Cement shoes

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Cement shoes, concrete shoes, or Chicago overcoat[1] is a method of murder or body disposal, usually associated with criminals such as the Mafia or gangs. It involves weighing down the victim, who may be dead or alive, with concrete and throwing them into 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. While a common trope in fiction, 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 (a mixture of cement powder, rock, water and sand), or even simply cement powder and water. Typically in films and novels, the victim is still alive as they watch the concrete harden, heightening the torture and drama.[2][3] After the concrete sets, the victim is thrown into a body of water such as a river, lake or the ocean.

Real-life incidents[edit]

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.[2] 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.[4]

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, the immediate cause of his death.[5] His feet and shins were encased in concrete set inside a five-gallon bucket.[6] 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.[7]

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 an 18-kilogram (40-pound) block of concrete.[2] 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.[8] It is also speculated that bootlegger Rocco Perri was murdered by being fitted with cement shoes and thrown into Hamilton Harbour in 1944.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ed Cray, "Ethnic and Place Names as Derisive Adjectives", Western Folklore 21:1:27–34 (January 1962), p. 27-34 JSTOR 1520639
  2. ^ a b c Colleen Long (May 5, 2016). "Cops seek killer of man who washed ashore in 'cement shoes'". CBS 3 Philadelphia. AP. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  3. ^ Adams, Cecil (November 14, 2008). "Were 'concrete shoes' a favored technique of mob hitmen?". Washington City Paper. "The Straight Dope". Archived from the original on January 21, 2009. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  4. ^ Colleen Long (May 5, 2016). "Cops seek killer of man who washed ashore in 'cement shoes'". CBS 3 Philadelphia. AP. Retrieved August 11, 2018. “There’s a lot of urban legend to this — cement shoes, concrete shoes, concrete gloves, whatever you want to call it — but it all has some sort of truth to it,” said Reppetto, [...] ”It started somewhere real and took off.”
  5. ^ Ly, Laura. "Body in 'cement shoes' washes up in Brooklyn". CNN. Archived from the original on 2018-07-11. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  6. ^ Southall, Ashley (3 May 2016). "Man's Body, Feet Encased in Concrete, Washes Ashore in Brooklyn". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "'Cement shoes' found on NYC corpse". BBC News. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  8. ^ "Body of Informer, Tied to Concrete, Pulled From Bay". The New York Times. August 25, 1964. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  9. ^ "April 23, 1944: Hamilton mobster Rocco Perri disappears". thespec.com. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.