Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Family Secrets mob trial with Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir

The murder of Butch Petrocelli

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William "Butch" Petrocelli.jpg
William "Butch" Petrocelli

William "Butch" Petrocelli was a feared killer who ran afoul of mob leaders and wound up in the crosshairs himself.

Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra was the man who set him up, sending him down the block from a Chinatown social club to his death.

Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese recently gave a detailed accout of how Petrocelli was jumped when he entered a nearby office.

"Here he comes," someone said, as Petrocelli approached.

"It happened so fast, he was on the ground," Nicholas Calabrese testified.

"I remember holding him down, and my brother choking him," Nicholas Calabrese testified in court, sitting only a few yards away from that very brother, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Helping in killing Petrocelli was Jimmy LaPietra and Frank Santucci, Nicholas Calabrese said.

Outside waiting in cars were Frank Furio and Johnny "Apes" Monteleone.

Nicholas Calabrese knew that his brother later cut Petrocelli's throat.

It was allegedly a pattern with Frank Calabrese Sr., strangle the victim then cut his throat, just to make sure the guy was dead.

Nicholas Calabrese said he didn't know if anything else was done with the corpse. News accounts have long reported that Petrocelli was tortured before he was murdered, but Nicholas Calabrese described a straight forward strangling that led to his death.

The killers brought Petrocelli's corpse out a back door and into the back seat of a four-door Ford.

He was driven away from the murder scene, and Nick Calabrese was tasked with burning his corpse.

Nick Calabrese testified he went to a convenience store and bought two big cans of Zippo lighter fluid and emptied both cans into the car.

He threw a book of lit matches into the car and took off.

Frank Calabrese Sr., who was supervising nearby, yelled at his brother.

"You were supposed to leave a window open," Frank Calabrese Sr. scolded his brother.

The car windows were blackened, but the car didn't catch fire.

The failure to incinerate the corpse did not please the boss, Angelo LaPietra.

He was worried, Frank Calabrese told his brother.

LaPietra was concerned that Petrocelli somehow survived the attack and was still alive.

He needn't have worried.

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In Robert Cooley's book, he says that Petrocelli was tortured by LaPietra for stealing money from the Harry Aleman defense fund.

Who knows?

It was also said he was shaking down thieves and some bookies and was not kicking any money up to the Hook. The story goes no one holds out on the Hook and lives to spend it!

Post-mortem photographs clearly show that Petrocelli's face was half-burned-off.

But that doesn't mean he was torched. Calabrese's testimony was that he was killed and then placed in a car where it was to be torched. He lit the car and then it didn't stay ignited because a window wasn't cracked.

But couldn't the heat have melted a corpse's face anyhow?

And why would Calabrese take responsibility for a murder he didn't perform, if a deceased LaPietra were the responsible one?

I don't think it's beyond a killer like LaPietra to torture someone, but there are some conflicting reports. First Petrocelli was killed for being too flamboyant, then he wasn't kicking up enough money, then he was stealing money from Aleman's fund.

Is there a consensus based on testimony of what really happened and why?

If all they did to Butch Petrocelli was knock him out and then slit his throat, then what did they do with him on December 30 1980 the day that they grabbed him through March 14, 1981? That sure is a lot of time.

I know for a fact he was tortured and killed. The Calabrese brothers should get the death penalty for killing someone.

Butch was the best family man that you could ever want and his business is nobody's business. Nobody deserves to die the way Butch did.

STEVE WARMBIR RESPONDS: Petrocelli was killed after he walked into an ambush. You're confusing the day he was killed, and the day his body was found, which was much later, as you note.

Neither Calabrese will receive the death penalty as a result of the murder.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Warmbir published on July 31, 2007 11:59 AM.

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