Life in the American Mafia typically ends in one of two ways: death or prison. In a perpetual struggle over illegal power and money, murder is practically an occupational hazard. From the very first days of organized crime, mafia hits, brutal assassins, and crime's most horrifying killers underlined the fundamentally violent lifestyle of this uniquely American entity. In a world where violence is practically second nature, these are some of the most brutal killers and gruesome murders associated with the Mafia.
Some of the people on this list are classic gangsters like Al Capone. Others weren't even in the mob, but pissed off the wrong people. In either case, the lesson is clear: Stay clear of the mob and definitely don't make a gangster mad. Keep reading below to see some of the most violent murders ever committed by the Mafia.
Tony Spilotro's Murder Was Depicted Inaccurately, But Was Still Brutal
In the film Casino, Tony Spilotro was brutally attacked with his brother in a cornfield and then both were buried alive. Court testimony would ultimately surface as to what actually happened to Anthony and Michael Spilotro in the real world. By June 1986, Anthony Spilotro had completely alienated mobsters in Chicago after trouble in Las Vegas had brought the authorities' attention on the mob's higher-ups. When boss Joey Aiuppa was sent to prison in the spring of 1986, he ordered that Spilotro be killed.
Spilotro and his brother Michael were lured to a home in suburban Chicago, ostensibly so that Michael could be formally elevated to "made" mob status and Anthony could be formally promoted. The Outfit reasoned correctly that killing only Anthony would prompt Michael to seek revenge, so both would be killed. On June 14, 1986, Michael Spilotro left his home to meet his brother and head to the meeting, but cautioned his wife, "If I'm not back by nine o'clock, it's no good." In court testimony, Mafia enforcer Nick Calabrese, testified as to what happened to the Spilotros when they arrived. As they entered the basement, a dozen men were waiting for them. Michael was tackled, a rope was placed around his neck, and he was strangled, kicked, and beaten. Anthony was also killed before he could say a prayer.
A coroner's report indicated that they asphyxiated on their own blood and their bodies were covered from head to toe with bruises and horrific injuries. (View the autopsy photos here. Caution: They're disturbing.) The bodies were later found in an Indiana cornfield in a botched burial near farmland owned by the mob. The Catholic Church refused both Spilotros' funeral services based on their criminal histories.
Joe E. Lewis Actually Survived A Horrifying Attack
In 1927, Joe E. Lewis was a top singer and comedian appearing at Chicago's Green Mill Night Club. With his contract about to expire, he accepted a much more lucrative offer to appear at the Rendez-Vous Cafe. One major problem: Al Capone owned a piece of the Green Mill, and the Rendez-Vous was controlled by a competing gang operation. He was warned specifically by Jack McGurn that he should not take the job.
Lewis started working at the Rendez-Vous anyway. But one day, Capone's henchmen slit Lewis's throat from ear to ear and cut off some of his tongue. They left him to bleed out.
But, miraculously, Lewis didn't die. After a long period of recovery and speech therapy, Lewis would learn how to speak intelligibly, albeit with a strangely deep voice that became his calling card. He became a regular performer in Las Vegas and Sinatra even played him in the film The Joker is Wild, which was based on Lewis's tumultuous life.
Al Capone Beat Two Of His Henchmen To Death With Baseball Bats
One of the reasons that the infamous Capone killers, Alberto Anselmi and Giovanni Scalise, are believed to be two of the killers involved in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was that Scalise bragged that he and his murderous partner were the most powerful men in Chicago. If that was the case, their status didn't last long, most likely because of a lack of discretion. Scalise met openly with individuals plotting against Capone, and when rumors of disloyalty got back to "Big Al," he decided to put his two triggermen to a test. He staged an incident where he slapped another gangster, Frank Rio, and the two men immediately attempted to recruit Rio into their ever-thickening plot.
On May 7, Capone responded with typical savagery. He invited Scalise, Anselmi, and their main conspirator, Giuseppe "Hop Toad" Giunta, to what was billed as a laudatory event in their honor. It was to take place in a private room at a mob casino in Hammond, Indiana. Initially, a sumptuous banquet was served and the guests of honor enjoyed all of the food, alcohol, and positive attention. Well after midnight, Capone suddenly stood up from his seat at the head of the table, no longer proposing toasts to his guests but now brandishing a baseball bat. As he began to rage at the three traitors, telling them that he knew everything about their plot, men led by McGurn used wire to tie Scalise, Anselmi, and Giunta into their seats.
Starting with Anselmi, Capone then methodically beat each man savagely about the head, shoulders, and arms. When Scalise, having watched his partner's beating, began to plead hysterically for mercy, Capone became even more visibly enraged, his blows even more savage. Giunta was the last to go, then the barely living men were finally untied and tossed on the floor where McGurn put three .45 slugs into each man's head, with the barely conscious Scalise lifting a hand and getting his pinky torn off by a bullet to the eye (caution: disturbing photo). The bodies were left in Hammond and when police brought them to the morgue, the medical examiner called them the worst corpses he had ever seen, with every bone in the upper part of each man's body and face crushed or broken.
Machine Gun Jack McGurn Got His In The End
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was the high water mark of Al Capone's criminal career. Following this event, he would be harassed by law enforcement and arrested for petty crimes wherever he went. In 1931, Capone would ultimately be jailed for a hefty sentence in federal prison for income tax evasion. These circumstances would greatly affect Jack McGurn, who owed his reputation and ability to intimidate other mobsters to his status as Al Capone's top enforcer.
With Capone out of the picture, McGurn was quickly shunned by other Outfit criminals, who disliked him. McGurn had accumulated a great deal of money and even owned a golf course and attempted a living as a professional golfer. He lived with his wife, Louise Rolfe (AKA the "Blonde Alibi" because she testified that McGurn had spent all of February 14, 1929, with her in a hotel room). He divorced his first wife and married Rolfe to prevent further testimony, quashing any prosecution for the Valentine's Day Massacre in the process.
On February 14, 1936, McGurn went to a neighborhood bowling alley where he had been frequently spending time in the evenings. Three associates entered the bowling alley, drew handguns, and told everyone in the building to freeze. The three men shot him to death. Technically, it was early on February 15, but McGurn came within minutes of dying seven years to the day after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. When police arrived at the scene, they found a card that was left by the front desk (or on McGurn's person, depending on whom you ask). It read, "You've lost your job; you've lost your dough; Your jewels and cars and handsome houses! But things could still be worse, you know... At least you haven't lost your trousas."