Unlucky 13

One .32 caliber revolver, two general areas, and three 70-year-old unsolved murders taking place on the 13th day of the month. Was there a for hire murder association whose killers only killed on the 13th operating in the area in the 1950s?

The year was 1951. The beginning of the 1950s weren’t the best years for Brantford; schools were overcrowded, with only a quarter of the tax money going towards education, the beautiful Grand River was nicknamed the Grand Sewer, as it was highly polluted and Brantford did not have any kind of water treatment plant, there was traffic congestion, hospital overcrowding, and not enough city space to attract large manufacturers or companies to the area, to create jobs. As a result, taxes needed to be raised, even though this was really unpopular.

On Wednesday, June 13, 1951, at 9:15 pm, two brothers, 15-year-old Bud Tincknell and 12-year-old Tom Tincknell, were returning home from the Village of Mt. Pleasant when they saw the body of a man lying in the tall grass on McAllister side road, a well-travelled road about a half-mile west of the village. The boys had walked by this area around 8:00pm on the way to the village but didn’t notice the body there at the time. After seeing the body, they ran home and told their dad, who then called the police.

The OPP and local police came to the scene, approximately 6-7 miles south of Brantford and a half-mile west of mount pleasant. His body appeared to be neatly placed, lying face up, in the tall grass on McAllister side road, bordering a well-travelled road. A felt fedora was placed over his head, partially covering his face and head. His clothing was rained soaked; it had rained throughout most of the day on that Wednesday. However, no traces of blood were evident on the light sports shirt or trousers. 

Initially, law enforcement thought their victim was bludgeoned to death as there was significant damage to his skull. However, an autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist in Hamilton, Dr. Deadman, would reveal that he was shot in the right temple twice by a small-calibre revolver at close range, as evidenced by the powder burns. The bullet holes were approximately 1.5 inches apart. Both slugs were recovered at autopsy. No other marks of violence were evident on the body.

It was estimated that he had been dead for about 8-10 hours, placing his time of death between 11:15 am to 1:15 pm, but it could have been earlier. The police expressed the theory that his body had been taken in a vehicle and placed there. Therefore, the police launched a search for an old-model automobile carrying three men.

The victim was quickly identified as a local 28-year-old Edward Barbarian. A search of his body at the scene disclosed an empty wallet except for his driver’s license and motor vehicle permit for a 1946 blue Cadillac, which was nowhere near where his body was located. He had a $1.05 (about 11$ in today’s value) in his trouser pocket. He also had a loaded and cocked .38 pistol in the waist of his trousers. This was not the murder weapon. He was shot with a .32 calibre revolver.

The area was cordoned off and extensively searched. The crown attorney and coroner were summoned. Law enforcement, including the assigned investigator from the Ontario Provincial Police and the crown attorney, stayed on-site throughout the night. Unfortunately, a search of the premises didn’t turn up the murder weapon.

Law enforcement put out a bulletin for the missing Cadillac, Edward’s most prized possession. It was discovered roughly 10 hours later on Walnut Street, a residential street in what is now known as Old West Brant, about a quarter of the way between his restaurant and where his body was placed. The vehicle was seemingly on the street for around 24 hrs. A resident, the spouse of a Brantford Expositor Journalist, first noticed the Cadillac at 7:30am on Wednesday, June 13. They initially thought it was a someone visiting the neighbour across the street. Eventually, they called the neighbours across the road, and they stated they didn’t know whose car it was. After getting the bulletin about the missing vehicle in Edward’s death, the Expositor reporter called the police to report the sighting. The car was searched and dusted for prints. Unfortunately, the results were never shared.

Edward Barbarian was short and stocky. Some describe him as well dressed, a ladies’ man, and prone to violence.

Edward had been released from Kingston Penitentiary 7 months before his murder. He had served a term for bond theft and for robbing a jewellery store on Colborne in Brantford. His prison term was commuted to time served at appeal and he was released early. He had a record since 1939, starting at the ripe old age of 16. It’s safe to say that Edward Barbarian was known to the police.

He held two businesses in the city, a cigar shop on Queen Street known to be a front for illegal bootlegging and a restaurant that he co-owned on Dalhousie Street, called the Golden Rail Restaurant (previously the Omega). The two locations were very close to each other, with the backs of each building virtually backing into one another. It would have been effortless to move from the back of the restaurant to the cigar shop. He also held an apartment downtown in addition to the room that he lived in at his parent’s place on Marlboro. All of these locations were equal to or less than 1.5 miles apart from each other. These areas were also searched, but it wasn’t released to the media if they provided any clues about who was behind Edward’s murder. 

