This article was last modified on August 2, 2018.

Unused Chapter on Isadore Pogrob

After the unruly years of Black Hand letters, Prohibition, and up through the 1950s, Bugsy Siegel’s claim that “we only kill each other” remained firm in Milwaukee. That unwritten rule was broken in 1960 with the murder of Izzy Pogrob; he may have been unsavory, but he was no mobster.

Isadore “Izzy” Pogrob was the second-born son of Meyer and Pauline Lubinsky Pogrob, a young Jewish couple who had immigrated from Chodorkov, Russia in September 1922. Meyer took up employment as a junk dealer, and helped his children get the life he never had. Just as times were hard in America for Sicilians, so too was it a struggle for Eastern European Jews. In 1911, for example, Dr. Charles Benedict Davenport wrote a widely-read textbook arguing that Jews were genetically disposed to have “weakness in moral character” and that “they show the greatest proportion of offenses against chastity and in connection with prostitution.” The Russian Jewish “hordes” opposed “ideals of community life” and “love of country”. Of course today we know such generalizations are false, but the Pogrobs faced this type of discrimination every day in pre-World War II Milwaukee.

Izzy sold newspapers as a child and worked at a shoe store while attending Riverside High School. During World War II, he served in the Coast Guard and was allegedly involved in four European invasions.

Isadore’s younger brother Irving made a name for himself as Milwaukee North High School’s star forward on the basketball team. For a while, Izzy ran a pawn shop, which had a reputation for being clean. An anonymous police offer told the press that Izzy would casually talk of mobster friends in Chicago and Gary, Indiana, but he spoke in such a way that few took him seriously. In the 1950s, the brothers teamed together as Pogrob’s Inc. and operated the Brass Rail, a jazz club that featured such notable acts as Muggsy Spanier, Gene Krupa, Chet Baker, Turk Murphy, Wingy Manone, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett and Earl Bostic.

In October 1959, the Pogrobs moved the Brass Rail, taking over the premises at 608 North Third operated by 81-year old Morris Forman (another Russian Jew and former junk dealer) and owned by Schlitz Realty. They not only switched locations, but changed their entertainment format — jazz musicians were replaced with topless dancers. The Brass Rail featured only one dancing girl at a time, putting the bar in uneven competition with the Club Terris at 531 West Wells, operated by Greek businessman and boxing promoter Thomas George Terris, where all the girls danced at once. The newspapers speculated that the format change was at least partly due to the cost of bands — the big names could cost $4,000 per week, which was a steep expense for such a small venue.

The Brass Rail did not have to worry about Terris, however, as far worse was in store in the near future. A bit of foreshadowing crept up as 1959 drew to a close.

Marcia Jean Calligaro, 22, a former stripper at the Brass Rail, had been fired from her job as an exotic dancer at the Combo Club in Peoria on the evening of Friday, December 18, after having a fight with her boss. The club was located in the basement of the Niagara Hotel on Jefferson Avenue. Marcia called her husband, Palmero “Floyd” Calligaro, 44, Saturday morning to come pick her up — the couple lived in Ironwood, Michigan. For a while — about four months — they had both lived at 926 North Jackson Street in Milwaukee. Her 6-year old daughter Rebecca gave her a crucifix on Saturday night and said, “Mommy, take this with you so nothing will happen to you.” Marcia then went out for the night with her friend Helen “Peaches” Perry at the Slipper Bar in Peoria. Who was watching the daughter is unclear.

Calligaro was found dead on Sunday, December 20, beside a gravel road in Woodford County just northeast of Peoria, Illinois. Calligaro, also known as Christina Antrim, had been shot some time between 4:00am and 6:00am. She was wearing her brocade costume with jewelry and plastic slippers. Husband Floyd, who had married Marcia only months ago on July 29, was taken to Springfield on Monday, December 21, and given a lie detector test concerning the murder. He may have been of questionable character, marrying a dancer literally half his age and tending bar in prostitute-filled Hurley, but he was no killer. He passed the test.

