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June 27, 2022

Gaslit - The Gangland Slayings of Rudy Marfeo & Anthony Melei


Was it all really over a dice game? On April 20, 1968, Rudy Marfeo and Anthony Melei where gunned down by two masked men while grocery shopping. A well-known story in the New England area, but many don’t remember that there was more than one murder trial and more than one set of convictions.

Episode 42

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Transcript

Lara:

 

Welcome back everyone! As we approach the end of season one it’s finally time to discuss the murders of Rudy Marfeo and Anthony Melei at Pannone’s Market in Providence, RI on April 20, 1968. Well at least up until May of 1969. The second set of arrests will be coming in episode 48. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode about the murder of Willie Marfeo, Rudy’s brother, you might want to check that out first. We named today’s episode Gaslit, because it would later be revealed at the second trial of the men accused of the murders of Marfeo and Melei that the meeting to arrange for the hit took place at a restaurant in Providence called the Gaslight.



Nina:

 

And in true gaslight fashion over a decade later it would be disclosed during that same individual's testimony that the Gaslight wasn’t even open at the time of the supposed meeting due to a fire. 



Lara:

 

And that the government, specifically, FBI SA H. Paul Rico was the one who directed the informant to perjure himself. Now who was gaslighting who we will never know for sure, but at the beginning of season two we’ll take a deep dive into the trial and all of the possibilities.



Nina:

 

You know I've been waiting nearly a year to do this episode! 



Lara:

 

You just like the name of this episode, Gaslit!



Nina:

 

Well that’s part of it!




Lara:

 

At least you’ll get to share at one of your theories about the murders and one of the suspects.



Nina:

 

And the second reason is that the Feds have spent decades Gaslighting us into believing their smoke and mirrors show.



Lara:

 

Well that too!



Nina:

 

Let’s jump in!

 

Like in Willie’s murder, the Feds claim that it was years in the making. But we’ll only be going back to the summer of 1967. As Lara mentioned at the beginning you can listen to our last episode for earlier events. Today, we’ll also be giving more background on the suspects and the victims’ associates except for Dickie Callei who we’ll be covering in season two.



Lara:

 

We’ll end today with the immediate aftermath of the murders and the conviction of Robert Almonte in May 1969.

 

Alright, here we go.

 

On August 14th, 1967 Rudy Sciarra, Pro Lerner, and Louis Manocchio were arrested in Attleboro while idling in front of the Holiday Inn. 



Nina:

 

Wasn’t that the fifth anniversary of the Plymouth Mail Truck Heist?





Lara:

 

Yup! You know in most of these stories there’s some weird date thing that seems more than coincidental.

 

Anyhow, Pro was in the driver’s seat when he was approached by Patrolmen Paquin and Convey at around 10:15 in the evening. The police asked for Pro’s license and registration. The car was registered to Pro’s mother. The trio said they weren’t staying at the hotel, but were there waiting for a girlfriend. Rudy gave his name as Joseph Russo. 



Nina:

 

Joseph Russo as in JR?



Lara:

 

Oh probably! Some spiteful thing or something. Who knows, but the cops knew it was a lie. 



Nina:

 

These guys were always using the names of other criminals when they got picked up! Wouldn’t you pick the name of someone who you hadn’t been in prison with? It makes no sense to me!



Lara:

 

Geniuses!

 

After a call was placed to the Providence PD that revealed Louis' lengthy record, two other cruisers arrived and the boys were asked to step out of the vehicle, advised of their rights and placed under arrest. All three refused to provide any info other than their names, bogus or not.

 

The following day they were arraigned, but the charges were soon dropped.



Nina:

 

Supposedly in the latter part of 1967 Col. Walter Stone of the Rhode Island State Police gave a verbal order to his men to surveil the following men: Louis Manocchio, Rudy Sciarra, Robert Fairbrothers, John E. Rossi, Raymond Patriarca and other Federal Hill guys.  The reason for the order was the shootouts that had taken place with some regularity starting that summer.

 

On June 20th of that year, there was a drive-by shooting at Joe Marfeo’s house in Cranston. Joe’s wife Rose nee Baccari was home when two shots were fired. Joe wasn’t home because he was at the police department filing a report that his son’s car had been shot at on Federal Hill.



