Friday, January 29, 2016

The Card Game With an Abrupt Ending

A masked executioner entered the cafe around the midnight hour, He was carrying a shotgun by his side.  Quickly, and with such precision, he raised his weapon and aimed.

Four men were sitting around a table, playing card games, drinking and enjoying their late evening out.  They had no idea that within seconds, two of them would lay dead. Two would be wounded.

Four loud shots were discharged from the sawed off shotgun. The blasts was heard by the deputies at the Springfield police station, just around the corner from the cafe.  By the time they had arrived at the scene, the gunman was whisked away by a Cadillac touring automobile, dark in color and tagged with Missouri state license plates.

The slain men were identified as members of a widely known bootlegging gang, with a territory that stretched from St. Louis to Chicago and places in between.  Robert  Aiello, age 23, and his younger brother, Frank, 20, were the victims.  The seriously  wounded men were identified at Vito Wallace, alias LaPacolo,28, and Lee Meachum, 26.

Robert Aiello, slumped forward in his chair, died immediately.  Frank died on the way to the hospital.  The two other men's wounds were treated and they were released from the hospital. They were questioned by the Deputy Coroner, Robert Stubbs, and said they knew of no motive for the attack.

Several women patrons were bystanders, but they could not identify the masked slayer, and were too upset to even notice that he left in an automobile, driven by a companion that had been waiting for him just outside of the cafe. Helen, owner of the cafe, and her sister, Mildred Joinella, were shaken, but reported that the gunman companion had also entered the cafe, but did not shoot. They also said that a third Aiello brother, Salvatore Aiello, left the cafe just before the gunman appeared. (Oh, really?  Did they try to find him?  Was he was involved in the demise of his brothers?) Others who peered from their nearby windows described the two offenders as "short, fat Italian types", although after being questioned about their statements, they admitted that they really could not identify the ethnicity of the men. But, they did say that they appeared to look just like the "hoodlums" they would hear about on radio news broadcasts.

The Aiello brothers were related to Charles Palmisano, who had been assassinated the night before, on November 10, in St. Louis.  It was reported that a car with Illinois license plates was used in the Palmisano slaying.  The Aiello brothers deaths could have been a reprisal, suggested a Springfield deputy. Mr. Palmisano was a wealthy wholesale fruit merchant.  He was killed as he stood in the doorway of his business.

Jasper Aiello, nephew of the slain men, was killed in front of his home in St. Louis in 1926. Tony Aiello, brother of the victims, was being held in St. Louis in connection with the murder of Alfonso Palazzolo in the previous year. Tony was a brother-in-law of William Russo, leader of a large Italian faction in St. Louis.  Russo was mentioned to be a nephew of the slain Charles Palmisano, although his widow, Mrs. Palmisano, denied they were related. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here????)

Police from St. Louis and Springfield had been collaborating their detective work and came to these conclusions for the slayings:

   Factional differences between Italian gangs

   Whiskey deals gone bad

   Black Hand threats

   Refusal to sign bail bonds

This story was reported in various newspapers across the nation, most dated 11 November 1927.
Among my sources were : The St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Sedalia Democrat, The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), Journal Gazette (Mattoon, Illinois), The Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois)

As always, if you know further information about this case, please share it in the comments section.  We need to share our knowledge with each other to fully understand each story.

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