Synova interviews ex-Kansas City Intelligence Officer, Gary Jenkins. Gary has produced 4 documentary films, created the Kansas City Mob Tour app, authored 3 books, and currently produces and produces and hosts his own true-crime podcast, titled Gangland Wire Crime Stories. In this popular true-crime podcast Gary Jenkins tells many stories about the Kansas City mafia, interviews experts on mafia families in many other cities, and has found many former mafia members to tell their stories.
Some mobsters do the work required of them but only because they have to as part of The Life, but others enjoy the violence. Roy Albert DeMeo got off on the violence and would lead one of the most brutal murderous teams in mob history.
DeMeo was born on September 7, 1940, in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. He was drawn to the street life at an early age and began assisting in loan sharking operations while still in high school. He would later be brought into the Gambino crime family by Mini Gaggie.
Roy DeMeo started building a specialized crew. Each member had their specialty, and together they made a ruthless team. When they turned to murder, the team was nearly unstoppable. The DeMeo crew became infamous for the number of murders they committed and how they disposed of the bodies. It became known as the “Gemini Method.” They would take the target into the Gemini lounge, kill them, cut them up and dispose of them. The authorities claim they allegedly committed an excess of 100 murders with the majority carried out by DeMeo himself. The crew also became famous for car thefts across the city.
DeMeo joined a Brooklyn credit union in 1972 and gained a position on the board of directions shortly afterward. He utilized his position to launder money earned through his illegal ventures. He also introduced colleagues at the credit union to a lucrative side-business, laundering drug dealers’ money. DeMeo also built up his loansharking business with funds stolen from credit union reserves. DeMeo’s collection of loan shark customers, while still primarily those in the car industry, soon included other businesses such as a dentist office, an abortion clinic, restaurants, and flea markets. He was also listed as an employee for a Brooklyn company named S & C Sports Wear Corp. and frequently told his neighbors he worked in construction, food retailing, and the used car business.
In late 1974 a conflict erupted between the DeMeo crew and Andrei Katz. Katz was a young auto repair shop owner who was partners with DeMeo in a stolen car ring. In May 1975, DeMeo was informed by a crooked police officer that Katz was cooperating with authorities. In June, Katz was lured to a place where he could be confronted. After being abducted, he was stabbed to death and dismembered. An accomplice who helped bait Katz later confessed to her role. Joseph Tested, and Henry Borelli were both arrested, but they would secure an acquittal at trial in January 1976. This hit was his 1st known murder committed by the DeMeo crew, and for years it was thought to have been the 1st occasion where DeMeo or members of his crew had dismembered a body for disposal. In 2003, however, new information was provided to the FBI by Bonanno underboss Salvator Vitale. Vitale claimed that in 1974 he was ordered to deliver a corpse of a murder victim to a garage in Queens so it could be disposed of by DeMeo.
In 2011 former Gambino associate Greg Bucceroni alleged that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, DeMeo utilized his henchman Richard Kuklinski on behalf of Robert “DB” DiBernardi & the Gambino family’s pornography establishments in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Here Kuklinski would traffic illegal pornography, collect debts, and carry out contract killings.
In the latter half of 1975, DeMeo became a silent partner in a peep show/ prostitution establishment in New Jersey after the business owner was unable to pay his loansharking debts.DeMeo also began dealing in illegal pornography. When Gaggi found out about DeMeo’s involvement in such taboo films, he ordered him to stop. However, DeMeo defied Gaggi and continued the practice. Gaggi didn’t retaliate. According to his nephew Dominick Montiglio, the subject was never brought up again as long as DeMeo continued making payments to Gaggi. DeMeo also dealt in narcotics despite the Gambini family strictly forbidden such activity.
As 1975 drew to a close, DeMeo was the subject of IRS investigations into his income. Months earlier, the Boro of Brooklyn credit union had been pushed insolvency due to DeMeo’s plundering of its finances. Before an indictment could be handed down against him, he uploaded false affidavits from businesses owned by friends and aquaintances claiming he was on their payroll as an employee. These affidavits served to account for some of his income, allowing him to settle with the IRS.
