The word “Mafia” is synonymous with murder. The two go hand in hand. The Mafia was born in Southern Europe, on the island of Sicily, Italy. The word itself, originated in Sicily. The term “mafia,’ originated back in 1863, was inspired by a play I Mafiusi di la Vicaria aka “The Mafiosi of the Vicaria.” No matter how the Mafia was inspired, one thing is for certain- it universally means a criminal organization that intimidates. The Sicilian Mafia calls itself “La Cosa Nostra” while the Japanese Mafia, for example, calls itself “Yakuza,” and in South America it’s the “Cartels.” No matter what the term or from what country, the fact of the matter is, organized crime exists everywhere. Another calling card of these criminal organizations is instilling fear in people and there is no better way than by force. And there is no more forceful way than murder.
Mafia organizations around the world have become symbols of fear in the local communities. They dominate their territories by using intimidation and racketeering to control people and impose their will. These organizations function as local silent governments who dispense their own band of justice. And often times, their justice becomes gruesome. And when justice is dispensed, people die. Certainly, we all have heard of scenes in which armed men walk up to someone on the street and a hit is carried out with a simple gun. But there are many hitmen who go to extremes to establish a killing signature, a kind of killing calling card. These, then, are the 15 worst ways crime syndicates clip their victims.
15. Buried Alive And Slow Deaths
One of the scariest and most brutal ways to slow-kill a victim is to bury them alive. There is no doubt that this means of killing is meant to send a stiff message. The pure callousness of burying someone alive is both disrespectful and terrifying all in one. One man who enjoyed such killings was Miguel Angel Trevino Morales. Morales was the head of Zetas, Mexico’s most brutal drug cartel. He was infamous for burying people alive. In addition to ordering many of his victims buried, Morales also maimed and dismembered bodies, allowing his victims to slowly bleed out. He also enjoyed burning his victims alive in oil barrels named “The Stew.” Morales and his Zetas crew enjoyed making examples of others and relishing in their slow deaths.
14. Power Drilling
There’s nothing like a good power tool. Normally, when you are charging up your trusty Milwaukee drill, it’s so you have the capability to do some good housework. But if you were hitman John Veasey, then you were simply charging your drill for your job. The infamous hitman and Capo was hired to carry out killings and he relished in the process. Veasey would enjoy torturing his victims by drilling into various parts of their body; both the pain and screams bringing him optimum delight. Veasey was part of the Philadelphia crime family. Unlike most in his profession, Veasey is above ground after retirement. He turned on his mentor and mob boss, John Stanfa, and gave the State evidence. Veasey is currently a car salesman somewhere in the Midwest; his exact whereabouts unknown.
13. Off With Their Head!
Beheadings is nothing new. Back in Scotland, long, long ago, William Wallace used to send messages to the English King by sending care packages of severed heads of British officers who were sent to kill the Scottish. Back in France, the guillotine was a well-known punishment for anyone who was on the wrong side of history. But Jesus Ernesto Chavez Castillo was a Mexican hitman who self-credited himself with over 800 killings when he “stopped counting.” He worked for the Barrio Azteca gang. He enjoyed beheading and dismembering his victims in order to please his boss. The Cuidad Juarez area, just past the US border by El Paso, Texas, has been a hotbed of terrible activities in Mexico. Castillo ended up testifying against his former boss, Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, the man he killed for.
12. Cyanide: The Iceman Cometh
There are many ways to take care of business. Poison is a popular way when trying to remain under the radar, a method of killing made popular by Russia’s KGB. Most of the time hitmen aren’t the most callous. Despite being in a profession in which the actual impact of the killing is just as important as the killing itself, most hitmen make big public scenes over their executions. However, Richard Kuklinski, otherwise known as “The Iceman,” made a career out of killing. He started to perfect his killing at a young age. He was a cross between a contract killer and a serial killer. He eventually used cyanide to kill his victims and then would freeze them for a period of time prior to dumping their bodies. Kuklinski worked as a contract killer as well as killing for sport. He claimed to have killed somewhere between 150-250 people. He was captured and died in prison.
