Russo was a skilled cat burglar which is how he earned his nickname "Little Pussy" short for "Little Pussycat". He was a made man in the Newark, New Jersey crew of the Genovese crime family which was run by veteran mobster Ruggiero "Richie the Boot" Boiardo. Russo was shot to death in Long Branch, New Jersey on April 26, 1979, while on an Easter furlough from prison. His killers were identified in FBI reports as Thomas "Pee Wee" DePhillips, a capo in the Genovese family, Anthony DeVingo, a soldier and enforcer in the Genovese family who controlled gambling and loansharking in parts of Essex County, and Joe "Joe Z" Zarro an alleged Genovese associate whose operation spread into Passaic County. "It was a typical mob contract", said one investigator familiar with the case. "It was obvious from the start it was someone he knew, someone he trusted." Federal authorities indicated they always suspected DeVingo but couldn't produce enough evidence to charge him. No weapons were ever recovered.