Old-time Mobster Felix Bocchino Shot To Death In His Car In S. Phila.

Posted: January 30, 1992

Felix Bocchino, who had begun to emerge as a major figure in the Philadelphia underworld after quietly surviving a bloody period of mob violence, was killed gangland-style yesterday morning less than a block from his South Philadelphia home.

The murder, the first significant Mafia killing in nearly seven years, came as Bocchino, 73, started his car parked in the 1200 block of Mifflin Street. He was shot in the head and neck at close range. Police found him a little after 8 a.m., slumped over the front seat of his maroon-topped white Buick.

After the shooting, a heavyset man wearing a black windbreaker with the hood pulled up around his head was seen running from the scene east on Mifflin and then south on Camac Street, investigators said.

Bocchino's death was the first major mob murder in the city since 1985, when Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso was gunned down outside a South Philadelphia grocery store, and the most important shooting since Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. was wounded at Dante & Luigi's restaurant on Halloween night in 1989.

The 1980s were bloody for the Philadelphia mob. They began with the killing of longtime boss Angelo Bruno, which led to a violent power struggle and the rise of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo. More than 20 important mob members and associates were killed during the early part of the decade.

Yesterday's shooting sent an immediate ripple of speculation among federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

Some theorized that it was the first wave of violence in a new struggle for control of what remains of the gambling and loan-sharking empire of imprisoned mob boss Scarfo. Bocchino, some investigators said, had emerged as a key player in the reorganization.

"It's quite obvious the mob isn't dead," said Frederick T. Martens, executive director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission. "Nicky Scarfo's incarceration did not end La Cosa Nostra."

Police said they received a call about a shooting yesterday morning and found Bocchino shot behind the steering wheel of his 1977 Buick. The 5-foot-5, brown-eyed Bocchino was wearing a jeff cap, a light jacket with dark sleeves and black-and-white checked slacks. Stuffed in a pants pocket was more than $1,000, police said.

He had been shot twice in the left side of his neck, once in the left side of his head. A fourth bullet skimmed his nose and exited the passenger window of the car, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:20 a.m. by the medical examiner.

Some witnesses said the killer came from Iseminger Street, a twisting alley of a street across from the car. They said he fired at the car just after Bocchino turned the key, then fled.

Bocchino's car window, rolled up at the time, was shattered by the blast. So was the window on the passenger side. The car was parked just a half block

from the second-floor apartment on East Passyunk Avenue that Bocchino shared with his daughter.

Yesterday, police searched for evidence along the sidewalk and street near the scene against the backdrop of a red brick rowhouse whose front window was festooned with red and gold Valentine's Day decorations.

Nearby, police found the slug that grazed Bocchino's nose. The three other bullets - all .38-caliber - were recovered during the autopsy. No gun has been found.

After Bocchino's body was removed, police towed the car and then sifted through shattered glass in two piles on the road for more clues. Neighbors and passersby watched from nearby street corners, hands in pockets, arms across chests, their talk muted.

A few said they had known Bocchino slightly. Two men said he was friendly, and one added that he often walked a dog, maybe a poodle, around the neighborhood. He had apparently walked the dog earlier yesterday morning.

It was a benign portrait for a man authorities described as a gambler, swindler, drug trafficker and longtime member of the Philadelphia mob.

Investigators yesterday had three theories about his murder.

In one, Bocchino was emerging as a key lieutenant in the reorganization of the mob in South Philadelphia and was said to be closely allied with John Stanfa, 51, the man many in law enforcement believe is now running the organization. The murder, these investigators reasoned, was a sign to Stanfa that others are angling for his job.

Stanfa, a Sicilian immigrant who runs a Philadelphia construction company, is the man who drove Bruno home on the night in 1980 that the Philadelphia mob boss was killed. He is widely believed by law enforcement authorities and underworld figures to have helped set up Bruno and is one of the few suspected conspirators in the Bruno killing to have survived the violent internecine struggle that followed.

