Known as the bloodiest day in mob history, the 14th February 1929 will forever be known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Seven members of the North Side Irish gang and their mechanic were lined up against the inside wall of the garage at 2212 North Clark Street, Chicago and murdered by four still unconfirmed perpetrators. It was a result of the struggle between the North Side Irish gang and the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone for control of organised crime in Chicago.
The Capone gang allegedly planned the massacre. It was a revenge attack for both an unsuccessful attempt on one of the South Side gangs a few months earlier and for the murder of two of the presidents of the local Mafia, Unione Siciliana. The two gangs had been competing for control of Chicago and it’s bootlegging industry since before its prohibition in the US.
The original plan was to lure the leader of the North Side gang, Bugs Moran, to a garage under the promise of a stolen shipment of whiskey, and then commit his murder. However, on the morning of the massacre, most of the Irish gang had arrived at around10.30am and Moran was running late. As one of Capone’s other associates approached the garage he saw a police car pull up and two uniformed officers got out and entered the garage. Moran was then warded away from the warehouse. The two uniformed police were in fact carrying shotguns and ordered the men to line up against the wall. Two further men then began spraying the victims with gunfire, killing all but one at the scene. The two men then left the warehouse with their hands up, fake police officers behind them in order to give the appearance that everything was under control. Frank Gusenberg was still alive, despite sustaining fourteen bullet wounds, when the real police officers arrived at the scene. He was rushed to hospital and when questioned later his only response was, “Nobody shot me.” He then did three hours later without naming any of the perpetrators.
The police investigation was long-winded and eventually inconclusive. They knew that Al Capone’s gang was responsible for the massacre but the police failed to prove it and pin the murders on any specific members of the gang or Capone himself. They suspected Capone gunmen John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, Jack McGurn and Frank Rio, a Capone bodyguard. However, Scalise, Anselmi and another, Guinta, were murdered by Capone in May 1929, after he learned of their plan to kill him before he was tried. The murder charges against McGurn were eventually dropped because of lack of evidence and he married the main witness against him, his girlfriend Louise Rolfe to prevent her from testifying. She then became known as the ‘Blonde Alibi’.
The case went quiet for many months until the Michigan police arrested Fred “Killer” Burke, another suspect of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In his apartment they found a trunk containing a bullet-proof vest, almost $320,000 in bonds recently stolen from a Wisconsin bank, two machine guns and further ammunitions. The recent developments in ballistics determined that both weapons had been used in the massacre and one had been used to murder another New York mobster a year and a half earlier. Burke was tried and convicted in Michigan for the murder of a police officer and was sentenced to life in prison. No one was ever convicted of the Valentine’s Day massacre and the perpetrators, although almost certainly dead by now, were never put to justice.
The St Valentine’s Day massacre is not the only tragedy to have occurred on days that are supposed to be filled with happiness and love. On Christmas Day 1929 43-year-old Charlie Lawson picked up a shotgun and shot his wife and four children at close range. He then laid their bodies outside the house, hands across their chests and committed suicide in the nearby woods. It was an inexplicable tragedy with no apparent motive for the murders. But the strangest element of the whole affair was that Charlie’s brother Marion opened up the house as a tourist attraction just weeks after they were buried!
It appears that not even holidays are free from tragedy!!