On Monday, January 4, 1960, Sheriff Gene Wolf said the police were looking for a Rockford man named Robert Benson in connection with the Calligaro murder. Benson, who might have used an alias, was the last known person to see Calligaro alive. They were observed in a Peoria tavern and witnesses claimed Benson had a “big roll of bills” with him. Wolf said that Benson was “acting a little bit crazy or a little bit drunk.” Benson was not found and the murder went unsolved, with Floyd Calligaro going on to run unsuccessfully in Hurley as the sheriff on the Republican ticket.

The Murder of Isadore Pogrob

On the evening of January 5-6, 1960, mob strongman Francis Stelloh was at Gallagher’s tavern with Frank Balistrieri, Vito “Buster” Balestrere, and Frank’s right-hand man Steve DiSalvo. Buster, sometimes identified as Frank’s cousin, was actually the brother-in-law of Frank’s brother Peter, and a brother of James “Big Jim” Balestrere, the head of the Kansas City Mafia. Gallagher’s, at 829 North Third Street, would be within a block of where Pogrob was abducted. Detective Richard T. Polsen later said a police informant was in the tavern and saw Frank Balistrieri take a phone call, come back to the table, and make a motion with his finger from ear to ear across the throat, indicating that someone was going to die. The men then allegedly grabbed their coats and left.

Izzy Pogrob closed down the Brass Rail and went over to the Belmont Hotel at Fourth and Wells with two of his employees, the well-known Vito Aiello and MC Hugh “Pat” Patton. According to Patton, bartender Henry “Hooks” Hanscher was also with them. As usual, Pogrob paid the Belmont bill and asked his employees to leave the tip. Patton told the press, “He didn’t eat much Wednesday. Had a couple of hard boiled eggs and a bowl of soup and some coffee.”

Jose G. Baca, 28, was the night attendant at the parking lot at 745 North Third Street, directly across the street from the Brass Rail. He saw Pogrob leave the Brass Rail on the night of the murder around 2:20am with another man that Baca called “the comedian” and they walked west on Wells, returned at about 3:20am, and then Pogrob drove his Cadillac north on Third. What happened next is unknown, but at around 3:30am, he was blindfolded and driven to a drainage ditch in Mequon on Highway 167 between Swan Road and Farmdale Road, where his body was dumped over a small bridge after being shot repeatedly by a .45. Detective Rudolph Glaser noted that no one was hiding in the backseat of Pogrob’s car. This was known because Pogrob was too large to fit in the driver’s seat without pushing it all the way back ,and there would be no room to hide. “It’s very likely that his assailant lay in ambush when he parked his car on the street in front of his home,” Glaser told the press.

The exact time of the murder is hard to pinpoint, but a rough estimate can be ascertained. Blood was seen on the bridge as early as 6:45am by truck driver Peter Schmitt of Sheboygan, but he merely thought hunters had cleaned deer there. William Peterburg of Thiensville saw the blood at 7:40am but thought the stain was paint or the blood from a pheasant’s lungs. Roger Hilgendorf of Germantown saw the blood at 8:00am and also thought the red was paint.

Police were not aware of the incident until 12:45pm on January 7 (the next day), when Norman Schultz called the Mequon Police to report “large blood spots”. Chief Robert L. Milke arrived at 1:05pm, saw the blood spots and gore, and also several .45 cartridge casings, an Old Thompson blended whiskey bottle in a brown paper bag, a match book for Sentry Foods and an empty pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. Milke, prior to 1958, had been an officer in Milwaukee. In fact, the Mequon Police Department was not formed until September 1958, consisting of the chief, one officer, and one squad car. The rest of the crew were reserves and not full-time officers.

Acting coroner Dr. Porter Bevan Blanchard arrived at 1:35pm and the Highway Department barricaded the area. Pogrob’s body was found under the bridge, with a white handkerchief tied over his eyes. Officer Gerald Budzinski took photographs, and Sergeant Charles W. Engel collected the five shell casings and took measurements, as well as taking samples of the blood and paint found on the scene. At 2:13pm, a Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper from the previous day was found in the water.