Lara:

 

Man these people were trashy! Decades of shooting at each other. And they were all in-laws.



Nina:

 

All in-laws? All inbred! And each generation had the same names. I need a whiteboard to keep track of their connections to one another!



Lara:

 

One of those jazzy electronic ones!



Nina:

 

At least we have Wikitree to make it a bit easier to see the relationships.



Lara:

 

Yes! We’ll put the link in the show notes for your gangster genealogy project on wiki. Any of our listeners who would like to contribute are more than welcome to.

 

OK back to Providence! The same day Joe Marfeo was dealing with drive-bys, Raymond Patriarca and Henry Tameleo were arrested for conspiring to murder Willie Marfeo. It was Raymond’s first arrest in 20 years. Henry was arrested at a motel on Rte. 1 in Wakefield, MA. They were both freed on $25,000 bail the next day. Ronnie Cassesso was also charged, but he was doing a 9 to 12 bid in Norfolk for an armed robbery. 

 

Nina:

 

The day after that, there was a shootout on Federal Hill between Bobby Fairbrothers and Dickie Callei with Joe Schiavone. This incident seems to have been the catalyst for Walter Stone’s order to keep an eye on the guys, but beyond that the cops did nothing about the shootout. Then in November, there was another shootout on Federal Hill. This time between Schiavone and Louis Manocchio on Atwells Ave. Louis was left hospitalized with a bullet wound to the neck and Schiavone was picked up and charged with illegal possession of a firearm.



Lara:

 

In the 8 months following Walter Stone's orders, the cops arrested the men at various times under what they claimed were suspicious circumstances and searched them for weapons. 

 

On April 2nd, 1968 at around 3:00 in the morning the Providence PD received a phone call from someone at Robert Almonte’s club at 153 Atwells Ave. Louis Manocchio, Rudy Sciarra, John E. Rossi, Dickie Callei, and others were armed and waiting at Almonte’s for Joe Schiavone to walk by so they could kill him. The cops raided Almonte’s 30 minutes later and found the weapons as well as gambling paraphernalia. Louis and the other men were arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons. Almonte was charged with possessing gambling paraphernalia. But all the charges were eventually dropped.  



Nina:

 

Let’s talk about the gang at Almonte’s. Last week we covered Manocchio’s early days, so we won’t rehash them here.



Lara:

 

Who do you want to start with?



Nina:

 

John E Rossi. Not because he was very interesting, but his dad Alfredo “the Blind Pig” Rossi and his family of fur thieves were.



Lara:

 

Oh that crazy story were Alferdo’s wife and daughter had the stolen furs in Florida, and the other story where they were renting a store next to the fur shop just do be able to break in from the inside.



Nina:

 

Yes, all those stories. And then there is the death of John’s brother Joseph who had been dabbling in petty crime. He dropped dead at 33 years of age just one day before a secret indictment against Rudy Sciarra was handed down later in 1968. Both John and Joseph were addicts. I suspect Joseph probably OD’d, but whether it was an accident or someone gave him bad dope is still an open question.



Lara:

 

As for John he had a record going back to 1956 when he was in the service. He went AWOL in August of that year and landed in the stockades. When he was discharged and returned to Providence, RI he landed in the can within a few months. He was picked up on robbery conspiracy charges, possession of an unlicensed weapon and motor vehicle violations and sentenced to 3 years in Howard. Upon his release he was arrested on a variety of charges including possession of a hypodermic needle which landed him back in Howard in 1965. His next arrest was the night at Almonte’s club. John would remain on the streets until August 12, 1969.



Nina:

 

Don’t get too far ahead!

 

Let’s discuss Robert E. Fairbrothers next. He was born in Rhode Island in 1938 to Carmella Scunzio and George Fairbrother. And it was actually Fairbrother, but at some point an S got added to the end of the last name. It looks like it started with Robert’s parents. While not directly related to the Baccaris or Marfeos, Fairbrothers was a longtime associate of theirs. He was picked up on 3 separate occasions in 1956. The last time was in December of that year on charges of possessing burglary tools. In 1957 he was arrested for b&e, possession of burglary tools, being unlawfully present in a dwelling and rape. He was sentenced to Howard, but only did a little over a year. In 1959 he was back on the streets only to be pinched for burglary again, and back to Howard he went. His next arrest wasn’t until March of 1963 for being a suspicious person!



