Excerpt # 9 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated


Now all that was left of the Shapiro gang was Willie Shapiro, who had been making noise that he was out to get Reles and his crew, despite the fact that Willie had disappeared from the streets of Brownsville.

Willie Shapiro was considered the weakest of the Shapiro brothers and not a top priority on the Boys from Brownsville’s list of things to do. Reles and Happy Maione were too busy strengthening their organization to put much effort in locating Willie, who by this time had embarked on a career as a prizefighter. Unfortunately for Willie Shapiro, he spent most of his ring time on his back staring at the overhead lights.

By 1934, Willie Shapiro knew he was dead in the water if he insisted on going after the men who had killed his two brothers.

He told his sister Rose, “What’s the use? I can’t make it alone. I’m out of the rackets. I’m going to forget about those bums.”

It turned out that Willie had waited too long to announce his retirement from a life of crime.

Although Reles and his boys were not actively seeking Willie, he was still unfinished business, and Reles hated unfinished business.

On July 18, 1934, the day after Willie Shapiro had spoken to his sister Rose, Vito Gurino met Reles and Strauss on a Brownsville street corner.

He told them, “I just spotted Willie going into a place near Herkimer. You know, we’ve got nothing to do now (meaning killing). Why don’t we take him tonight and be done with it?”

Reles and Strauss agreed with Gurino’s assessment, and a few hours later they abducted Willie Shapiro from a Brownsville bar and brought him to the basement of a bar-and-grill on Rockaway Avenue, which Gurino owned with Happy Maione and Happy’s brother-in-law, Joe Daddonna.

In the basement, working over Willie pretty good, were the hulking Gurino, Happy, Strauss, and the Dasher. The beating was most brutal, and when Willie was finally rendered unconscious, Happy put a stop to the festivities; at least for a while.

“This bum’s done for,” Happy said.

That was the cue for Strauss to perform his neat rope trick.

“Pittsburgh Phil” trussed up Willie Shapiro like a Thanksgiving turkey; then the killers watched Willie’s dance of death. When Willie stopped struggling and fell limp, the killers stuffed Willie into a laundry bag to make it easier to transport his body. They flung the laundry bag into the trunk of their car and drove to the sand dunes in a secluded area of Canarsie Flats. There they dumped the laundry bag containing Willie onto a sand dune and commenced digging.

Shortly after, a Canarsie resident, who was having trouble sleeping, decided to go for a stroll near the sand dunes. Suddenly, he was startled when he thought he detected movement on top of one of the dunes. He crept closer and spotted four men digging in the sand.

Suddenly, one of the men lifted his head and spotted the witness. It was Happy and he yelled, “Somebody made us.”

The four killers sprinted to their car, jumped in, and sped back to Brownsville

The witness ran over to where the men had been digging and he noticed the laundry bag in the half-dug hole. He bent down, pulled open the top of the bag, and there was Willie, all trussed up and not looking too chipper.

The witness ran to the local police station, and when the police arrived soon after, Willie Shapiro was definitely dead. His body was brought to the Medical Examiner, who discovered sand in Willie’s lungs; meaning Willie had been buried alive.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 3.




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