DeMeo’s sources of income, as well as his crew, continued to grow. By July 1976, he added and automobile firm by the name of Team Auto. Mathew Register also purchased stolen vehicles from the crew and sold them at a New Jersey car lot he owned. He also involved himself in hijacking delivery trucks from the JFK national airport. His team now included Danny Grillo, a hijacker who had just been released from prison. In the fall of 1976, the Gambino family went through a massive change when it’s boss Carlos Gambino died of natural causes. Paul Castellano was named the boss, with Aniello Dellacroce retaining the position of underboss.
The implications of this were twofold for DeMeo. Gaggi was elevated to the position of caporegime, taking over the crew of men Castellani previously headed. This promotion was beneficial to DeMeo who’s mentor was now even closer to the family leadership. Another advantage was that new associates would be eligible for membership in the family. Castellano didn’t immediately “open the books” for new members, opting to promote existing members and shuffle around the crew’s leaders. He also allegedly opposed the idea of DeMeo being made.
Castellani involved himself in white-collar crime and looked down on street level members such as DeMeo. Additionally, Castellano felt DeMeo was uncontrollable. Gaggi’s attempts at persuading Castellano to make DeMeo were continually rejected. By 1977 DeMeo became distraught by this and searched for opportunities to ensure larger returns for his superiors.
The Westies Alliance and Rosenberg:
DeMeo secured his induction into the Gambino family by allying with the Irish-American gang known as the Westies. The leader of the Westies, Mickey Spinner, was causing delays for the construction of the Jacob K Javits Convention Center, much of the frustration of Gambino boss Paul Castellano who had a part in the project. After the unsolved murder of Spillane in May 1977, James Conan assumed control of the gang.
Shortly afterward, Coonan and his second-in-command Mickey Feather stone were called to a meeting with Castellano. They agreed to become a de facto arm of the Gambino family and share 10% of all profits. In exchange, the Westies would be privy to several lucrative union deals and take on murder contracts for the family. It was the pivotal role in the Westie/Gambino alliance that reportedly convinced Castellano to formally induct DeMeo into the family.
He was ordered to get permission before committing murder, and he was told to avoid the drug dealing scene. The DeMeo’s crew didn’t obey and continued to commit unsanctioned killings. One such case was the homicide of Johnathan Quinn, a car thief suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, and Cherie Golden, Quinn’s 19 yr old girlfriend. DeMeo’s crew dumped the bodies in locations where they would be discovered to serve as a warning against the cooperation with authorities.
In 1978 Frederick DiNome, previously DeMeo’s chauffeur, joined the crew. November 14, 1978, Edward Grillo was killed. He had fallen into massive debt with DeMeo and was believed to be becoming susceptible to police coercion. Grillo, who was dismembered and disposed of like many other victims, was the 1st known internal crew discipline occurrence. The next member to be killed was Rosenberg, who set up a drug deal with a Cuban man living in Florida, and then murdered him and his associates when they traveled to New York to complete the sale.
This murder raised the possibility of violence between the Gambino family and the Cubans unless Rosenberg was taken out. DeMeo was ordered to kill Roseburg and stalked him for weeks during this period. In a fit of paranoia, DeMeo committed his most public murder. The victim was an innocent college student named Dominick Ragucci, who was paying for his tuition by working as a door to door salesman. DeMeo saw him parked outside his house and assumed he was a Cuban assassin.
DeMeo and crew member Joseph Guglielmo pursued Ragucci and then shot the student. After returning home and gathering with his family, DeMeo drove them out of New York and left them at a hotel for a short time. According to DeMeo’s son Albert, he started crying when he discovered he had murdered an innocent boy. Gaggi was infuriated by the murder of Ragucci and ordered DeMeo to kill Rosenberg before there were any more innocent victims.
On May 11, 1979, Rosenberg reported to the Gemini clubhouse for the crew’s usual Friday night meeting. Shortly after his arrival, DeMeo fired a bullet into Rosenberg’s head. The usually ice-cold DeMeo hesitated when the still living Rosenberg managed to rise off the floor to 1 knee, but Anthony Senter moved in and finished him off with four shots to the head. Unlike Grillo, Rosenberg’s body was not dismembered or made to disappear.
The Cubans demanded that his murder make the papers. DeMeo’s men placed his body in his car on Cross Bay Boulevard (near Gateway National Wildlife Refuge) to be found. Albert DeMeo later recounted that Rosenberg’s murder affected his father profoundly and that when DeMeo came home after the killing, he went to his study room and didn’t come out for two days. TO BE CONTINUED.