Police broke the news of Edward’s death to his parents that day. His mom broke down and became hysterical, as local newspaper articles described her. His father was also not without emotion and was quoted as saying, “Poor boy, poor boy. Only 28 years old. I don’t know how anyone could do it” through tears and sobs.

Edward Barbarian’s most recent incident with law enforcement was in April of that year, just a little over 2 months before his death. Law enforcement raided the second-floor premises at 63 Dalhousie Street, the Golden Rail Restaurant, suspected of being a bootlegging area. During that raid, morality officer Bert Roshier attempted to answer an incoming phone call, and Edward ripped the telephone from the wall. Ultimately, he was charged for possessing alcohol without a permit and for obstruction for the telephone incident. He paid a total of $150 in fines (which is about $1600 today). In addition, the 2nd floor of 63 Dalhousie was declared a “public place” for one year. Apparently, he had also recently “slugged” two taxi drivers. Police were also quoted by local media as saying Edward was threatening others in his attempt to become Brantford’s top bootlegger, although the police would later deny saying that.

Police indicated at the onset of the investigation that no motive for the crime had been established. Within 24 hrs. of finding his body, the police had interviewed 4 men. None were held or arrested. All available officers were ordered on duty, and the full-scale probe continued.

Edward Barbarian was described as a tough type. His friends described him as being able to fight and take down 6 guys at a time in a brawl. However, friends of the family believed it was a hit and that he had been killed by hired killers. One of the local police officers echoed that same sentiment, explaining that he may have been killed or had his murder arranged by someone he “put the finger on” after he was believed to have taken “the rap” for a bond theft.

By Tuesday, June 19, police were still no closer to solving the murder. A reward of $1000 was offered by Ontario Attorney General’s department for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Edward’s death.

A funeral was held Saturday afternoon with service in Grace Anglican Church. Many members of the Armenian-Canadian community attended. Interment was at Greenwood cemetery.

It was suspected that he was killed by hired hitmen out of the United States and that his murder was somehow associated with his illegal bootlegging activities. Despite rumours and speculation, the case didn’t appear to move past this point.

Three years would pass, and still no answers for Barbarian’s family.

On June 13, 1954, this same .32 calibre revolver would be used not too far away to claim another life, that of 23-year-old Hamilton cab driver Anthony (Tony) Codispodi.

Tony Codispodi’s body was discovered by chance early Sunday morning at approximately 5:00am on Easterbrooks road, a lonely stretch of mountain road in Flamborough, about 10 miles northeast of Hamilton and 24 miles east of Brantford, by OPP constable Douglas Duff. He was taking a shortcut from number 5 highway to number 2 highway. The OPP constable noticed the back end of a car sticking out of a clump of bushes on the side of the road. Tony was shot twice in the head at close range. Investigators initially thought he could have been shot with a .45, but then it was later confirmed that he was shot with a 32-calibre pistol.

Tony was found in the driver’s seat, propped up against the steering wheel of his car. The car was partially hidden behind a clump of bushes. Two crime comics, the police gazette and a reader’s digest were found lying beside his body, splattered with blood. He had been smoking a cigarette when he was shot, and the ash from the cigarette burned his fingers before falling to the floor. His foot was still on the accelerator. The engine was turned off.

A search of the car and the surrounding area turned up very little if anything. No trace of bullets or shells were found in the vehicle; however, bullets or fragments were recovered from the victim during the autopsy. Police said his death came quickly as he had apparently been forced to drive the taxi into the woods. He was shot twice at close range in the back of the head.

Robbery was quickly ruled out as a motive as there was $28 cash found on his body at the time of discovery. This is equal to around $275 today.

Tony’s taxi was located in an area locally known as a kind of lover’s lane in East Flamborough Township. Because of this, one theory that the police looked into was that a jealous man was responsible for his murder. He apparently had a reputation of being a “ladies’ man.” Police interviewed several female acquaintances of the victim, but nothing pointed to that being the motive.

It wouldn’t be long before reports indicating gang vengeance as the motive for his death, as it was believed the Tony was a police informant. Tony Codispodi had a record of assisting police since 1948, and police believed this could be connected to his death. However, law enforcement later denied that Tony was a police informant (“Stool pigeon”).

