leisure welcomed a confrontation with the Michaelses.
"I wish they'd come in here and let's get it over with. It'd do my heart good to blast it out with these f------. Just give me two .45s. I feel like I could still take a couple of slugs and drop them. About six, four or five of them, anyway."
He was fatalistic about the bombing.
"It's one of the hazards of the f------ game. I knew thisall my life. That's why I told you, it's marked on yourforehead. You know, by rights I should've been dead.Ten sticks of f------ dynamite. I'm the only one that I know of in the history of the whole country that ever walked away from a car bombing."
Unmasking A Snitch
"Jimmy Michaels' grandson wanted John to give me $50,000 to crack Paul Leisure …" Jesse Stoneking
Vitale was not what he seemed, a disinterested onlooker in the war between the Leisure and the Michaels families. He was a master of treachery who would go to any length to inflict revenge on those who had killed his old friend and golfing partner, Jimmy Michaels. It became an obsession with him.
A few days after Paulie Leisure was bombed Vitale summoned Stoneking to his house. He ranted and raved about the Michaels' bombing. Paulie Leisure had lived while a good man had died, he said. He had an offer.
"John said, 'You know, they want Paulie and Anthony cracked bad.' Jimmy Michaels' grandson wanted John to give me $50,000 to crack Paul Leisure while he was in the hospital. He wanted to know if I was interested. I said I didn't want to get involved because it was none of my business. I told him I don't kill people for money. And he said, 'I told him you'd probably say that 'cause I didn't think you would either'."
Vitale made a counter-offer. He needed a bomb with a model airplane remote control to detonate it. Stoneking told him that he knew a man in Florida who could supply one. But Vitale insisted that he wanted Stanley "Ski" Kowalski, a friend of Stoneking's from the East Side, to make the bomb. He would give Stoneking $5,000 if he would have Kowalski bring a bomb to him in St. Louis.
Stoneking concealed his suspicion. He assumed Vitale suspected Kowalski had made the Michaels' bomb. Stoneking said he would see what he could do. Later that day, he talked to Kowalski, who was surprised that Vitale knew the bomb had been activated with such a remote control. No one knew that except the bombers.
Now, Stoneking was convinced that Vitale wanted to set them up to be arrested with a bomb or to be killed. He didn't suspect that Vitale was a FBI snitch until the next day when two agents came to his home. They offered him $5,000 to be wired up and get Kowalski to talk about the Michaels bomb.
"I told them to get off my property. I wouldn't have done it for a million dollars. I knew then that Vitale was snitching to them and telling them I had something to do with Michaels' bombing."
He said nothing more to Vitale about it. Berne ridiculed his suggestion that Vitale was an informant. But he would learn the truth two years later. By then Stoneking was working undercover for the FBI. Berne and Vitale had driven to Chicago and they had discussed the Michaels and Spica bombings. In 1983, Berne was subpoenaed before a federal grand jury investigating the Spica murder. He was questioned specifically about that conversation. Now he knew the truth about Vitale.
Vitale's treachery would be a factor in Stoneking deciding to become a FBI informant a few months later.
"Kill 'em so easy. Make 'em die slow." David Leisure
It took David and Anthony Leisure only a few days to confirm what they had suspected all along, that the Michaels' family was responsible for Paulie's bombing. Retaliation would be swift and brutal. His outfit would unleash all the fury it had at its disposal and conceive innovative ways to kill.
David had a source in the St. Louis Police Department who had identified Faheen and Issa as the bombers. The source also had told him about the "war room" before a warrant was obtained and executed for its search.
Now an intensive search began. If they found a family member, they would torture him to learn the whereabouts of the others. No mercy would be shown. Paulie told David, "If we catch one of those guys … we'll have to work on them first." He suggested giving the victims laxatives and then "every time they s---- we'll whop 'em with a baseball bat. Maybe red-hot pokers, right? There's nothing wrong with a good blowtorch, too. Make 'em feel every bit of it." Putting their hands in the moving gears of a transmission was an option.
"Kill 'em so easy. Make 'em die slow," David urged.