Lara:

 

What a shocker! In 1965 he was arrested for frequenting gambling operations. It would be another three years before Fairbrothers would find himself a guest of the authorities again. In October he was indicted along with Rudy Sciarra and Rinaldo DiPeitrantonio for extortion and conspiracy to commit murder. The victim was Louis Zoglio. I know, I know I have to wait to tell Zoglio’s story. Like Rossi, Fairbrothers would face charges on August 12, 1969.

 

Nina:

 

Although we talked about Rudy Sciarra’s suspected crimes before, it’s been quite awhile so let’s cover it again.

 

Sciarra’s record went all the way back to 1939 when he was arrested in Massachusetts for stealing a car. To add to his misery in October of that year he escaped and fled to RI only to find himself arrested on fresh auto charges and shipped off to Howard. But he got lucky when the charges were dropped later that same month.  In October of 1942, Rudy Sciarra, Willie Marfeo and Angelo DiSarro, the uncle of a future murder victim of Frankie Salemme, were arrested for a b&e at the West Exchange Warehouse. The liquor theft had taken place in April of 1941. Willie had several priors at that point for mostly driving offenses but also attempted larceny. Rudy Sciarra enlisted in the army in March of ‘43, presumably to avoid a jail sentence.



Lara:

 

At the end of WWII, Sciarra remained in the service, but visited his home in Providence when he could. He was arrested on September 1st, 1946 by the RI Staties for being in an illegal gambling establishment. That stunt would land him in the US Disciplinary Barracks in Cumberland, PA to serve a 2 year sentence. He was discharged from the service upon completion of his bid and headed back to Providence. By 1950 he had been pinched for assault and battery, followed by another arrest for having brass knuckles in his possession, playing craps on a Sunday, and to end the decade in style he was arrested on drug charges in April of 1959.



Nina:

 

Nothing ever came of any of those charges.

 

On January 24, 1962 Sciarra was charged with the murder of Jackie Nazarian. After he was arrested for Jackie’s slaying, Patriarca contemplated hiring an unnamed ballistics and fingerprint expert to get the charges dropped. One theory for why Jackie was killed was because when Raymond was sick, Jackie supposedly told people he was going to take Raymond’s spot. Sciarra was acquitted in February of ‘63, but he wasn’t the only one accused. Willie Marfeo was later arrested for Jackie’s murder, but the authorities were never able to get an indictment. 

 

Lara:

 

In June of 1965 Sciarra faced Federal gambling tax charges along with the rest of the gang including Henry Tameleo, Andrew and Louis Manocchio, Angelo DiPalma and others. 1968 would be filled with more than a handful of arrests including murder charges, but the worst was yet to come in August of 1969.



Nina:

 

Before we get too far ahead let’s give a bit of Almonte’s background.

 

In February 1959, Robert Almonte and two associates had been arrested in New Hampshire for loitering. Probably nothing out of the ordinary for him, but not long after that the body of Maurice Gagnon was discovered shot to death in his car in the same area. The cops suspected that the three men were involved because the other two men were in court on charges of robbing Maurice Gagnon who was scheduled to testify against them the day after he was murdered.

 

The two other men were sentenced to death, but eventually paroled. 

 

The attorney general of New Hampshire dropped the murder accessory charge against Robert exactly 11 months after Gagnon’s body was found. He said that it was only circumstantial evidence that placed Almonte at the scene and that he didn’t have a case.



Lara:

 

Just two months later, in March 1960, Almonte was in the news again. This time because of a fire at the Plaza Hotel in Providence. Robert threw himself out the window and fractured his spine in the process.



Nina:

 

He probably set the fire himself, the weirdo.

 

Lara:

 

Or someone was beating him up, threw him out of the window and lit the fire as a distraction.



Nina:

 

One of our listeners, David, asked about whether or not there were FBI informants in Providence, so this is probably a good time to touch on that. Before the wiretap was installed at the Coin-O-Matic in March of ‘62, FBI SA Charles Reppucci had a contact who worked on Federal Hill and had some access to Raymond and his base of operations. But it doesn’t appear that this person was a member of Raymond’s inner circle. This individual was reporting to Reppucci quite regularly and giving him information about the comings and goings at Raymond’s.