11. Ice Pick
When thinking of sharp objects in your home, an ice pick does make for a tremendous weapon. Many killers have used an ice pick- sometimes it happened in a fit of rage because the ice pick was nearby. But Abe “Kid Twist” Reles made an art out of the ice pick. Abe would get within arm’s length of his victims and then stabbed them through the ear canal until the ice pick lodged into his victim’s brains. Reles was regarded as one of the most feared hitmen during his days back in the early 1900s. He worked for Murder Inc., the name of the contracting unit that carried out hits for the National Crime Syndicate. Reles was an expert at using his weapon of choice, so much so, that his accuracy of driving the ice pick straight into a victim’s brain was regarded as flawless, as many of his victims died from cerebral hemorrhages. Reles was feared, but like many hitmen, had little in the way of integrity. When faced with execution after being caught by police, he ratted out everyone around him, including his childhood friend, “Buggsy” Goldstein. But while in government custody, Reles attempted to escape and fell to his death outside of his hotel window. He was famously dubbed “The Canary Who Could Sing, But Couldn’t Fly.”
10. Hot Baths
As if getting killed wasn’t enough, try getting murdered by boiling water. There have been reports of boiling water being used to torture people but the Juarez Cartel in Mexico went a step further and actually boiled people alive until their screams seized up and the life left their bodies. This brutal method of murder literally burned and melted the skin off victims as they helplessly perished. Much like carefully dropping a hot dog into boiling water to cook, the cartel carried off these brutal murders by having large amounts of boiling water waiting as the victims were slowly lowered into the water. And there was almost never any mercy given.
9. Bringing The Heat
Apparently, Mexico is one of the most brutal lands for murder on the entire planet. The Mexican cartels are famous for their brutal methods of assassination and murder, always seeking to make dramatic statements to their enemies. The “El Chapo”-led Mexican Drug Cartel started to burn people alive. Beheadings were a common practice when they wanted to make a statement, but when they wanted to leave nothing of their victims, El Chapo ordered the victims be burned alive. These killings were harsh and also made it nearly impossible to identify victims. The dual purpose gave El Chapo the satisfaction of inflicting great pain upon his enemies while at the same time concealing evidence.
8. The Butcher
When thinking of gruesome killings, some of the messiest have to be hand-to-hand murders. The idea of killing someone who is standing right in front of you is a very angry and personal way of murder. The whole idea of seeing the “whites of their eyes” is brought into full focus when killers murder people with hand-held objects such as knives, ice picks, and in this case, meat cleavers. This is how Frank “The Dasher” Abbandando (pictured without hat) took care of his hired hits. Abbandando also worked for The Murder Inc. gang back in the first half of the 1900s. Abbandando was known to have high-price tastes in clothing and an appetite for raping pretty young women. He also was a brutal murderer and used meat cleavers and ice picks to kill his victims. Abbandando was one of the numerous men who fell due to Reles testifying against the Murder Inc., hired guns. He was so confident at trial that he would get off, he whispered threats to the judge. To his surprise, however, Abbandando would end up getting the electric chair.
There is a level of killing where a man is a hired gun trying to make a living and then there is another level in which the man is a sociopath, enjoying the art of murder so much that the money means little to him. The art of killing for Chicago native Sam DeStefano was something that verged on frightening. The FBI in Chicago considers DeStefano the worst torture-murderer in the history of the United States. That designation is not made lightly. DeStefano worked for Chicago’s crime syndicate as a loan shark and hitman. DeStefano would regularly charge people high percentages of “juice” in the hopes that they wouldn’t pay him back. When they didn’t, he would scoop them up and take his victims to a sound-proof torture chamber he built in his basement. From there, DeStefano would literally foam at the mouth while he tortured his victims. His sadistic behavior is what prevented him from ever becoming a “made man.” However, despite his unpredictability, the syndicate loved the amount of money he brought in and kept him around. His instability got the best of him though when he appeared in court as his own lawyer wearing pajamas. The bosses couldn’t have it and ordered him killed- and he was.
6. Hanging Around
Hangings go back hundreds and hundreds of years. There is nothing new to tying a rope around someone who has done wrong (or accused of such) and bringing them to justice by hanging them. Hangings always resulted in deaths, usually quick ones from the snapping of one’s neck. Occasionally a victim would not die immediately and suffer until the final breaths left their body. Nicknamed “Hanging Harry,” Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss used hangings as his signature killing move. Strauss (pictured on left) was another killer for the Murder Inc. gang back in the early 1900s. His prime killing days were in the 1930s when he killed over a hundred men. Some people believe Strauss may have killed as many as 500 people. He used a variety of methods of killing, but enjoyed hangings and watching his victims die slowly. Strauss also dabbled in ice picks, drownings, and live burials. Strauss was a brutal killer but ironically never carried a weapon. He actually would scout locations in which he could use objects other than guns, which is why strangulation and hangings became one of his favorites. He also went to the electric chair as well when Abe Reles ratted on him.