Officers Dennis L. Cherny and David L. Griffin began to interview the neighbors. Walter Baehman and Fred Millar had not seen or heard anything unusual. Pogrob’s body was removed from the water by the Mequon Fire Department, and at 8:05pm was transferred to the Densow Funeral Home in Thiensville by owner Charles L. Densow where an autopsy was performed. The water was searched with a large magnet, but no additional evidence was found.

When Pogrob’s corpse was examined, he had only 93 cents and a brown envelope in his pockets, though police suspected he had $1500 in cash on him from the day’s sales at the time of death. Nine bullet holes were found in the back of his head and neck. Irving Pogrob, Izzy’s brother, arrived and identified the body.

At 10:00am on January 9, officers from the Mequon Police Department, 37 Explorer Scouts from Post 666 (yes, really), and 18 other area scouts made a step by step search of the crime scene for three hours. Milwaukee’s Firebell Club served coffee. Chief Milke found a half pint bottle of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, a bullet hole was found in a tree branch, and various pieces of paper such as gum wrappers and a grocery list were collected. A note, apparently from a high school girl, said, “Betty, did you hear from Barb and Paul?” A “no parking” sign with a bullet hole was removed for examination. During the search, scout leader James Murphy of Glendale suffered a mild heart seizure and had to be taken to Columbia hospital. The next day, skin diver William Wilson of Milwaukee combed the creek for two hours but found nothing of interest.

Also on January 9, the Mequon police received a call from Jim Martin on Lake Shore Road. Martin claimed that several outlets in the metropolitan Milwaukee area had purchased hijacked liquor. Martin claimed the businesses in question were hiding the expenses under their food accounts. While no specific businesses were named, Martin said he had “direct knowledge” of this and had connections in Chicago that informed him as well.

Chief Milke interviewed Joseph Guarniere at 2:45pm. Guarniere lived on Highway 57 (Green Bay Road) “above the laundromat”. He denied ever meeting Isadore Pogrob, though he said his boss, a Mr. Kaiser, knew him well. With Guarniere’s permission, his 1959 Lincoln was searched and dirt samples from the floor were taken. Also found and collected were several “particles of an unknown blue substance” on the front floor boards. The car had no visible sign of violence. Guarniere said he was thinking of buying a tavern in Thiensville, and he was sick at the time of the murder and did not go to work that day; he only left the house to take his stepson Thomas to school. At 9:30pm, Joseph and his wife Wanda went to visit Charles and Rose Senger at 4433 North Oakland Avenue for a party with employees of the Pancake Kitchen. Joseph was sick again the next day and only left to bring Thomas to school. Milke believed that Guarniere was being evasive when asked where his car was at the time of the murder — Guarniere claimed the vehicle had not been seen by anyone because he had driven to Delavan and then later parked the car at his boss’s house on Santa Monica Boulevard in Whitefish Bay. Milke believed this to be a lie. Guarniere did admit to hanging out at Gallagher’s and the Doll House.

Mequon police interviewed Lois Hoven of Steer N Stein on January 9. She said that in the spring of 1958 she was called by one Doc Carthouse of the Thiensville Bank and was told that $2000 was due to Nick DaQuisto. Al Hoven, Lois’ husband, was in the hospital, so she personally handled the payment to DaQuisto, the local distributor of jukeboxes.

The Milwaukee Journal reported on Pogrob’s debts on January 9. They found he had a state tax lien of $549 against him, and a federal lien of $2,440. Capitol Liquor Company also had $211 owed to them from a civil suit. The newspaper reported that Pogrob had tried to pay his debts off at 30 cents on the dollar but was turned down and was now on the COD list for alcohol purchases. Thomas Hines, an agent of the alcohol and tobacco tax division of the Treasury Department, spoke with the paper about his agency’s search of the Brass Rail for stolen liquor. The agents had found none and Hines said, “I can’t say that we turned up anything of substantial worth to assist a murder investigation.” He did send 10 open and 2 sealed bottles of whiskey to Chicago for analysis, however, after noticing they had an unusual color and rough labels, which might indicate they were refilled and reused.

Milwaukee detective Rudolph Glaser told the newspaper that “Izzy was quite a suspicious fellow. I doubt that he would permit anyone to run him into a curb. It’s very likely that his assailant lay in ambush when he parked his car on the street in front of his home.”

