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Paul Castellano’s Murder: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?

July 23, 2020
4 min read

Fear City: New York vs The Mafia‘ is a limited series documentary on Netflix that recounts the time when the mob ruled the city of New York with a bloody fist. In the 1970s and 80s, the five mob families – Gambino, Colombo, Bonanno, Lucchese, and Genovese – had gone from being involved in neighborhood extortions and racketeering schemes to having their tentacles in the city’s essential functions and businesses. Therefore, the FBI needed a way to break their hierarchy and dismantle them completely. Unfortunately, after they did, they found themselves stunned, because soon after the arrest and bail of all the booses, Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino crime family was murdered.

How Did Paul Castellano Die?

Constantino “Paul” Castellano was born on June 26, 1915, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to Italian immigrant parents. He had dropped out of school in the eighth grade to learn butchering and collecting numbers game receipts, both from his father and, in 1934, at the age of 19, he was arrested for the very first time, for robbing a haberdasher. Six years later, he officially joined the mob. He worked his way up, and in 1976, when the boss of the family, Carlo Gambino, died from natural causes, instead of his underboss, Paul Castellano was named as his successor.

He had the facade of a true businessman, but he ruled with an iron fist, even after he was arrested on February 25, 1985, on charges of racketeering, which eventually resulted in the Mafia Commission Trial. Having been released on a $2 million bail, he was continuing work as normal, that is, until his death on December 16, 1985, at around 5:30 pm. He and his bodyguard/new underboss, Thomas Bilotti, were headed to the Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan, for a prearranged meeting, but there, a hit team was waiting for them.

Three men in trench coats, positioned near the restaurant’s entrance, opened fire on Castellano as he was stepping out of his car, and then, when Bilotti was getting out, the gunmen shot him too. Thus, ending Castellano’s reign as the boss of the crime family, one that lasted for 9 years. The bodies were left on the busy street.

Who Killed Paul Castellano?

Image Credit: Netflix

John Gotti was responsible for the murder of Paul Castellano. He himself was a member of the Gambino crime family, but after Castellano became the boss, he rapidly became dissatisfied, not liking the new boss’ leadership style, regarding it to be too isolated and greedy. Things only got worse when Castellano was arrested because Gotti was deep into expanding the one lucrative trade that the boss had banned, drug dealing. Gotti was doing the trade with the help of his bodyguard Angelo Ruggiero, whose house had been bugged to get to Castellano, and if the tapes reached him, Gotti would be dead before he could snap his fingers.

The last straw for John Gotti was apparently Castellano’s failure to attend the wake of the underboss of the family, Aniello “Neil” Dellacroce, and his hints about breaking up Gotti’s crew in early December. Thus, the latter started conspiring to kill him. There was the hit team which consisted of three members, one of whom was allegedly John Carneglia, who shot Castellano in the head. But, apparently, there was also a backup team consisting of Dominick Pizzonia, Angelo Ruggiero, and Anthony Rampino down the street. John Gotti is said to have been observing the murder from a car across the street.

Two weeks after Castellano’s death, John Gotti was elected as the boss of the family. However, because he hadn’t received permission from the Commission to authorize the kill, the Genovese crime family boss was furious. Thus, he conspired with the Lucchese crime family to have Gotti killed. Soon after, though, they all called a truce. In 1992, John Gotti was convicted of numerous racketeering charges, including the murder of Paul Castellano. He was sentenced to life in federal prison, where he died of throat cancer in 2002. No one else has ever charged in the murder case. (Featured Image Credit: Netflix)

Read More: Where Is Johnny Alite Now?

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