Johnny Martorano

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John James Vincent Martorano (born December 13, 1940) also known as "Vincent Joseph Rancourt", "Richard Aucoin", "Nick", "The Cook", "The Executioner", "The Basin Street Butcher", is a former hitman for the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, Massachusetts who has admitted to 20 mob-related killings.

Early life[edit]

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 while his mother was Irish American. He was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy.

The Martorano family moved to the Irish enclave of East Milton, Massachusetts. John 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".[1] Earlier, he had been a grammar school classmate of future congressman Bill Delahunt.[2]

In a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft he claimed that when he was young his father told him, "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."

Criminal career[edit]

After graduating from high school, John turned down seven football scholarships and instead stayed in Boston. Hanging out in the Combat Zone, Martorano fell under the guidance of Stephen Flemmi, and by the age of twenty-five had become a professional mobster. He committed his first murder at 24 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.[clarification needed]

Ralph DeMasi, a Boston mobster incarcerated in White Deer, Pennsylvania, would later write to the courts that when he was driving down Morrissey Boulevard with fellow Irish mobster William (Billy) O'Brien in 1964, Martorano pulled up in a car alongside them and gunned down O'Brien, shooting him seventeen times with a machine gun and wounding DeMasi. In his letter about the events that almost led to his death he wrote, "I thought someone was taking target practice at us. It was my good friend John Martorano."

John rapidly became one of the Winter Hill Gang's most prolific enforcers under the tenures of Howie Winter and Whitey Bulger. 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 snubnosed revolver. As a result of this, Martorano was facetiously called "Sickle Cell Anemia" by his fellow gangsters.

In 1979, Flemmi and Bulger learned that Martorano and several other Winter Hill members were about to be indicted for a horse race-fixing scheme. They warned Martorano, who quickly fled to Florida. He spent the next 16 years as a fugitive, though he was frequently called on to take part in murders. Most famously, he was the triggerman during the hits on Roger Wheeler and John Callahan.[2]

Arrested in 1995, Martorano was charged along with Flemmi and two Boston mafiosi on a massive racketeering indictment. However, he abruptly agreed to a plea bargain deal in 1999. He was angered that Bulger and Flemmi hadn't made any effort to keep him out of the 1979 race-fixing indictment, but had persuaded corrupt FBI agent John Connolly to ensure they wouldn't be indicted. More seriously, Bulger and Flemmi had been the ones to tip off authorities off about his whereabouts.[2] 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.[3]

Murder victims of John Martorano[edit]

  • 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
  • Herbert "Smitty" Smith
  • James Sousa
  • Anthony Veranis
  • Roger Wheeler

60 Minutes interview[edit]

On January 15, 2008, Martorano was interviewed by Steve Kroft on the CBS News television program 60 Minutes.[4] Initially Martorano had agreed to have his friend Ed Bradley interview him, but Bradley died before this could occur. During the interview, Martorano expressed remorse for killing Elizabeth Dickson, the girl in the car in Dorchester.

Although his friends Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi are considered by many criminologists and investigators to be serial killers, Martorano told 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."

Whitey Bulger trial[edit]

In June 2013, John Martorano testified as a prosecution witness in the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston, Massachusetts.

Personal life[edit]

Martorano was married to Carolyn Wood, an Irish-American, with whom he fathered a son, John Martorano, Jr., and a daughter, Jeannie. Carolyn divorced him in 1975.


  1. ^ From prison to prime time
  2. ^ a b c Lehr, Dick; O'Neill, Garard (2000). Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob (2001 1st Perennial ed.). HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-095925-8. 
  3. ^ Murphy, Shelley (2008-01-16). "US paid hit man $20,000 on release.". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ "The Executioner". 60 Minutes. 2008-01-15. 

External links[edit]