 

I’m not certain who that person was, but I suspect that it may have been Almonte. The location of his club was very close to the Coin-O-Matic. I know the AG in New Hampshire made a big deal about circumstantial evidence when they sprung Almonte in 1960, but in my opinion, he made a deal. 



Lara:

 

It’s possible.

 

We’ll get back to Almonte shortly.

 

As I said earlier on the Saturday after Easter, April 20th, 1968, just before 3:00 pm Rudy Marfeo and Anthony Melei were gunned down in Pannone’s Market at 282 Pocasset Ave in the Silverlake section of Providence, RI by two masked men. Anthony Melei was shot from a distance of roughly six feet away near the ice cream freezer, and Rudy Marfeo from a distance of about three feet just near the front door of the store with his .38 in hand. The shots tore Marfeo’s left side apart and hit Melei directly in the face. A single copper jacketed lead bullet, .30 caliber cartridge case and five shotgun shells were found at the scene. The murder weapons were a carbine and a shotgun. When the autopsies were complete the medical examiner stated that 15 lead fragments were removed from Marfeo’s body and four from Melei’s.



Nina:

 

I know the Feds claimed that Anthony Melei was Rudy’s bodyguard, but I still think they were having a feud of some sort. 



Lara:

 

Oh you’re not going to get an argument from me. Frank Melei Jr. gets killed in Rudy’s apartment. Joseph Marfeo gets shot in his own driveway. No shortage of feuds. But Anthony Melei had been working for the Marfeos for a couple of years at the time of the killings. 



Nina:

 

Back to the shooting.

 

As the two shooters and the getaway driver fled, Louis J. Melei, a nephew of Anthony's, saw the getaway car leaving the scene. He had left his parent’s home to get a pack of cigarettes when the ‘65 or ‘66 red Buick sped past him. He had to swerve onto the sidewalk in order to avoid a head on collision. He looked in his rearview mirror and he came to a stop and saw MR on the license plate and three men in the vehicle. He couldn’t ID them with any certainty. 

 

The getaway car was found abandoned with a cutdown .30 caliber Alpine carbine, its serial number had been erased, a 12 gauge Higgins shotgun, 12 gauge Forehand Arms double barreled shotgun, a two inch barreled .38 Smith and Wesson and a four inch barreled .38 Colt revolver all with the serial numbers still intact. Hairs were also recovered from the vehicle. 



Lara:

 

The license plates recovered from the vehicle were comprised of two license plates welded together, not the triptych plates that Jack Kelley preferred to use. As for the hairs Nina mentioned they were naturally red hair, bleached hair and brown pubic hair. Your buddy Almonte submitted hair samples to be compared, and although the match wasn’t definitive, he also couldn’t be ruled out.



Nina:

 

Three different types of cigarettes were found in the car, along with a Halloween mask with the eyes cut out more than the manufacturer had. There were also a brown felt hat, raincoat, plaid sports jacket, tan pants with a black belt, two nylon stockings, a cap, a handkerchief and sunglasses.

 

The initial suspects were Rudy Sciarra, Dicky Callei, John E Rossi, Richard J. Quattrocchi, Robert Fairbrothers, Alex Mandine, Andrew and Louis Manocchio, the Badway brothers: Raymond, Malcolm and Joseph, and Richard Ricci.



Lara:

 

Since we’ve already given some background on a few of our suspects, I want to give a little about Rudy Marfeo’s background. He was known more for being a booster than a gambler most of his life, but as his brother Willie and Willie’s partner, Joseph Schiavone, became more successful he joined them in their dice game operation. Rudy put up $2500 to become partners with the two of them in 1965. At the time of his slaying Rudy was living at home with his wife and three of his four daughters.







Nina: 

 

His fourth daughter, Lucille Hassney, gave a statement to the Feds about her father and his murder. She stated that about four months before her father was killed, Rudy Sciarra and Louis Manocchio approached him about taking over his book and the dice games he was by then running on his own. She said Sciarra and Manocchio were jealous of her father and that she was his confidant and knew everything about his operations.