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Cricket Andrews is a new crime writer working on her own book to empower victim’s families. She has worked as a victim’s advocate for years and is passionate about helping those affected by violent crime.
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Gambling addict leaves for Vegas in fear and is never seen again. What happened to Paul Douglas Cappo in June 1980? Between his ties with organized crime and his $75,000 gambling debt, Cappo knew his life was at stake. Why in the world would he go to Las Vegas if he knew death was near?
Paul Douglas Cappo, 28 told his wife goodbye on June 10, 1980, and drove off into the horizon. Cappo was nervous about his trip to Vegas and told his wife that his friends would rather “stab you in the back than look at you.” Mrs. Cappo was to contact his attorney immediately if her husband missed a scheduled call.
In hopes of taking care of his family, Paul took out a $50,000 life insurance policy with an additional $50,000 accidental death clause. Why was this poor man so nervous? The answer might lie in his organized crime contacts, or perhaps it could be the $75,000 gambling debt he owed to the Tropicana Casino? Who knows?
Cappo was last seen driving a dark blue 1977 Plymouth 4-door car. The car had Kansas City license plates and had a damaged front fender. Perhaps the gambler had a premonition, but whatever the case neither Paul Cappo nor his car was ever seen again. Unfortunately, no one knows who he was going to meet in Sin City, and very few leads have come in on this case over the past 39 years.
If you have any information on this case, please contact Sgt. Benjamin Caldwell with the Kansas City Police Department at (816)234-5136.
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Roland T. Owen walked into the Kansas City hotel carrying a comb, a brush, and a tube of toothpaste. After several strange encounters with hotel staff, Owen would be carried out on a gurney a few days later. Blood covered the walls and bed in room 1046, and investigators say it was already solidified leading them to assume Owen had been bleeding for over six hours. Who tortured and killed this man? Why was his door always locked from the outside? Who were the anonymous benefactors that paid for his burial?
Last week I quickly highlighted this Alfred Hitchcock style murder mystery for my readers. This story was so strange and mysterious; I knew it would take more than one post to cover it. If you haven’t seen that post, you can follow this link to read Part One of the mystery.
Strange Sighting: (Thursday, January 3, 1935 – 11 PM)
Robert Lane was driving down 13th Street when he saw a man dressed in trousers and an undershirt. The man’s attire seemed strange in the cold winter weather of January. He was running and waving frantically. Robert Lane pulled over, and the stranger ran up to the door. He looked surprised.
“I’m sorry. I thought this was a taxi. Can you take me to where I can find a cab?”
Lane agreed, and the man climbed into his back seat. The man looked as if he’d been in a scuffle and Lane made a remark about this. The man mumbled, “I’ll kill that__________ in the morning.”
While all the newspapers were too proper to write the actual word that was uttered, 84 years later it could have helped investigators if there was some sort of record of this remark. Was the stranger talking about a male or a female? Who knows?
Lane noticed the man had a large cut down his arm and was cupping his hands trying to catch the blood. As the car reached a nearby intersection, the passenger jumped out and ran across to a parked cab. Seeing the driver wasn’t with his car, the stranger honked the horn. Presently, the cab driver rushed out of a nearby, and that was the end of Robert Lane’s interaction with the stranger.
Police disputed this story since no one noticed Owen leaving his room. Police would discount this and take the investigation in different directions. I find this odd because no one ever saw Owen coming or going from his room. Who was locking the door from the outside if Owen was still sitting inside? At one point the housekeeping staff walked into the room thinking it was empty to find Owen laying across the bed fully clothed and staring into the darkness.
To understand this story, you must understand the hotel’s door locking mechanism. The door could be locked from the inside and could not be opened externally. It could also be locked from the outside with a key, and the hotel staff could use the passkey to open the door and clean. On more than one occasion this outer lock was used while Owen was still inside the room.
By Friday morning the staff noticed the phone was off the hook in Owen’s room. The first contact that was made by the hotel staff was around 7 am. Evidence would later show that Owen was already beaten, stabbed and bloody by this time. That’s when the bellboy heard a voice call through the door and say, “Come in. Turn on the light.” Was this Owen trying to get the man to come in and help him? We’ll never know.