Richard C. “Buzz” Kotas called the Mequon Police Department on January 11. Kotas claimed he had been approached by Mike “Babe” Shaw to buy an inferior grade of whiskey. Shaw, according to Kotas, was on the “poor credit” list — this was the same Babe Shaw mixed up with John DiTrapani.

Milwaukee mayor Frank Paul Zeidler contacted Senator Alexander Wiley, the Senate’s most senior Republican, on January 11 and asked to be put in contact with the FBI, because he did not believe that local law enforcement was handling the gang situation well. Zeidler told the agent that he believed Pogrob was killed for “squealing” on restauranteur and convicted murderer Louis Fazio. He also said they had three other unsolved gangland style killings: John “Blackie” Sullivan, Jack Enea and John DiTripani. An agent informed Zeidler that the FBI did not have jurisdiction in local cases. Director Hoover noted in an internal memo that in his opinion Zeidler, a socialist, “had a hostile attitude” towards the FBI and was a “bigot”.

Pogrob’s 1959 Cadillac (license plate L78-595) was brought in to the state crime lab on January 11, 1960. The floor and panels were swept for debris, the car was checked for fingerprints and the ashtrays were emptied. The front right ashtray had a Tareyton cigarette butt with lipstick; the right center ashtray had two Tareytons with lipstick and two Newports with lipstick; the right rear ashtray had sixteen Chesterfields, one Kools and three L&Ms with lipstick. Apparently no one smoked on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Due to the presence of lipstick on many of the cigarette butts, we might presume these were left over from dates. (For those who are curious, Tareytons were introduced in 1954 and are currently produced by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and can be found on the Internet and specialty tobacco stores, but are no longer sufficiently popular to be stocked in many stores or receive marketing and advertising from the manufacturer.)

Mequon police spent the entire day of January 12 quizzing Pogrob murder suspects. The questioning lead them to believe that Phil Valley, Nick DaQuisto, and Joseph Guarniere were all front men for Frank Balistrieri — “the kingpin in Milwaukee for juke boxes, liquor, girls, night clubs and sports events including gambling”. The three men also lived in Mequon, making them of primary concern to Chief Milke. Also coming to their attention was Maynard Richards, a Menomonee Falls man who was a “small time hood and alleged trigger man” who had served time for several armed robberies, was a pimp for several prostitutes of multiple colors and also dealt in narcotics. Also, a man named Pat Judge was apparently trying to get prostitutes into Mequon. (Nothing exists on Richards, other than that a man by the same name would later be a brothel owner in Nevada; to be the same man he would have to be rather old by then. There was a Patrick Judge from Delafield who was arrested in 1960 and was somehow dropped out of a hospital window, shattering the bones of his feet.)

The state crime lab received a bullet taken from the right arm of Marcia Calligaro on January 12. Although the bullet was said to have similarities to the bullets found in Pogrob, it was decided that the Calligaro and Pogrob bullets were not fired from the same gun.

On January 13, John C. Rost and Ed Schneider reported to the Mequon police that the Anthony O. Haas farm was receiving semi trailer deliveries at night and station wagons were seen pulling up to haul away the goods. This was first observed by Haas’ neighbor, Walter Brueggeman. Allegedly, a station wagon was seen broken down loaded with cases of whiskey. (Haas had previously made the news in February 1956 when his father-in-law, Benjamin Levy, passed away. While the Haas family was at the funeral home, someone broke into their home and stole a 300-pound safe containing $9000 worth of government bonds, jewelry and cash. They speculated that the bandit must have been someone familiar with the home, as the safe was well-hidden in a closet under a stairway.)

Also on January 13, Milwaukee Captain Adrian Deloss Mershon informed Mequon that Phil Valley was the labor boss of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 122 and had strong hoodlum connections in Chicago, as well as being a close friend and business associate of Frank Balistrieri. Valley and Balistrieri had formerly promoted boxing matches together.

