Tomasso Petto

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Tommaso "The Ox" Petto (1879–1905) was a New York mobster and leading hitman in the Morello crime family during the early 1900s.

Born around 1879, Petto lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His nickname "The Ox" came from his massive head and frame. Petto's nominal profession was that of a suit presser, but his real job was working for the Morello family. The Morello family was a Sicilian clan in Manhattan that became infamous for killing their rivals, stuffing them in barrels, and leaving them on street corners.

On April 15, 1903, after a violent fight with New York Police Department (NYPD) detectives, Petto was arrested for the murder of Benedetto Madonia, one of the so-called "Barrel Murders". The police found a pawn ticket belonging to Madonia in Petto's possession. Petto was arraigned and held at the New York City Central Jail, known as "the Tombs", pending an inquest. However, jail officials released Petto by mistake and he disappeared from New York. Petto eventually resurfaced in Pennsylvania, where he became involved in criminal activities with a Black Hand gang in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. In August 1904, a witness implicated Petto in the kidnapping of Vito Laduca, a Morello gang member, but no charges were ever filed.

In 1905, Tommaso Petto was stabbed to death outside his Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania home. The body was found with 62 stab wounds. At the time, it was speculated that the murderer was Giuseppe de Primo, Madonia's brother-in-law. De Primo was a New York grocer who had helped the Morello gang distribute counterfeit currency. Serving a prison sentence when Madonia was murdered, De Primo was later released and allegedly tracked down Petto and killed him. However, no arrests were made and Petto's murderer was never found.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carey, Arthur A. and McLellan, Howard. Memoirs of a Murder Man. New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1930.
  • Nelli, Humbert S. The Business of Crime: Italians and Syndicate Crime in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. ISBN 0-226-57132-7

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