FBI agents who monitored the conversations couldn't decide if the Leisures were serious or bragging.
Michaels owned a farm about 100 miles south of St. Louis and the Leisures believed family members might be hiding there. Broderick, Loewe and Flynn drove to the farm. They would kill anyone they found there, but the house was empty. Flynn suggested dangling a rope with dynamite down the chimney so that when the fireplace was lit the "whole cabin would blow up." Broderick vetoed it because there might be women and children inside.
David Leisure had learned where Bobby Peters, who was believed to have been a conspirator in the bombing, worked. Broderick, Anthony and David Leisure and Loewe intended to ambush him as he left work. A man mowing grass nearby frightened them off.
"Beans" Michaels and his brother, John, frequented the Playboy Club in south St. Louis County. One night Broderick, Anthony and David Leisure followed "Beans" from the club, but he eluded them. They found his car parked in front of his home. Broderick wanted to invade the house and assassinate him, but Anthony declined, saying they didn't know whom else might be there.
When David Leisure was unable to locate several members of the conspiracy, he approached a friend, Innes Anderson, a repairman for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. They discussed ways to install wiretaps and voice activated recorders on home telephones, including Sadie Faheen's, and the office phones of U. S. Attorney Thomas E. Dittmeier.
David told Anderson that Norman Peters, whom he believed had killed his brother, Richard, in 1964, was in California and that Bobby Peters might be in telephone contact. He and Anderson drove to a telephone company facility near downtown St. Louis and stole 10 boxes of long-distance telephone call records. It was unknown if they found what they were seeking.
When the Leisures learned that John Michaels frequently ate lunch at a restaurant not far from LN & P, they decided to ambush him as he entered. An abandoned house across the alley from the rear of the restaurant was selected. Late in the morning of Sept. 11, 1981, exactly a month after Paulie Leisure was bombed, Anthony and David Leisure and Charles Loewe stole a van and drove to the house.
As Michaels and a companion, Dennis Day, alighted from Michaels car, Anthony opened fire with a shotgun. Michaels fell wounded between two cars. Anthony then shot Day, injuring him. They fled in the stolen van.
That afternoon, Prater asked Anthony why he had shot Day, who had played no part in Paulie Leisure's bombing. "I don't know why," Anthony replied. "He was just standing there and I just shot him."
Paulie Leisure was incensed that Michaels still lived. "I got real hot with my brother because one thing, when you go to do that, you never want to leave there till he's dead. I mean, that long distance s---, I never did like it."
"There goes Sonny. He won't live till tomorrow." David Leisure
David Leisure finally learned that Faheen recently had moved to the Mansion House, an apartment complex downtown near the Mississippi River. He knew also that Faheen, chief deputy clerk of the St. Louis Circuit Court, drove a Volkswagen.
Leisure, Loewe and a newcomer to the gang, Frank Termine Jr., began stalking Faheen. They observed him sometimes walking the few blocks to and from his office in the Civil Courts Building; they saw that he parked his car in a multilevel garage adjacent his apartment building.
In the morning of Oct. 15, 1981, David Leisure and Ramo drove to the parking garage. Ramo, armed with a pistol, stood guard while Leisure attempted to get into the Volkswagen, but couldn't open the door. Leisure instructed Ramo to shoot and kill any security guard who happened upon the scene.
From there, they met Flynn, Broderick and Anthony Leisure. Flynn gave David Leisure two bags, each containing five sticks of dynamite. He said he had gotten them from a man he called "Ski" in Illinois. David practiced placing a bomb on a salvaged Volkswagen at LN&P.
Later that afternoon, David Leisure and Termine in the "work car" and Loewe in another vehicle watched Faheen as he left the Courthouse. They were equipped with walkie-talkies. David Leisure was the first to see Faheen leave the building.
"I got him. He won't live till tomorrow. We should cut his head off and put it toward the mirror."
Flynn, Prater and Broderick saw the perils of bombing Faheen's car in the parking garage. They argued with David and Anthony Leisure that many innocent persons could be killed or injured in an explosion in an enclosed area. The Leisures ignored them.