That being said, Tony had surrendered himself to police in Jan 1952, a year and a half before his murder, on a charge of attempted armed robbery of an official of a downtown car club. One of the men involved in the attempted holdup, Joseph Posmituk (21), was seriously injured when the official, Roy Lehman, was shot in the leg. Tony was cleared of the charges. However, Tony had been convicted on charges of break & enter, obstructing police, and failing to obey the terms of his probation. Still, he had never served any jail term.

Tony hadn’t been a taxi driver for very long, having only gotten permission and a permit from the board of police commissioners on April 29, 1954, just under two months before his murder. Tony Codispodi worked for Crown Cabs but was somewhat independent and drove his own car, which was purchased for him by his family. He came from a large family; he was one of eight kids to his parents.

Crown Cabs indicated that the victim checked in on his radio at 12:04 am on June 13, 1954. He had delivered a fare to Waterdown for a fellow driver, approximately 10 miles from where his vehicle and body was later discovered. That was the last time he was heard from. They also told police that a call was received at approximately 10 pm, Saturday, June 12, when the company dispatcher instructed Codispodi to meet a man named Dave at the corner of Locke and Napier Streets, beside Victoria Park in Hamilton. It’s unknown if he responded to the call. Early accounts indicated that law enforcement could not locate the man who had called. The night was reasonably quiet for the cab driver, and he didn’t have many fares during his shift.

Dr. Russell Dingle, of Burlington, appointed coroner, said Codispodi had been dead for about 4 or 5 hours, leaving his time of death between 12:05 am – 1:00 am on the 13th. A post mortem was scheduled on June 14, 1954, and was performed by Dr. Deadman, Hamilton’s pathologist.

Following news of Anthony’s murder, a parade of taxi drivers was taken through the Hamilton police station for questioning. Many of the drivers were afraid to talk and worried about what might happen to them.

A brother, Dominic Codispodi, said he was shocked to find out his brother was murdered. He’s quoted as saying, “Tony had a lot of enemies, but I can’t imagine anyone just wanting to kill him.”

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) took the lead in investigating his murder, presumably because they suspected his death to be gang-related. Inspector Thomas Wright of the Criminal Investigation Department of the OPP of Toronto took charge of the case. Police in suburban East Flamborough Township pondered several motives for the slaying.

There was a suggestion that he may have happened on information about narcotics activity in the course of taxi driving. This sent police to underworld haunts in an effort to find a clue as to who was responsible for the young man’s death. Police said he might have picked up a fare who pulled a gun and forced Codispodi to drive his car up the quiet street. Chief constable Fred Gaylard of East Flamborough Township described the road as one of the loneliest in the district.

Even though police tried to deny that Tony was a police informant, they did say that it was possible that he knew something and that someone else was afraid he would talk. It was later reported that Tony Codispodi was mixed up in the Narcotics racket, which was prevalent, especially for heroin, at the time, which moved between the different crime families in the area.

Once, a police officer suggested that a gunman might have been hired to do the killing. This was, of course, because the police knew that the same weapon was used in the murder of Edward Barbarian 3 years prior, but they hadn’t released this information to the media.

The attorney general posted a $1000 reward at the beginning of July 1954 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his murderer. Although some tips came in, his case seemingly went cold.

Another 2 years would go by, and the same gun would be used once again to snuff out someone’s life, and like the other two, this would take place on the 13th day of the month. Our next victim was a 29-year-old married Ukrainian immigrant, Anton Kuternoga.

Anton and his wife met and married in Germany and emigrated to Canada in 1950. After emigrating to Canada, Anton held down a few different jobs starting off in a textile plant, where he worked for 4 years before being laid off.  He had a few jobs between 1954 and 1956, the most recent as a realtor under J. Anthony Scime real estate firm. He had only worked there a few months and had been fired the Thursday before he was killed. No reason was given to the media at the time as to why he was fired.

Anton was an attractive small-time gambler who maybe thought he was a bigger deal than he actually was. Police indicated that Anton had frequented gambling circles and had known aliases as D.P Tony, Tony Kut and Little Rocco Perri. For those that don’t know, Rocco Perri was a known mafioso in Hamilton. He was a known mob boss and was known for gambling and bootlegging. Unfortunately, he had gone missing in 1944, never to be found.

