John James Vincent Martorano also known as "Vincent Joseph Rancourt," "Richard Aucoin", "Nick," "The Cook", "The Executioner", "The Basin Street Butcher" (born December 13, 1940), is a former hitman for the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, Massachusetts who has admitted to 20 mob-related killings.
John Martorano was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1940. He is the older brother of James Martorano by eleven months. His father, was an immigrant from Riesi, Sicily, Italy. As a young boy growing up he was a devout Catholic and was even an altar boy. In his 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft he stated that his father instilled the value, "You're the oldest son and this is your heritage (referring to his father's connections to organized crime). You've got to take care of your family and be a man." The Martorano family soon moved to the Irish enclave of East Milton, Massachusetts. As a young boy he attended Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts with his brother Jimmie in grades 6 and 7. He later enrolled in Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island where he graduated. During high school, he played football with future CBS News television journalist Ed Bradley whom he affectionately referred to as "Big Ed". On the football field he earned the moniker "The Millkman" because as Ed Bradley would say, "... he always delivered." His high school yearbook quote states, "Courage can be a very difficult neurosis." It stated that he would "always be remembered for his great football potentials (as a running back) innumerable touchdowns... admits his pet peeve is the subject, history. He was his Home Room Delegate from Grades 9 to 11 and played on the football team for Grades 9 and 10, later becoming the co-captain of the team in Grades 9, 10 and in grade 11 became the team captain. Along with football, John also competed on the school's track and field team in long distance running and the hardball baseball team in Grades 9 and 10. He graduated with his younger brother James from Milton High School in 1959. Some of his criminal associates mispronounced his last name as "Marterannos". After becoming a mob turncoat, Martorano agreed to have his friend Bradley interview him on 60 Minutes, but Bradley died before this could occur. Steve Kroft interviewed Martorano in Ed Bradley's place shortly after Bradley's death. He is the ex-husband of Irish-American Carolyn Wood with whom he fathered a son he named after himself, John Martorano Jr., a daughter Jeannie that bore him one grand daughter. Carolyn divorced him in 1975. In October 1999 he made a deal to turn state's evidence for the government. Although by many criminologists and investigators his friends James Bulger and Stephen Flemmi are considered to be serial killers, John told Ed Bradley, "I might be a vigilante, but not a serial killer. Serial killers, you have to stop them. They'll never stop, they enjoy it. I never enjoyed it. I don't enjoy risking my life but if the cause was right, I would." Ralph DeMasi, convicted and incarcerated Boston mobster in White Deer, Pennsylvania would later write to the courts that when he was with fellow Irish mobster William (Billy) O'Brien in 1964, driving down Morrissey Boulevard that it was Martorano who pulled up in a car alongside them and gunned down O'Brien, shooting him seventeen times with a machine gun and wounding DeMasi. In a letter he would write about the events that almost led to his death, "I thought someone was taking target practice at us. It was my good friend John Martorano."
After graduating from high school, John had turned down seven football scholarships and instead stayed in Boston. Hanging out in the Combat Zone, Martorano fell under the guidance of Stephen Flemmi, by the age of twenty-five had become a professional mobster. He committed his first murder at 24 years old when he allegedly murdered Patriarca crime family made man Robert S. Palladino who was going to testify in a case involving the murder of prostitute Barbara Sylvester in his father's restaurant.
John rapidly became one of the Winter Hill Gang's most prolific enforcers. In January 1968, after an African-American beat up Flemmi in an after-hours saloon, Martorano tracked the man to a car on Normandy Street in Dorchester. As it happened, the man was accompanied by a nineteen-year-old girl and a seventeen-year-old boy. John walked up to the car and killed all three occupants with his .38-caliber snub nose revolver. As a result of this, Martorano was facetiously called "Sickle Cell Anemia" by his fellow gangsters.
John Martorano, despite being on the run for sixteen years, took a shot at bail, but he and his lawyer, Martin Weinberg, were pushing a weak hand. He gave his trial judge several letters from other parents in Boca Raton, Florida commending Martorano's apparent devotion to his son John Martorano Jr. with Martorano's daughter Jean, who was pregnant at the time pledged the $30,000 equity she had in her home in Plymouth, Massachusetts as security for his bail. During the last sixteen years as a fugitive he was living off his illicit bookmaking operation. His in-laws agreed to post $260,000 while a friend of his wife Patricia, agreed to put up another $200,000. Arrested in 1995, Martorano agreed to a plea bargain deal in 1999. In return for confessing his murders, Martorano received a reduced prison sentence of 14 years. In 2007, he was released from prison and given $20,000 to start a new life. On January 15, 2008, Martorano appeared on the CBS News television program 60 Minutes. During the interview, Martorano expressed remorse for killing Elizabeth Dickson, the girl in the car in Dorchester.
Murder victims of John Martorano
- Alfredo (Indian Al) Angeli
- John Banno
- Douglas Barrett
- John Callahan
- Richard Castucci
- Elizabeth Dickson
- Ronald Hicks
- John Jackson
- Tommy King
- Michael Milano
- Joseph J. "Indian Joe" Notarangelli
- William O'Brien
- James "Spike" O'Toole
- Robert Palladino
- Albert Plummer
- William O'Brien
- Herbert "Smitty" Smith
- James Sousa
- Anthony Veranis
- Roger Wheeler
- From prison to prime time
- Murphy, Shelley (2008-01-16). "US paid hit man $20,000 on release. In June 2013 John Martorano testified as a prosecution witness in the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston Mass.". The Boston Globe.
- "The Executioner". 60 Minutes. 2008-01-15.
- Cullen, Kevin. "A Rat Through and Through." The Boston Globe: January 7, 2008.
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Mike Huff. First person interview conducted on August 13, 2013 with Detective Mike Huff about Roger Wheeler's murder case. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.