Still on January 13, Assistant District Attorney Francis R. Croak and Detective John J. Lavin went to Gary, Indiana to interview 24-year old dancer Joan Spencer who left Milwaukee the day after Pogrob’s murder. She denied knowing anything, saying she had gone to Gary to help a sick friend, but agreed to return to Milwaukee for further questioning. Her boyfriend, a 26-year old ex-convict, was also questioned. Croak tells the author he considers the Gary trip “unsuccessful”. He says, “I remember going to a house with the Milwaukee officers and the Gary police and seeing several men fly out the back door when we arrived at the front door.”

Isadore Bogrob, 31, of 2978 North 56th Street, was arraigned on Thursday, January 14, for concealing mortgaged property. Bogrob, a cousin of Pogrob (who changed his name to avoid confusion), had co-signed for an oven, refrigerator and other items to be sent to Spencer’s home. The items were now missing, and only $100 had been paid on them.

Joseph Guarniere was interviewed by the Mequon police yet again on Friday, January 15. He said he had not seen his former partner-in-crime Sebastian Vermiglio since 1952, and had not seen Tony LaRosa since 1958 despite their plans to go into business providing Italian sausage for pizza houses. They had a falling out over how to split the profits. He said Vermiglio would be the last person to contact him due to “past hard feelings”, and he was happy that Vermiglio was arrested again. Vermiglio had told him the hijacked truck contained cabbage and gave him a bill of lading to verify that, leading to his capture. Guarniere said he knew a Maynard Richards, but only as “Joe” Maynard from the Doll House, and never met anyone named Marvin Salzberg. Guarniere said he was acquainted with one Charles Gaurdine, bartender at Camels Tap. He also knew a Tom Carlson, August Maniaci, Frank Sansone, Santo Curro and frequented Frank Balistrieri’s establishments. He denied knowing Nick DaQuisto, but was familiar with the Fazio brothers. Guarniere claimed that Lieutenant Joseph Schalla of the Milwaukee Police had “tipped him” that “he was to be worked over after release from prison”.

Vermiglio, who had been deported but somehow came back undetected, refused to talk to Milwaukee police when asked about his whereabouts during the Pogrob murder. He was questioned by Attorney Croak and Detective Lavin. Vermiglio did admit that although his home was Detroit, and his wife and kids lived there, he had been spending much of his time in Milwaukee lately. He further admitted that he knew both John DiTrapani and Jack Enea; he said their murders were “too bad… They were nice guys.” He further said he would not talk without his attorney, Sydney M. Eisenberg, being present. Eisenberg was called “tenacious and flamboyant” by the press, who pointed out at one time or another he had represented 300 different labor unions. (Before he retired, Eisenberg ended up losing his law license twice — once for pushing a circuit court judge to commit suicide, and again for tax evasion.)

On Monday morning, January 18, Milwaukee District Attorney William J. McCauley met with his staff and police to discuss a notebook that had been found in Vermiglio’s car at the time of his arrest. He then spoke to the press saying the book contained entries that were “obvious contacts of various people involved in the wholesale distribution of stolen meat, whiskey and cigarettes.” The book contained almost 200 names, including fifty from Milwaukee. There were also names from Mexico, South America, Italy and Canada. One entry was a Fond du Lac phone number connected to New York mobster Joseph Bonanno, presumably John DiBella (see appendix).

On January 21, Milwaukee’s Bureau of Identification identified an unknown thumb print on Pogrob’s rear view mirror. It belonged to his sister, Ruth Louise Pogrob, bringing the print inspection of the automobile to a close. Being notified of this, the State Crime Lab decided to re-attach the existing mirror rather than purchase a new one for $11.

Auctioneer Gib Suemnicht of Grafton came into the Mequon police station on January 25 and reported that drug store operator Larry Thiel (also of Grafton) was approached by two men from West Bend — a Thomas Kimla and a Mr. Clark — and offered him cigarettes and whiskey “at ridiculously low prices”, leading Thiel to believe the items were stolen. Chief Milke called the Washington County Sheriff the next day and was given two names: Thomas John Kimla and Ellsworth H. “Jim” Clark. The sheriff said they were “close friends” and “difficult to figure out”. The men were “not employed steadily” and “should be watched closely”.

