Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stumble You Might Fall

by Kevin Guilfoile

The classic true crime book EVERYBODY PAYS (about the arrest and trial of prolific mob hit man Harry Aleman) has come up more than once around here, and in the interest of updating the public on Chicagoland mob developments, here is the latest on Bobby Cruz.

Bobby Cruz was a minor character in EVERYBODY PAYS. Authors Maurice Possley and Rick Kogan describe him as "a swarthy, round-faced man wearing an expensive suit." A cousin of Harry Aleman, Bobby shows up just before Aleman's second trial and convinces Harry, whose previous lawyer had been paid with court funds due to the defendant's claims of indigence, to hire an expensive new attorney, a death penalty specialist from Kentucky.

Bobby knew what it was like to be on trial for his life. He had done 14 years in an Arizona prison (four of them on death row) for hiring a pair of hit men (neither of them Aleman) to kill a Phoenix print shop owner who had refused to do business with the Vegas mob. Bobby was finally acquitted after five trials. Like Harry, Bobby's life's work was also turned into kerosene fuel for the true crime Airbus. The print shop murder was featured in an episode of A&E's City Confidential.

In early December 1997, just days after Aleman was sentenced to 100-300 years, his cousin Bobby Cruz disappeared. The last time anyone saw him he was hanging Christmas lights from his Kildeer, Illinois home.

Authorities assumed he had fled, although his bank accounts and credit cards remained untouched. Two weeks ago that suspicion evaporated when a construction crew in unincorporated DuPage County "came across the body of a man wrapped in tarpaulin and carpet, buried eight-and-a-half feet down." The county coroner identified the body as Bobby Cruz.

The area where the corpse was found had once been described by an FBI informant as a mob burial ground and was near the former home of Chicago Outfit member Jerome "Witherhand" Scalise. Jerome became notorious in 1980 as one of two Chicago mobsters who brazenly stole the priceless "Marlborough Diamond" from a London jewelry store. Undone by the license plate on their rental getaway car (and perhaps also by Scalise's unforgettable and easy-to-spot-in-a-lineup left hand, which was missing four fingers), Scalise and his accomplice were captured on their return to the US, extradited, tried, and imprisoned for nine years even though the diamond has never been recovered.

Scalise is currently serving time in, coincidentally, an Arizona prison on unrelated drug charges.

Some days it just seems like everyone is connected.

7 comments:

Pete said...

Wow. Witherhand is an even better mob name than Scarface. Somehow it's simultaneously deprecating and threatening.

Libby Hellmann said...

Fascinating, Kevin. We need to make a list to keep them all straight.

So what do you think happened to the diamond? I think I'm getting the urge to write a short story about it...

When is Aleman up for parole? Or is he....

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Wow. Witherhand is an even better mob name than Scarface. Somehow it's simultaneously deprecating and threatening.

Isn't it great? Better yet, I have seen it written as both "Witherhand" and "Whitherhand," both of which actually work ("Whither the rest of your hand, Jerome") although I've always assumed it was the former since the usage of "whither" seems both unlikely coming from mobsters and (as you say Pete) both less insulting and less threatening. "Whitherhand" is, however, more hilarious.

So what do you think happened to the diamond? I think I'm getting the urge to write a short story about it...

The great thing about it is that it's a total "Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight" story (renting your getaway car is something that might have happened in Bottle Rocket) and yet it was also, in many ways, a wildly successful heist, which hasn't been entirely solved thirty years later.

As for Aleman's parole, Libby, I'm glad you asked because the story just keeps getting better and better.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

And an update on the parole story from just a few weeks ago.

D.A. Davenport said...

And Libby, as you are writing that short story, check out the rumors I've heard about Scalise's moniker being a direct result of the famous "Marlborough Diamond Curse."

Sean Chercover said...

Cool, thanks for the update (and the update-updates) Kevin. Great story.

And I also want to throw my vote behind EVERYBODY PAYS. A must-read for anyone interested in crime and Chicago.

homepage said...

Nice job. thanks for sharing such a good post. will come to visit again.