Cement shoes or Chicago overcoat is a largely fictional method of execution and/or body disposal, usually associated with criminals such as the Mafia or gangs. It involves weighting down the victim, who may be dead or alive, with concrete and throwing them into the water in the hope the body will never be found. In the US, the term has become tongue-in-cheek for a threat of death by criminals. Only one real-life case has ever been authenticated.
Cement shoes involve first binding, incapacitating or killing the victim and then placing each foot into a bucket or box, which is then filled with wet concrete. Typically in movies and novels the victim is still alive as they watch the concrete harden, heightening the torture and drama. After the concrete sets, the living victim/corpse is thrown into a river, lake or the ocean. A similar term is cement overcoat or sleep[ing] with the fishes. Although called "cement", it is technically concrete which is a mixture of cement powder, water, and sand or gravel.
Despite being a theme in Hollywood movies like Lady in Cement and books like E. L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate, whether such a cumbersome and time-consuming method of execution was practical remained in question. Cement takes many hours or even days to fully harden and, until 2016, there was never a documented case—although crime historian Thomas Reppetto said there have probably been real-life examples that have never been found.
In May 2016, the first and only documented case of "cement shoes" was reported. The body of Brooklyn gang member Peter Martinez, aged 28, better known on the streets as Petey Crack, washed up near Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. His head was wrapped in duct tape. His feet and shins were encased in concrete set inside a five-gallon bucket. His body floated to the shore due to air in the concrete because it was not given enough time to dry before being thrown into the ocean.
Concrete has been used as a weight to dispose of a body. In 1941, the body of Philadelphia racketeer Johnnie Goodman was found by crab fisherman in a New Jersey creek, weighed down with a 40-pound block of concrete. On August 24, 1964, the body of Ernest Rupolo, aged 52, a trigger man who informed on Vito Genovese in 1944, was found in Jamaica Bay, New York, with concrete blocks tied to his legs. It is also speculated bootlegger Rocco Perri was murdered by being fitted with cement shoes and thrown into Hamilton Harbour in 1944.
- Ed Cray, "Ethnic and Place Names as Derisive Adjectives", Western Folklore 21:1:27–34 (January 1962), p. 27-34 JSTOR 1520639
- Colleen Long (May 5, 2016). "Cops seek killer of man who washed ashore in 'cement shoes'". CBS 3 Philadelphia. AP. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
- Adams, Cecil (November 14, 2008). "Were "concrete shoes" a favored technique of mob hitmen?". The Straight Dope. Washington City Paper. Archived from the original on November 2008.
- Southall, Ashley (3 May 2016). "Man's Body, Feet Encased in Concrete, Washes Ashore in Brooklyn". The New York Times.
- "'Cement shoes' found on NYC corpse". BBC News. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "Body of Informer, Tied to Concrete, Pulled From Bay". The New York Times. August 25, 1964. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "April 23, 1944: Hamilton mobster Rocco Perri disappears". thespec.com. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.