Facing deportation back to Sicily again, Vermiglio waived extradition to be brought from Detroit to Milwaukee on Thursday, January 28. He was wanted there for the minor crime of signing an automobile title with a false name. The Milwaukee police were hoping to use this to get more answers out of Vermiglio about the Pogrob murder, and Vermiglio was willing to talk in exchange for delaying his deportation to Palermo. After arriving in Milwaukee, he did everything in his power to shield his face from reporters’ cameras, but did answer a few questions from Captain Leo J. Woelfel. The answers were mostly “I dunno”, and he jokingly claimed his real name was Joe Doakes.

By Saturday, January 30, Vermiglio became more talkative — but about the wrong subjects. He told police that Italian beef is not tender, that prices in Palermo were too high, and that the Algerian people are a tough lot. He said the charge against him was a joke, and pointed out that using a fake name was not uncommon — Cary Grant’s real name was Archie Leach, for example. His attorney, Sydney Eisenberg, said that Vermiglio would not answer questions about the auto title but would submit to a lie detector test about the Pogrob murder. Eisenberg insisted that Vermiglio was not a hoodlum, and that, “I don’t know why he should be tested on every crime that was ever committed in Milwaukee.” Special assistant District Attorney Hugh R. O’Connell responded, “I never said that he was (a hoodlum). I don’t know how many swallows it takes to make a summer.”

Mequon Patrolman Cherny contacted the Grafton Chief of Police on January 31. The chief had spoken with Larry Thiel, and believed the man was scared of Kimla and Clark. An investigation revealed that the men had been spending a good deal of time at the Hwy 57 Drive-In, four miles north of Grafton. They had also allegedly sold some shoes to a small gas station in Saukville.

On February 2, the state crime lab compared the Pogrob bullets with those taken from the murder of beer distributor Joseph Bronge of Melrose Park, Illinois. No match was found. (Bronge’s murder was mob-connected, and he had testified to a federal grand jury about organized crime’s takeover of beer distribution. Some of his territory was taken over by Premium Beer Sales, which was connected to Chicago Outfit chairman Tony Accardo.)

Francis Stelloh called his attorney, John Craite, at 2:30am on February 4, 1960 to report that the police were outside of his apartment at 7705 West Lincoln Avenue, West Allis. The police were there to question Stelloh about the murder of Pogrob. While outside, the police heard Stelloh make a phone call and repeat two phone numbers to the person on the phone. Those numbers belonged to Peter Balistrieri, owner of Gallagher’s, and Frank Balistrieri, owner of the Downtowner at 340 West Wells. When Stelloh opened the door for Craite, the police followed in behind him, and Stelloh was caught with divorcee Patricia Trapp. The police charged Stelloh with fornication after he admitted that he had relations with Trapp, although not on this particular date. He was sent back to prison on February 25 for this parole violation.

Vermiglio was given a polygraph test regarding the murders of DiTrapani, Enea and Pogrob on Friday, February 12. Although he provided some “deceptive answers” according to Hugh O’Connell, he passed the five-hour test in Madison, provided some valuable information and was released. O’Connell also dropped the title fraud charge. O’Connell released a statement saying “Vermiglio is very anxious to return to Italy… Out of deference to the request of federal immigration authorities, we believe the best interests of justice will be served and taxpayers’ money saved if he is returned to Italy.” Vermiglio was soon deported on February 15, for a second time, to Italy.

Mequon Police Department, checking Vermiglio’s address book, found two numbers with a Thiensville Exchange: Richard Simpson, living at Route 4, Box 678, and Jack Sorcey, at Route 1, Box 75. Sorcey’s number was unlisted, but it is not a surprise that Vermiglio had this in his book. Sorcey, Vermiglio and Martin King of Racine had been involved in counterfeiting both gasoline ration coupons and dollar bills in 1944. (The only Richard Simpson the author could find was later convicted for his involvement as an enforcer in a Madison brothel. There is no evidence to suggest this was or was not the same man.)