The next morning, Oct. 16, David Leisure, wearing a gray wig, and Michael Kornhardt, another recent recruit, drove to the Mansion House parking garage. Loewe took the bomb in his car, gave it to Leisure and left. Kornhardt stayed in the car while Leisure attached the bomb to Faheen's Volkswagen. It was near the gasoline tank under the front hood.
Later that afternoon, Faheen got behind the wheel of his car, inserted the key in the ignition and turned it. He was incinerated instantly. One score had been settled by the Leisures. Retribution, indeed, had been swift.
Not long afterwards, Paulie Leisure obtained a copy of a police report on the bombing. He read through it with his bodyguard, Rich Washington.
"See, he burnt to death," Leisure said. "Both his legs gone, plus he burnt up.
Washington commented, "What made it so bad about him, where he got torched at, that's where his tank was at. He was trapped in there."
"The gas sprayed," Leisure observed. Now, he was gloating. "When you burn up, that ain't no fun. Plus, before he burned to death, he got both legs blown off. Best thing about it, when he got in the car, he put that seat belt on and locked him in."
Death to a Traitor
"You know we're gentle people, but I wanna tell you, bring him in here, I'll kill him right now." Paulie Leisure
If Michael Kornhardt had any faults, the most fatal was that he couldn't keep his mouth shut. A thief by trade, he was way out of his league in the Leisure gang.
Two days after Faheen was bombed, Kornhardt was arrested and charged with the murder. He fit the description of a man seen in the parking garage shortly before the explosion. While in City Jail, he bragged to a turnkey he had known for years that he had the bomb in his car the day of the bombing. He later was released on $250,000 bond secured by property Prater owned.
At first, the Leisures weren't concerned. They believed the case against Kornhardt was weak. By May of 1982, their assessment changed with ominous news. Their sources in the police department were keeping them well informed. Termine had turned traitor and was cooperating in the prosecution of Kornhardt in an effort to get a light sentence for a home invasion in Illinois. Now, he was in hiding in the federal Witness Protection Program.
A sense of urgency gripped the Leisures. They doubted that Kornhardt would be able to accept long imprisonment. Then news reports hinted that he also was cooperating with authorities. He could bring down a lot of people. Paulie Leisure was particularly angry. He had promised Kornhardt a job in Local 42 and had paid $20,000 of his legal expenses. Not only that, but not to execute a snitch was intolerable. It would be bad for the gang's image. Paulie said:
"We got to hit that kid. You know we're gentle people, but I wanna tell you, bring him in here, I'll kill him right now."
Leisure turned his anger on David. It was his responsibility, he insisted, because he had brought Kornhardt into the outfit. David gave the contract to Robert Carbaugh and Steven Wougamon, also relative newcomers to the outfit. They were all too eager to impress Paulie and make their bones.
David Leisure came up with a novel, less dangerous, way to kill Kornhardt. Carbaugh and Wougamon would arrange a party with the victim present. He was a drug user and they would give him an overdose. When the scheme failed, they decided to shoot Kornhardt. David gave them a "clean" pistol that was untraceable.
The night of July 30, 1982, Carbaugh and Wougamon told Kornhardt they had lined up a house burglary in rural St. Charles County. The score, they said, would bring them a lot of money. Innes Anderson, the telephone repairman, later described how the hit came down as told to him the next day by Wougamon, his brother-in-law.
"He leaned over in the seat to me and said, 'We got Kornhardt last night'." After picking up Kornhardt, Carbaugh realized he had forgotten his pistol. They returned to his apartment on the pretense of needing a pair of gloves. When they arrived at the murder scene, Kornhardt got out of the car first. Carbaugh shot him in the head from behind. After Kornhardt fell, he shot him again in the head. They dragged the body into a nearby ditch and threw the gun in a cornfield.
The next morning, Kornhardt's mother informed Prater that her son was dead. FBI wiretaps recorded what happened next. Prater called Paulie Leisure, who in turn telephoned Anthony and David Leisure, Flynn, Loewe and Ramo. He told them that Kornhardt had been found shot to death. However, Prater had made no mention of the cause of death.