 

The dice games above Andreozzi’s Liquor store were run Monday to Friday at night and Saturday afternoons. In 1965 they had a Sunday afternoon crap game on DeSoto St. but it only ran for two weeks when Patriarca told Willie they had to close the game. Willie continued for two more weeks but then permanently closed it.



Lara:

 

Lucille provided a detailed accounting of the events that unfolded between her uncle Willie being killed and her father’s murder. 

 

Before Willie had been killed, Raymond supposedly told them that he himself was planning to run his own dice game and when it began they would have to close theirs. But Raymond never started his game.

 

After Willie was killed Rudy went to Raymond and asked him if he wanted a piece of the dice game as he didn’t want any trouble. Raymond allegedly told him that he wasn’t interested in the game.



Nina:

 

The game reopened the day after Willie was buried. Shortly after the game reopened, allegedly Louis Manocchio and Rudy Sciarra tried to scare off the customers but it didn’t work. 

 

When Anthony DiPalma was subpoenaed to testify against Raymond, he approached Rudy Marfeo and asked for a sit down. The meeting took place in the basement of 23 Taber Dr. in Johnston, RI. Savino Marfeo Jr., Anthony DiPalma, Rudy Marfeo, Anthony Melei, Fred Marfeo, Raymond Patriarca and Joseph Badway were in attendance. Rudy’s daughter listened at the top of the stairs. Raymond wanted one of the Marfeo brothers who didn’t have a record to testify at the Willie Marfeo murder trial that Willie and he were friends and had no problems with each other. Rudy told Raymond that he would think about who it could be and Raymond promised to have whoever killed Willie murdered.



Lara:

 

Anthony Melei didn’t have a lengthy record. In 1965 he was picked up on unspecified narcotics charges. Then in January of 1967, he was arrested for being a lookout at the Marfeo dice game. The next time Anthony would make the papers was when he was slain. 



Nina:

 

The majority of the evidence, some four boxes in total, were handed over to the FBI in order for them to conduct their own investigation. And please don’t tell me that the Feds supposedly don't deal with homicides.




Lara:

 

Hey I didn’t make that up! That’s what a Fed told me. Now Why the Feds would be involved just one day after is beyond me. Two Providence guys killed in Providence, but the papers were running with the scoop that Rudy and Anthony were killed for the same reason Willie was. Translation ITAR case and a way to go after Raymond.



Nina:

 

Exactly!

 

Both men were laid to rest on April 23rd, and the next announcement from the authorities was on May 3rd. Commissioner Harry Goldstein said that it appeared the current investigation would be a long and ongoing one. But Robert Almonte was arrested the evening of May 27th at his social club on Atwells Ave. He was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty the next day and held without bail. A bail hearing was held on June 21st, and the judge set $65,000 for each of the murdder charges. On June 25th indictments were returned against Almonte, and Almonte was returned to Howard since he was unable to post bail. But on July 2nd, Allen and Elaine Fardie, who was Robert’s sister, posted his bail.



Lara:

 

Almost a year later in May of 1969, the State began submitting evidence against Almonte. Mary Baccari, the one who was living in Tiger Balleto’s house, submitted a statement that one of the shooters was tall and the other short.



Nina:

 

But why was she living at Tiger Balleto’s family home? Tiger had been dead for several years at that point, supposedly killed by Jackie Nazarian.

 

From what I can tell, Mary Baccari was the wife of a Baccari. And according to later statements, she was having an affair with Rudy Marfeo. The reason she was in the market that day was because Rudy would buy her groceries every Saturday at Pannone’s. It was apparently a long-standing ritual. 



Lara:

 

All I can say is that it’s Rhode Island! Mary did admit that she was shopping with both men when they were killed. She left out the part that Rudy was paying for her food and shtupping her.

 

Almonte’s trial began later that month and on the evening of May 29th he was found guilty of the two murders!



Nina:

 

But not for long!!!! 

 

Lara:

 

More Fed magic! But we won’t be discussing the second group of men arrested for the Marfeo/Melei hit until episode 48.

 

Next week our subjects are going to be Nicky Bianco and Frank Butchie Micelli. A New York Colombo guy and a New Jersey Gambino family member both stuck with Raymond and the endless drama of Providence.

 

Thanks for listening as always!



Nina & Lara:

 

BYE!!!