Most people who knew Anton in the gambling circle would describe him as a card cheat who played the suckers, was boastful, ill-tempered and a vain “lady-killer.” Friends described him as a man who lived two lives. He worked full time as a realtor, was married and had an everyday home life, but never let his wife know about his other activities, or at least to what extent.

In the early morning of Friday, July 13, 1956, Tony Kuternoga was shot twice in the left temple at close range.

On Thursday, July 12th, after being fired, Anton went out for an evening of gambling at one of his local haunts. He was last seen on Friday, July 13; he was seen leaving this restaurant shortly after midnight to attend a pre-dawn gambling session. A waitress at the restaurant told police that he was supposed to have taken her home at 2:00 am but instead kissed her goodbye and told her he was leaving for “a game of cards with the boys.” A man, who wanted to remain anonymous, who said he was his friend and was with him at the restaurant about an hour and a half before Anton was killed, described Anton as a good guy who’d give you the shirt off his back. The man told a reporter at the time that he had met Tony at 10:30pm on the Thursday, 1.5 hrs before he is believed to have been murdered. He said he was told that Tony won $1,000 at cards the night he was murdered; this would have been close to $10,000 in today’s value. He thought that Anton was killed for the money. It’s unknown if this was confirmed.

Anton’s body was discovered by two farmers who followed a trail of blood leading from the road. The body was on a grassy embankment near what is known as Shaver’s side road in Hamilton’s west end suburbs. The police believed that there would have to have been at least two people involved in his murder, as it would have been difficult for one person to carry and place the body from the road to the grassy embankment. In addition, there were two clear tire marks in sun-dried mud near the blood-spattered scene.

Officers said that a post mortem did not reveal how many bullets struck Kuternoga in the head, but it was believed to have been twice. In addition, several slug fragments were found in his skull.

Law enforcement said that he may have been taken for a ride by gambling enemies and shot as he was sitting in his wife’s car, driven to the road and dumped to the ground, specifically by two American hired gunmen. He was believed to have been driven to the death scene in his own car and shot in the head while sitting in the front seat. The blood-soaked vehicle was driven back into the city, about 5 miles from where his body was dumped, and parked in the apartment building parking lot where Anton and his wife lived. It was returned on Sunday by a man believed to have been one of the killers. The apartment caretaker or property manager said the driver fled from the car and disappeared into an adjacent building. The caretaker couldn’t provide much in the way of a description but did specify it was one man.

The vehicle was inspected for fingerprints, results were not divulged. However, media at the time indicated that police were seeking underworld connections in his murder, aka the mafia. And that gambling was linked to his death. Police believe that he was shot in the head by two killers imported from the United States. They said he may have cheated “once too often” or signed “too many IOUs.” And of course, the same weapon was used in the killing of Edward Barbarian and Tony Codispodi just a few years prior.

Interestingly, a week before Anton was killed, he warned his wife, “Lock yourself up if anything happens to me because if they don’t get me, they’ll get you.” Yet, following his death, she oddly refused police protection. After his death, she got a dog, a collie and moved her into her friend’s apartment. Just 4 days after Anton was murdered, 2 men were caught spying on Elsie, Anton’s wife. They were seen hovering about the secluded apartment for about an hour before approaching the door, but the raspy barking of her watchdog made them bolt. She allegedly requested police protection after this incident. Although police denied this later. It is believed that the stalking and spying were related to her husband’s death. Police did not have a description of the two men. His wife became increasingly nervous and afraid. She moved at least 3 times in the 2 weeks following his murder, hoping to achieve anything resembling privacy and safety.

Five days before being murdered, he was charged with careless driving. Police said they chased him after he sped through a red light. They ended up trapping him in a dead-end street. But he would be dead before his case would be called before the magistrate.

Police also indicated they had questioned a “blonde” woman in connection with his murder, which they thought was engineered by persons he may have owed money to or someone he cheated while gambling. Police would not identify who the woman was or how she may have been connected to the victim. However, it’s very possibly that it was the waitress at the restaurant where he was last seen, the one he was supposed to have driven home at closing.

His wife, Elsie, said she didn’t know why anyone would kill him because he was nice to everyone; however, a manager of one of the city’s oldest card clubs had recently stated that Anton was banned from membership in his club since 1954 because of a violent temper. He said Anton would get overly angry at the slightest excuse during a game. It never reached the point of violence, but it caused a lot of trouble.

Anton’s wife emerged from hiding to collect his body on Wednesday, July 18. His body was released on Tuesday, July 17.

