Too Close to the Sharks
On a cold blustery morning, January 18, 1983, a businessman called the police once again to report a maroon Cadillac that had been left in the parking lot of the Varnas Boat Club in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. It had been there for over a week. Clearly it was abandoned. The police had already been there once, and upon determining that the car had not been reported stolen, had left it where it was. They assumed that the owner would eventually come to collect it. Yet no one came, so the club manager asked police to have another look.
They decided to investigate more fully. By now they were aware of a missing persons report on a man from the area, filed by his wife, and this car fit the description of the one they were seeking.
The car appeared to be empty, although there were dark stains on the seats. One officer jumped up and down and on the rear bumper, and from the way the car rocked, he decided that the trunk was empty, so they towed it to a police garage. Forensic analysts allowed the car to warm up inside for two hours before starting their examination. Then they popped the trunk and found something they didn't expect: a chandelier.
But there was something else.
Beneath the chandelier was the dead body of a heavyset, dark-haired man, 40ish, who appeared to have been shot several times. His body had frozen into rigor mortis and the cold January temperatures had kept it rigidly in place, with one hand defensively over the face. His black leather jacket was wrapped around his head like a turban and his torso was frozen to the spare tire. A bullet hole went right through his now-solid hand, and an examination later indicated an execution-style killing, with a bullet hole behind each ear. In all, the man had been shot seven times and he lay in a pool of frozen blood. According to his son, who later claimed the car, papers from the gloves used by crime scene technicians were dumped into the blood, as if the criminalists had used the once-fine car as a trash can.
In the back seat was a wire that apparently had been attached to a recorder, but the recorder was gone. There was also a New York magazine, according to reporters Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci in Murder Machine, which featured a cover story on dealing drugs. There was little doubt in anyone's mind that this killing had been a professional hit, and that the body was meant to be discovered. It was unlikely the killer or killers would ever be found. Yet in many ways, the victim had done himself ina common fate for those who run with the wrong crowd.
This man had left home on January 10, around 9:30 in the morning, saying he had an appointment that afternoon to go over some legal papers. His daughter's birthday party was scheduled for that evening and he assured his wife he would be there. He was always around for birthdays. But he never returned this time.
The family filed the missing persons report that led to the opening of the car, but it was eight days before they learned that he had been executed and left locked in the trunk of his car. His 17-year-old son cried in disbelief but the man's wife did not. She had him buried in St. John's Cemetery on Long Island.
It was years before the real story came out, offered from two perspectives: the son who knew that his father was in trouble and someone who knew the gang that had killed him. Currently there are two primary sources for information about Roy DeMeo, Murder Machine, and Albert DeMeo's For the Sins of My Father. Each offers a significantly different perspective on the man reputed to be the Mafia's most cold-blooded killer, responsible for orchestrating possibly as many as two hundred executions.
How does someone go from such a powerful and feared position in one of New York's prominent crime families to sharing the bloody trunk of his car with a broken chandelier?