Paulie rewarded Carbaugh and Wougamon with jobs in Local 42 and paid their initiation fees. He fulfilled a promise he had made to them in the beginning.
"If you've snitched, there is nothing I can do for you." Steven Wougamon
The Kornhardt killing was the last known act of violence in the Leisure War. It did little to accomplish its intended purposes of perpetuating the outfit's integrity and elevating Paulie Leisure to the throne of the underworld. Instead, what might have become a mob of classic proportions in the tradition of Al Capone soon would lie in shambles and broken dreams.
Paulie Leisure had a convoluted concept of the contemporary mob maxim of "make money, not war." He believed war was an expedient to making money and gaining power. As a result, he brought the wrath of the law upon himself and much of organized crime in St. Louis. In the end, he, ironically, along with Stoneking would destroy the underworld. Only ineffectual fragments would remain. The labor movement would be restored to a semblance of what it was intended to be.
Paulie Leisure, the professional hit man, and Anthony, considered by many the brains of the outfit, became vulnerable by recruiting novice gangsters who were unschooled in the ways of the mob. Most were not stand-up guys and their loyalties were untested by the prospect of jail time. And when that test came, their loyalties were to themselves and to survival. The underworld code of "omerta" – golden silence – was just so many meaningless words. Some became snitches. Of the 10 members of the Leisure gang, three who were in high positions of trust turned on their fellow gangsters.
Frank Termine Jr. – He started the Leisures' downfall by telling about the Faheen hit. It was the first insight investigators got into the violence and it opened new doors for them. For his part, he was sentenced to 16 years to run concurrently with a 16-year term in Illinois for burglary. Based partly on his information, beginning in February, 1982 and continuing for some months the FBI monitored conversations in Leisure's home and his office at LN&P through wiretaps and eavesdropping devices.
Fred Prater – A slender, small man with a raspy voice, he was the next to turn on the Leisures. In August 1982, he invoked the Fifth Amendment before a federal grand jury investigating the violence. Anthony and David Leisure asked him to take a ride with them and discuss his grand jury appearance. He refused, suspecting their true intention was to kill him.
Not long afterwards, he called U. S. Attorney Dittmeier late at night. He wanted to cooperate. He and his wife and their families immediately disappeared in the Witness Protection Program. The Leisures frantically searched for him, but realized the shocking truth when they found his house abandoned. Prater was granted immunity in return for his testimony.
John Ramo – The man who later testified he would kill if ordered to do so by Paulie Leisure was next, but it required an indictment to force him to turn on the outfit. On Dec. 2, 1983, he pleaded guilty to a single count of being involved in a Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization (RICO) and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His family also is in the Witness Protection Program. He died several years ago.
Ronald J. Broderick – He, too, plea bargained and in return for his cooperation pleaded guilty to a RICO charge. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Like the others, his family went into hiding. He now is on parole.
Innes Anderson – Although he only had helped in retrieving telephone records and was consulted about wiretapping, David Leisure and Wougamon had confided in him. He knew too much and his life was in jeopardy. He said that after federal agents had interviewed him in November 1982, his brother-in-law had interrogated him about what he had said. Despite his insistence that he had told nothing, Wougamon refused to believe him.
Wougamon said he would consult Paulie Leisure.
"He told me, 'If you've snitched, there is nothing I can do for you. You have endangered your life and your family's lives'."
Anderson and his family were placed immediately in the Witness Protection Program. He was not charged.
After 46 days of testimony, arguments and deliberations, a jury in U. S. District Court convicted six members of the Leisure outfit.
Paulie Leisure – He was sentenced to 55 years, the maximum, on a number of charges. Speaking barely above a whisper, he told the judge, "The men who did this to me have led lives of crime. They have been murderers all their lives." He then attacked the FBI for failing to warn him that he would be bombed. "It is a bad precedent when the FBI acts as judge, jury and executioner. I would ask this court not to let this happen again."
