Two bodies recovered from a grave in a northwest Indiana cornfield were identified by the FBI late Monday as Anthony John Spilotro, reputed overseer of the Chicago mob's interests in California and Las Vegas, and his brother, Michael.
The brothers, both of whom were awaiting trial on separate federal charges, had been beaten to death, suffering severe blows to their heads, necks and chests, Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist at Indiana University, said. Their mud-covered, decomposing bodies, stacked one atop the other and clad only in undershorts, were found Sunday night near Morocco, Ind., 60 miles southeast of Chicago. They had disappeared on June 14.
The grave is a few miles east of a farm reportedly once owned by Joseph Aiuppa, the reputed former godfather of the Chicago mob, who is now in prison. Federal agents contend that Aiuppa was Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro's former boss.
A farmer checking his fields discovered the grave and called authorities.
Investigators suspect that the two men "died at or near" the grave, Lt. Ken Hollingsworth of the Indiana State Police said.
Dental and fingerprint records were used in making the identifications, Ed Hegarty, agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, said.
Organized crime experts speculated that Anthony Spilotro--charged with three murders and implicated in several others by authorities--was himself killed because his carelessness had led to the recent conviction of Aiuppa.
Aiuppa, 79, was one of five organized crime figures convicted in Kansas City last January for conspiring to skim money from Las Vegas casinos.
"Three of the prime witnesses against the mob in Kansas City . . . (worked) under Spilotro," said Bill Roemer, a special consultant to the Chicago Crime Commission, who investigated organized crime while assigned to the FBI's Chicago office.
"Spilotro wasn't doing his job in Las Vegas," Roemer said. "He maintained too high a profile there. Mobsters flourish in darkness. Spilotro, facing three major trials, was obviously not following that dictum. He was under the glare of the harshest spotlight."
'Hole in Wall Gang'
Anthony Spilotro, 48, was to have been in court in Las Vegas Monday for a retrial of charges that he had run a burglary, extortion and arson ring there called "the Hole in the Wall Gang." His first trial, in April, ended in hung jury.
In addition, he was awaiting trial in Las Vegas on charges that he had violated the civil rights of a government informant by having him killed. And he faced charges in Kansas City that he had conspired to skim more than $2 million from Las Vegas casinos.
He had been the target of government prosecution from the time he moved to Las Vegas in 1971. Law enforcement officials said that Spilotro's job was to watch over the mob's gambling interests, but the worst penalty he ever received was a $1 fine for lying on a loan application. Authorities had unsuccessfully charged him with crimes ranging from burglary to murder.
Less than five years after arriving in Las Vegas, Spilotro was considered to be the king of loan shark operations on the Las Vegas Strip. His consolidation of power and control there coincided with an extraordinary wave of violence. He was either publicly accused or questioned in more than 25 execution-style killings.
Michael Spilotro, 41, was awaiting trial in Chicago on extortion charges growing out of a massive federal investigation of prostitution, sex clubs, gambling and credit card fraud. He worked in Chicago as a part-time actor and restaurant manager.
Car Found at Motel
The two were last seen driving away from Michael's suburban Oak Park home. Their car, a 1986 Lincoln, was recovered several days later in a motel parking lot near O'Hare Airport.
The Spilotros virtually grew up surrounded by some of the most powerful mobsters in Chicago.
Al Capone used to hang out at the little Italian restaurant that their immigrant father, Patsy Spilotro, ran on Chicago's West Side.
Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, a former West Side boss, now imprisoned, used to conduct business in a parking lot across the street from the restaurant. Anthony Accardo, another one-time mob patriarch, lived just a few blocks away.
60 Gangland Killings
The Spilotros were apparently the latest victims in a wave of nearly 60 Chicago-area gangland killings in the last 10 years. Several of the victims were killed on the eve of their public testimony or just after being convicted, when they might be vulnerable to government pressure to talk about mob secrets.
There was one marked difference between those killings and the murders of the Spilotro brothers. Law enforcement officials say they do not remember a recent gangland murder that anybody went to the trouble to conceal. In Chicago, bodies are generally left in the trunks of cars, not in neat, deep graves where they might never be found.