Mequon Patrolman Budzinski spoke to Ozaukee County Jail inmate Robert H. Fagg on October 17, 1960. Fagg had told inmate Roderic Cooper that he overheard some information on the Pogrob murder from Bill Hobbs while staying at the Milwaukee County Jail. Fagg started in Milwaukee County on July 4 and stayed until August 22. The last fifteen days, he shared a cell with Hobbs, who had been brought in for auto theft. Hobbs had been a night gas station attendant on the day of the murder, and recalled a few men from Chicago stopping for gas in a white Cadillac with Illinois plates. Fagg further claimed that while Hobbs was waiting to go to court, a well-known Chicago attorney called his wife at 6:00am and offered to put up $5000 bail for him. Neither Bill or his wife had called the attorney.

A year later, the search was still on. Detectives August “Don” Knueppel and Oscar William Greinke went to the Brass Rail and interviewed Vito Aiello of 3038 North Maryland Avenue, on Wednesday, June 21, 1961, at 11:00pm. Aiello offered no new information on Izzy Pogrob’s death, but said that “on many occasions he warned Izzy about flashing his large roll of bills in public places”. Aiello said he believed the murder was a robbery. Was he telling all he knew? Knueppel next went to Henri’s Cocktail Lounge (730 North 5th Street) at 11:45pm and interviewed Rosario Michael Olivo of 2020 North Holton Street. Olivo also believed that Pogrob was robbed, and was killed because he put up a fight. He said he was not around on the night of the murder, as he was with a woman at the Tower Hotel.

Detectives Polsen and James Behrendt went to the East Town Liquor Store (1241 East Brady Street) and interviewed Nick Fucarino, 74, of 2622 North 60th Street, on Tuesday, June 27 at 1:00pm. Fucarino said he considered John DiTrapani “a good friend” but did not know anything about his murder or the murder of Pogrob. Oddly enough, Fucarino was one of the few Mafia members not questioned after DiTrapani’s death.

Detectives Knueppel and Greinke went to Henri’s Cocktail Lounge and questioned bartender Jerome Joseph DiMaggio, of 5406 North Third Street, on Thursday, July 13 at 11:00pm. He said in regards to the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders, he “was happy to hear that [the police] department was still working on these cases, because he would not like something like that to happen to his family.” He had no information to offer.

Detective Knueppel questioned mob frontman Rudolph Porchetta, 46, on Monday, July 17, at 10:30pm at the Downtowner Lounge. Porchetta said he was married, had two children, and was employed by Frank Balistrieri for the past eight or nine years as a bartender, but had no idea who killed Enea, Pogrob or DiTrapani. Knueppel questioned August Maniaci, 52, on Wednesday, July 19, at 9:45am. Maniaci was employed by John Aiello at the Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders Company (1440 West Vliet Street). Maniaci had nothing to offer on the murders. At the same time, Knueppel spoke with Aiello, 46, 2761 South Herman Street. He said he no longer went to taverns as he had developed a kidney ailment and had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester twice in the past year.

Frank Peter Balistrieri, 43, was questioned by Detective Knueppel at Gallaghers on Friday, July 21, at 10:30pm. Balistrieri said that although he had known Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani personally, he knew no reason they would be killed. He did say that “if he ever heard any information which would be beneficial to our investigations, he could contact [the Police] Department immediately.”

Detective Knueppel questioned Harold “Buzz” Wagner, 47, on Friday, July 21, at 11:30pm. Buzz “stated that during the time he worked for Pogrob he never had a more generous employer.” However, “Izzy was a shrewd businessman and no doubt some people hated his guts because of his success.”

Detectives Knueppel and Greinke questioned Steve John DiSalvo, 43, on Monday, July 24, at 10:20pm. He was living at 2605 East Holmes Avenue in Cudahy. DiSalvo said he knew nothing about the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders and did not know the men very well. DiSalvo further said that he did “not stick his nose in other people’s business and he does not want people interfering with his.” Knueppel and Greinke questioned Buster Balestrere, 42, immediately after. Buster was living at 1634 North Jackson with brother-in-law Peter Balistrieri and was working for Frank Balistrieri. Balestrere said he knew nothing about the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders and was “not interested in what other people do”; “he minds his own business and wants other people not to bother him.”