To make the story, even more, perplexing the second time a bell boy was sent to the room that morning, he opened the door with the hotel passkey. This, of course, means that between the bell boy’s first contact and second contact someone had left that room and locked it from the outside. The attendant used his key and opened the darkened room. He noticed the side table was knocked over, and the phone was on the floor. A shadowy figure of a naked man lay sprawled across the bed. The bellboy would later note that there were dark shadows on the sheets around the man, but he didn’t turn on the light. Instead, the bellboy replaced the phone, closed the door, and reported that the guest was drunk on the bed. Could this man have saved Ronald T. Owen if he had taken a moment to check on him?
An hour and a half later the phone was still off the hook, and finally, the bellboy had lost his patience. He opened the door and switched on the lights to discover a horrific scene. Owen was two foot from the door and naked with a rope tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles. He was on his knees and elbows. His bloody head was in his hands. When police asked who did this Owen replied, “Nobody.” He would slip into a coma on the way to the hospital and die shortly after midnight on January 5th.
The police immediately began searching for evidence in Room 1046 but found it had been stripped. Owen’s clothes, all of his belongings, even the hotel’s shampoo and soap were missing. The only things found in the room were: a hairpin, a safety pin, a label from a tie, a bottle of undiluted sulfuric acid, and two glasses. One broken glass was in the bathroom sink and was missing a shard of glass. Four little fingerprints were found on the lampshade leading the investigators to believe they could have been from a woman.
Investigators quickly realized the name Roland T. Owen was an alias and began digging for the man’s identity. In the meantime, the body was transported to the local morgue where it was placed for public viewing in hopes of getting a definite identification on the man. Many people came forward thinking they knew the victim, but all were dismissed. This is when Robert Lane came forward and confirmed the man in the morgue was the man he had picked up on that Thursday night. Authorities claim they can’t prove this, but I find it the most credible. Owen didn’t look overly normal. With his height and scars, he was a rather imposing figure which would make him hard to forget.
After much ado, the papers announced the unknown victim with the alias Roland Owen would be buried in a pauper’s grave since no one claimed him. This prompted another series of strange events. Before the body could be buried the funeral director received an anonymous call from an unknown male. He asked them two wait a little longer in burying Owen and he would send money for a proper burial. A few days later the funeral home received an envelope filled with cash wrapped in newspaper. The donor requested the body to be buried in Memorial Park Cemetary so he could be next to the donor’s sister.
“Love Forever, Louise”:
The florist received an anonymous phone call around the same time from an unknown male. He requested 13 roses to be sent to the grave of Ronald T. Owen and the card should be signed, “Love forever, Louise.” The florist tried to ask a few questions, but the man simply stated that he was just doing this for his sister.
Another phone call:
After the newspaper article about this case was printed, the editor received a phone call from a woman. She said the report was wrong and Roland’s funeral arrangements were paid.
Searching for Don:
During one of the interchanges with the hotel staff, Owen was heard speaking on the phone to a man he called “Don.” Another time the housekeeper saw a note with the same name. Was Don a friend? Was he a Mafia Don? Investigators searched for years and couldn’t find the true identity of Don.
Eighteen months after the newspaper article about this mystery a woman saw the pictures and claimed Roland T. Owen was her son Artemus Ogletree. Although original reports claimed he was in his mid-20’s, Ogletree was 17 at the time of his death. To make matters more mysterious, Mrs. Ogletree had received three separate letters from her son. They were all typewritten which she thought was strange since her son didn’t know how to type. Also, these notes used a lot of slang terms Mrs. Ogletree had never heard her son use. After researching this story, she realized those three letters could not have been from her son. Someone out there not only knew what happened Roland T. Owen in that hotel room, but they also knew his real name and his mother’s address.
One More Mysterious Caller:
If that wasn’t enough of a mystery for you, there was a new chapter to this tale that happened to a Kansas City Librarian in 2003. John Horner spent a lot of time researching this case and writing it up for the library’s blog. One day he too received a strange phone call. It was an out of state caller claiming to be going through a deceased relative’s belongings. They found a large box of newspaper articles from about the Roland T. Owen case and in the box was a specific object that had been referenced in the original newspaper article. Then, the line went dead. What was in the box? Who were the mysterious caller and their relative? Was it the woman Louise? Was it Don? Like all good mysteries. We may never know the truth in this strange tale.
Despite spreading this case across two blog posts, there are even more details I couldn’t include here. Below are some links for further reading on this strange tale.