5. Acid Indigestion
The American mafia have had some ruthless killers come and go. Some have been brutal and psychopathic. But Giovanni Brusca is one of the most brutal and ruthless of all hitmen and carried out his punishment for the world-renowned Sicilian Mafia. One of Brusca’s go-to killing moves was to dip his victims in an acid bath. The acid bath would both brutally kill his victims and get rid of evidence. If he happened to use a gun or stab a man to death, he could also use the acid to better hide the evidence. Brusca killed countless people but one of the most disturbing stories came about when fellow Sicilian hitman, Giuseppe di Matteo, was about to turn on Brusca and testify against him. Brusca went right after Matteo’s 11-year-old son, kidnapping him with the intent of torturing him over a 2-year period. During that time Brusca sent Matteo the horrifying photos of his son being tortured and burned with acid until he eventually strangled the boy. When the police finally had a lead on Brusca’s location, they all wore ski masks when storming his sanctuary out of fear of being identified by the psychopathic hitman.
4. Death Room and Pig Feed
If you have ever seen the thrilling drama Dexter then you have seen his kill rooms. This is the place where victims were taken to prior to being killed. Dexter made his kill rooms and they varied for him, but for others, a kill room was a consistent place they brought victims to. Most hitmen killed quickly and left the scene of the crime. Most did not relish the process and used a special room to dismember and torture victims. Many hitmen killed their victims and moved on. But Giuseppe Greco is no normal hitman. The Italian who did his best work out of Palermo, Italy, used his death room to torture his victims. He often dismembered their bodies after he killed him. Then, to get rid of the evidence, Greco either fed the human remains to hungry pigs or dropped the body parts in acid. Greco was a high-ranking member of the Sicilian Mafia, a prolific killer who was found guilty of murdering 58 victims, killed many more, and found the wrong end of the gun by his colleagues.
3. Barrel Murders
Back in the late 1800s, the Mafia were just getting their feet wet. With the United States of America growing exponentially, crime was also rising as immigrants came by the thousands for a better life and the American dream. The victims of barrel murders were usually Italian immigrants. The barrel murders were first used by the Sicilian Provenzano crime family in New Orleans and the Morello crime family in New York. The barrel murders consisted of victims being shot, stabbed, or strangled to death and being left in barrels on the sides of streets. The barrel murders graduated to oil drums in the 20th century, with people being stuffed in barrels, sometimes alive, and getting tossed into deep lakes or bays. Barrel murders became synonymous with the Mafia.
2. Cement Shoes
Getting murdered pretty much sucks any which way you look at it. However, when you think about cement shoes, it goes to a whole other level. The method by which a cement shoe killing takes place occurs when the victim puts their feet in a bucket and then the bucket is filled with concrete. After their feet are weighed down by the cement, their bodies are tossed into a body of water. They are weighed down to the bottom, still alive. The victims are drowned alive. Although the term is called cement shoes, it is technically a concrete torture method. The practice was exaggerated in both television and gangster movies. People have also used concrete to help weigh down already murdered victims by tossing them into the ocean- the set concrete weighing their bodies all the way down to the bottom of the ocean deep.
1. The Karate Chop
Ruthless, vicious, and sadistic are just a few adjectives used to describe the worst villains around. Thomas “Tommy Karate” Pitera is one of those men. He, as his nickname denotes, used martial art skills in order to attack and subdue his victims. Pitera was highly skilled in martial arts. He spent 27 months in Japan, where he learned to use the tonfa, nunchucks, and katanas. Pitera became one of the most feared soldiers on the streets once he returned from Japan. He also became an expert at using blades and knives. Pitera became well-known for killing his victims and then chopping them up into pieces and burying them in a Mafia graveyard. He became obsessed with dissecting his victims and burying them deeper than dogs could pick up their scent. Either way, Tommy Karate was a one of kind by using martial arts and chopping his victims up, something that was more reminiscent of a serial killer than a mobster.