Police questioned Walter Brocca, 46, on Wednesday, July 26, at 12:15am regarding what he might know in the Enea, Progrob and DiTrapani murders. Brocca said he had returned from California six weeks ago, had operated two pizza restaurants and went bankrupt in both of them. He said he was in California when Pogrob was killed. Brocca said at the time of the Enea and DiTrapani murders, he was called in for questioning and had learned nothing new since then.

The state crime lab received two guns from the Milwaukee Police Department on July 26, 1960: one Colt .45 automatic pistol (serial number 1202884) with seven unfired cartridges; one German .32 Mauser pistol (serial number 34432). The Colt was compared with the Pogrob bullets and found not to match. Where these guns came from is unknown.

A Mequon Police report states that on Wednesday, October 11, at 11:30am there was a conversation with a Yellow Cab driver in Milwaukee, who drove cab number 315. The driver said that Pogrob was killed after he received four warnings to pay up to the Syndicate for hijacked whiskey he received from them. Pogrob went gambling to get the money, but instead lost a large sum, so the Syndicate “hired the Mafia” to kill him (although how the Syndicate and Mafia differ from one another is unclear, as these terms are usually interchangeable).

On November 2, 1960, the state crime lab received a .38 Smith and Wesson double action revolver (serial number C-43473), six cartridges, a brown leather holster and a cloth bag reading “State Bank of Milwaukee”. These items were taken from Thomas “Tommy Fish” Piscitello and the bullets were compared to those that killed Isadore Pogrob. They were not a match. (I cannot find any record of Piscitello having robbed a bank, which seems to be what the evidence suggests happened.)

On November 17, 1960, the state crime lab received a sealed pillbox containing a .38 bullet that had been fired at the murder scene of Willard Charles Woodring and Richard B. Buchanan at Keokuk, Iowa on October 9, 1960. What made them think these cases might be connected is unclear, but the bullet was not a match. (The Iowa murders remain unsolved and may have had underworld connections — police discovered $45,000 in 50- and 100-dollar bills in the trunk of Woodring’s pink Cadillac. Woodring was a brothel operator.)

Joseph Guarniere, by now rumored to be an informant for the police, was fatally injured in an automobile accident in Manitowoc County on the evening of August 10, 1964. His suitcase was flung from the car, which contained a Norwegian .45 automatic pistol and clip. Guarniere himself was also ejected and was crushed by his 1956 Oldsmobile, at the intersection of 57 and 32, three miles southeast of Kiel. The victim was on his way to Green Bay (from Milwaukee) to join his brother on a fishing trip in upper Michigan. County coroner Theodore Teitgen said that Guarniere appeared to have only one good eye, and this likely contributed to his accident. Witnesses said he was not speeding. (Whether or not he was actually informing is unknown to the author.)

The state crime lab finally received Guarniere’s gun from the attorney general on May 25, 1965 for a routine weapons check. The Norwegian pistol was brought in with seven unfired Remington-Peters .45 cartridges and a leather belt holster. The bullets were tested against open cases, and no matches were found.

Detective Harvey F. Peglow of the Mequon Police Department contacted Al Wilimovsky of the State Crime Laboratory on January 11, 1967 and was informed that the bullets from Guarniere’s gun did not match the bullets that killed Pogrob. This was the last attempt Mequon made to actively solve the case — the Mafia escaped unharmed again.

Any doubt of the Mafia’s involvement was squashed when Frank Balistrieri took over and remodeled the Brass Rail. In the world of capitalism, competition is great for the consumer, but leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the mob. The Club Terris ceased to be competition, too — the club was burned down in March 1960 and was demolished in 1964.

Irving Pogrob closed the doors of the Brass Rail for the last time on December 1, 1968. The building’s new owner, Frank Balistrieri’s son Joseph, had raised the rent from $600 to $1100 per month, and Pogrob had no interest in continuing on at that price. Mob associate Rudolph Porchetta soon applied to take over the Brass Rail license.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “Unused Chapter on Isadore Pogrob”

  1. Drew Hunkins Says:

    Thank you for posting this Gavin. Absolutely fascinating.

Leave a Reply