Three years later, he was convicted in state court of murder in the murder of Jimmy Michaels. Moments later, a bomb threat was received by an employee of the motel where the jury had been sequestered. No bomb was found. Leisure was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The prosecution had sought the death penalty.
Anthony Leisure – Like his brother, he showed no contrition at sentencing. Standing erect, his words rambling, he told the judge, "I find it very hard to show compassion for anybody who would blow up my brother and harm my mother whom I consider a saint. I feel sorrow for the community in which they are letting Fred Prater go. He's a monster who is on the loose. I don't feel I'm greedy or power hungry."
He was sentenced to 40 years on several charges. In state court, the jury convicted him only of manslaughter although the prosecution had sought the death penalty. It recommended 10 years in prison and the judge concurred.
David Leisure – Before he was sentenced in federal court, he had one request of the judge. "I would like to have my health checked." The judge, without comment, sentenced him to 55 years.
In state court, Leisure was convicted on two counts of capital murder – one in the death of Faheen, the other in the bombing of Michaels. For Faheen's death, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He received the death penalty for killing Michaels. Shortly after midnight on Sept. 1, 1999 he was given a lethal injection.
Psychiatrists who evaluated him before his execution said he had an IQ of 74 and was "mildly mentally retarded." He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch several days before he died that sometimes he was "delusional." He believed his mother had died because he had broken a mirror and that he was responsible for the murder of his brother, Richard, when he had spotted a white pigeon he believed was a bad omen.
Nicknamed "Bozo" by Paulie and Anthony, he was the butt of many jokes because of his blind obedience. When he was in his pre-teens, they coaxed him into a wooden crate. "They would wind the crate up in the air and let me swing for a while. It scared me. They'd let me down and they would talk me into doing it again. There were times where a guy would be riding his bike down the street, and they'd say, 'Hit the guy'. So, I'd hit the guy. I was trying to be big."
David found a friend in drugs and booze. In the 1970s, he sniffed glue and graduated to speed and cocaine. Sometimes, he drank a case and a half of beer or a fifth of whiskey in a day.
Charles Loewe – He was sentenced to 36 years in federal court for his part in the violence. A state circuit court jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree assault in the shootings of John Michaels and Dennis Day. He was sentenced to 50 years to run concurrently with the federal term.
Robert Carbaugh – The federal jury that convicted the Leisures was unable to reach a verdict in charges arising from Kornhardt's murder. Carbaugh was found guilty in a second trial and sentenced to 20 years. After a state grand jury indicted him for capital murder, he pleaded guilty of second-degree murder in Kornhard's death and received 40 years concurrent with the federal term.
Steven Wougamon – He was found guilty of the same charges by the federal jury and was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He was indicted for capital murder in state court in Kornhardt's death and, like Carbaugh, pleaded guilty to second degree. He was ordered incarcerated for 20 years concurrent with the federal sentence.
James A. "Beans" Michaels III – Even before the smoke had cleared in the Leisure War, he was found guilty in October 1982 in U. S. District Court of conspiring to bomb Leisure. He was sentenced to five years. Two and a half years later, as the trial of the Leisures began in U. S. District Court a block away he pleaded guilty in state court of conspiracy to commit capital murder. The judge sentenced him to eight years, five years of which were concurrent with the federal term.
Unusual security precautions were used when Michaels was brought to St. Louis Circuit Court from federal prison. Retaliation from the Leisures was considered a real possibility. No announcement of the hearing had been made and the public and the press were barred from attending.
Milton R. "Russ" Schepp – Not long after Paulie Leisure was bombed, Schepp disappeared. He remained a fugitive for 19 months before surrendering while under indictment on federal explosive charges. A federal jury in August 1983, convicted him and he was sentenced to 10 years in the penitentiary.
Jack Issa – Like Schepp, he went into hiding shortly after the Leisure bombing. He died not long afterwards.
John Vitale – Vitale, known as the "Gentleman Gangster" because of his pleasant demeanor, especially with the press, died on June 5, 1982, at the age of 73, less than a year after he tried to set up Stoneking and Kowalski.
Information for this article was obtained from stories published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by this reporter and others and from other sources.
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