THE GANG, left to right, Harry Strauss,
Martin Goldstein, Abe Reles and Harry Maione
"Twenty-one murders in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn during
have been solved by the roundup of a murder syndicate which took
killing contracts at so much a head,
District Attorney William F. O' Dwyer of Kings County announced
Daily News, March 19, 1940
The men arrested were part of what the press later dubbed
Murder Inc., the enforcement arm of the Syndicate.
Though they were based out of Midnight Rose's candy store
in Brownsville, their reach was national.
More than 400 killings across the country would eventually be laid
at the doorstep of these men.
The idea behind Murder Inc. was a simple one.
When Meyer Lansky and Charles (Lucky) Luciano formed a national
syndicate of crime
(essentially organized crime franchises under a ruling board known
as the "Commission"),
they realized the need for a body of men to keep order and enforce
decisions of the syndicate committee.
Thus Murder Inc. was born.
Under the Commission's guidelines,
Mobsters from around the country had the right to ask for a Murder
killer to come and take care of whatever problem they faced, though
there were restrictions.
Murder Inc. could not be used to kill civilians, only those involved
with the Syndicate.
It was felt that killing innocent people, corrupt politicians,
police officers and reporters
generated too much heat, and might interfere with other ventures.
O' Dwyer had no idea what he had caught a piece of, until one of
them started to talk.
"Abe (Kid Twist) Reles
once the terror of Brownsville,
now the Dixie Davis of the wholesale murder probe
'sang' from the witness stand for four hours in Kings County Court
— Daily News, May 16, 1940.
Once a lieutenant in Murder Inc., Reles was charged with murder
by police in 1940.
He feared other mobsters who were behind bars would sell out first,
so he started singing his lungs out.
In a short time he told authorities the details of over 200 mob
But before he could testify against the Syndicates top players,
Reles went out the window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney
Island under mysterious circumstances.
He became known as the canary
who sang, but couldn't fly.
Some of the
Of Murder Inc.
According to a yellowing folder in the Daily News morgue, Murder
Mendy Weiss, a vicious
killer with eyes of stone.
Twist) Reles, a name he took
from a vicious killer of an earlier generation.
Dasher) Abbandando, who got
his nickname from a botched job where he ran around the block from his
victim so fast he caught up with him from behind and pumped three bullets
Jaw) Magoon, a killer who always
looked like he needed a shave.
Goldstein, earned his name the same way Bugsy Siegel did,
by being a a little crazy, or "buggy."
Head) Gurino, earned his moniker
because he used chickens for target practice.
Maione, a man who wore a perpetual scowl.
who, as far as anyone knew, never spent time in Pittsburgh.He killed
so callously that he didn't know who his victims were.Often, he would pick
up the paper after a job to find out who he had killed and why.
Oscar the Poet, so
called because he was arrested while reading poetry in the park.
Leaders of the group, who were notorious in their own right,
have their own folders in the News archive.
Men like Lepke Buchalter, Albert Anastasia, and Bugsy Siegel.
Not all killers have a particular M.O. and many of the members
of Murder Inc.
were quite versatile in their killing methods.
Bellow are some of the implements they used for destruction:
The Ice Pick,
often used to conceal the cause of death. By sticking the ice pick into
the ear of the victim it was possible to scramble the brains and make the
death look very much like cerebral hemorrhage. The small puncture wound
often went unnoticed by authorities.
sometimes used to slit a throat quickly, sometimes used to slowly torture
victims. The knife was a quite weapon but messy.
of all sorts, the Thompson submachine gun is by far the most famous of
achieved by hand, piano wire, or rope.
only used to chop up a victim so the body would not be identified.
by fist, blackjack, pipe or baseball bat, usually resulted in death for