According to one law enforcement source, Philip Leonetti, a Mafia triggerman who is now a cooperating federal witness, has told investigators that Bocchino supplied the shotgun used to kill Angelo Bruno. That could give Bocchino and Stanfa something in common.

After the Bruno murder, Stanfa disappeared for a short time, went to prison for lying to a grand jury investigating the murder and fled to Sicily before returning to Philadelphia.

State-level investigators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania say Stanfa and Bocchino have had several meetings in the last six months.

Col. Justin J. Dintino, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said yesterday that Bocchino had aligned with Stanfa, who was emerging as operational leader of the organization.

It is unclear whether Stanfa is the boss or the underboss, he said, but it is clear that Stanfa is a force in the organization.

Why Bocchino got killed, Dintino said, "we don't know. There are several versions and a lot of speculation, but it's just too soon to tell."

In the second theory, Bocchino and Stanfa had a falling out, possibly over street taxes, money paid to the mob for the right to operate a criminal activity in Philadelphia. Bocchino, some investigators say, was involved in collecting street taxes from gamblers and, possibly, drug dealers and was either holding some of it back or collecting despite an order from Stanfa to stop.

In the third theory, elegant in its simplicity, Bocchino somehow angered someone who then set out to kill him.

MOB HITS IN PHILADELPHIA

Slaying victims on a FBI "time line" prepared by

agents investigating the Scarfo organization in the 1980s.

1980

March 21 Angelo Bruno

April 18 Alfred Salerno

April 18 Antonio Caponigro

Sept. 19 John Simone

Oct. 29 Frank Sindone

Dec. 16 John McCullough

1981

Feb. 26 Frank Stillitano

March 15 Philip Testa

May 25 Harry Petros

May 27 Steve Bouras (and his dinner

companion, Jeanette Curro)

Oct. 6 John Calabrese

1982

Jan. 7 Frank Narducci

Jan. 15 Pietro Inzerillo

Feb. 20 Tommy Mangieri

Feb. 25 Dominick DeVito

March 15 Rocco Marinucci

May 13 Frank Monte

1983

Jan. 27 Robert Hornikel

April 29 Pasquale Spirito

Nov. 3 Salvatore Tamburrino

Nov. 11 Salvatore Sollena

Nov. 19 Matteo Sollena

Dec. 6 Robert Riccobene

Dec. 14 Enrico Riccobene (suicide)

1984

Sept. 14 Salvatore Testa

1985

Feb. 8 Frank Forlini

July 23 Frank D'Alfonso

1992

Jan. 29 Felix Bocchino

CAPSULE ACCOUNTS OF SOME MAJOR MOB SLAYINGS

MARCH 21, 1980 Angelo Bruno, the longtime Philadelphia mob boss, is shotgunned to death in a car outside his Snyder Avenue home. The shooting set off five years of internecine bloodshed that left nearly 30 other mob members or associates dead.

DEC. 16, 1980 Philadelphia Roofers Union boss John McCullough is killed in the kitchen of his Bustleton home by a mob assassin posing as a flower deliveryman. McCullough was killed because he was attempting to horn in on mob-dominated union activity in Atlantic City.

MARCH 15, 1981 Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, Bruno's successor, is killed by a bomb planted under the steps of his Porter Street home in South Philadelphia. Testa's reign as mob boss lasted less than a year. He was

succeeded by his close friend, Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, soon to become known as the most violent Mafia boss in America.

JANUARY 7, 1982 Frank "Chickie" Narducci is gunned down near his South Broad Street home. Narducci, a mob capo or captain suspected of plotting the Philip Testa killing, is shot nine times by two gunmen firing at point-blank range. The shooting was ordered by Scarfo. One of the gunmen was Salvatore Testa, Philip's son.

SEPTEMBER 14, 1984 Salvatore Testa is lured to an East Passyunk Avenue candy shop by a friend and is shot in the back of the head by a Scarfo gunman. His blood-soaked body is later discovered along the side of a road in Gloucester Township, Camden County. Testa, who was Scarfo's field general during the bloody mob wars of the 1980s, was considered a threat and potential rival once Scarfo had secured his position at the top of the mob.

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