His funeral was held about a week after his death. There were 50 people in attendance, including his wife, some work associates, beer-hall waiters, and gamblers. Still, many of his friends didn’t show up. His wife, Elsie, was “statuesque” during the funeral and controlled her emotions, only showing them slightly at the gravesite when she dabbed her eyes.

Each of these murder victims was killed with the same .32 caliber revolver on the 13th day of the month and were connected to or involved in bootlegging, narcotics, or gambling. Each of the victims was described as guys that got around, and that talked too much. In the cases of Edward Barbarian and Anton Kuternoga, the bodies were dumped at a location. Their cars, which were believed to have been used in the course of their murder, were driven miles away from the bodies dumpsite and abandoned. At the time of each shooting, law enforcement was quoted as saying they believed hire gunmen or killers were involved.  So, who could have been behind the murders? We don’t know, but an interesting bit of information came up during another investigation into the attempted murder of UAW Union president Walter Reuther in Detroit, which took place 3 years before the killing of Edward Barbarian. Could any of the players in that attempt be the players in these slayings? I’ll let you be the judge.

In 1953, a private investigator hired by the UAW union out of Detroit contacted Don Ritchie. Don was in Windsor, Ontario, just across the US-Canadian border from Detroit, serving a short prison sentence and was released in November 1953. Don Ritchie advised the PI to speak to him after he is released. The investigator picked him up when he was released from jail. They agreed to meet the following day at the hotel lobby where the PI was staying. Don Ritchie didn’t show up that day, and the PI had waited around for 4 hrs. They did end up meeting the following day at the Prince Edward Hotel. Ritchie brought his wife as a witness. He arranged payment to his wife for $25,000 as a reward, including an initial down payment of $5000 for his information into the attempted murder of Walter Reuther, the UAW Union president, in Detroit in 1948. He indicated that he was introduced to Santo Perrone, a powerful mobster at the time, also known as the shark or the enforcer, through his uncle Clarence Jacobs. The latter was one of the shark’s crew members. He indicated that Sam Perrone ordered the assassination of Walter Reuther to be completed by Don Ritchie, Clarence Jacobs, and Perrone’s top lieutenant Pete Lombardo. They were paid via Perrone’s son-in-law, Carl Renda. According to Don, he was in the car during the drive-by attempted murder. His uncle, clarence Jacobs, was the gunman and had procured the gun, and Pete (Tino) Lombardo was the driver and had procured the car. He said he was paid $5000 for the job.

He repeated this to Gerald K O’Brien, Wayne County’s prosecuting attorney. He then later stated he made a false statement. However, the courts agreed that the 70-page transcript of the interview between Don Ritchie and Gerald O’Brien, the prosecuting attorney, was factual, but it wasn’t everything they spoke about, as some were off the records.

Sam Perrone, The Shark, Pete Lombardo, Clarence Jacobs and I believe Carl Renda were arrested and charged for the attempted murder; however, the case was dropped because the star witness, Don Ritchie, fled to Canada. They tried to extradite him, but that was seemingly unsuccessful.

There seemed to be some information provided in this interview with Gerald O’Brian, the prosecuting Attorney, which was somewhat brought up in a subsequent lawsuit hearing where Carl Renda was suing the UAW for their part in building a case against him for malicious prosecution. During this hearing Don Ritchie was called to inform whether he and his uncle, Clarence Jacobs, were involved in the murder of Edward Barbarian. Don was asked on the stand if he and Clarence Jacobs had been in a car taken into a garage for repairs shortly after the shooting. He answered that he couldn’t remember. Coincidently Don Ritchie was living and operating a “men’s business club” in Brantford in 1951. He then said that he was questioned in 1951 in some sort of fashion when police entered his gentleman’s club to talk about Edward’s murder. Eventually, Don moved to Vancouver and worked at a restaurant as a chef.

Sam Perrone was a mob boss out of Detroit; he was a loose cannon and followed his own rules. Eventually, he lost favour within the organization a plot to end his life was followed out in January of 1963, he was caught in a car bomb that went off when he started his car, parked outside a car wash he owned in Detroit. He survived, but he ended up losing one of his legs in the blast. Another attempt was being planned to finish the job they started, but Perrone died of pneumonia at his home before that could happen.  I am not sure what happened to Clarence Jacobs, Don Ritchie’s uncle.

Sources

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s