||New York| Francesco Puma
Birth: 1886 - Castellammare Del Golfo
Death: November 4, 1922 - New York
Francesco Puma was a leading member of the vicious Bonventre-Magaddino crew during the early 1900's, also referred to as 'The Good Killers'. The gang was notorious during it's day and was believed to be responsible for about 125 murders, committed in cities such as New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh and even Colorado.
The Good Killers
Francesco Puma was born around 1886 in Castellammare Del Golfo and became associated with the powerful Magaddino and Bonventre families back in his native country. When exactly Puma entered America is not really known, but according to Ellis Island documents there are a few "Francesco Puma's" who entered the country from which many came from Castellammare Del Golfo. The one who comes closest to the age of Puma was an 18 year old man who arrived in 1905.
Once he arrived on the shores of Ellis Island, New York, he went to settle down in Brooklyn. There he got in contact with associates from back in the old country such as Vito Bonventre and Giuseppe Lombardi. Puma went to live in 105 Roebling street and started his legitimate career as a grocer. Somewhere around 1907 one of his associates was found murdered and mutilated on a street corner in Williamsburg. According to gang legend they took the body and burned it inside one of Vito Bonventre's bakery ovens. Here they later referred to the "oven" when they wanted to kill someone. For the next decade the 'Good Killers' committed murder for whomever payed best. The headquarters of the gang was believed to be in both Detroit and New York. Most of the murders, about as much as 70, were believed to have been committed in Detroit. Some of their high profile victims were Salvatore Giannola and Giovanni Vitale.
In 1913 Puma and accomplice Vito Caradonna were arrested for the murder of Vito Buccelato but were later discharged for the crime. That same year he was also arrested for assault and attempted robbery. Shots were being fired and Puma was caught while fleeing. A couple of years later Stefano Magaddino entered America and was taken under the wing of his uncle, Vito Bonventre. It didn't take long for Magaddino to take a leading position inside the gang amongst Puma, Gaspar Milazzo, Giuseppe Lombardi, Bartolo Digreggorio and Bonventre. On June, 1920, a young man by the name of Camello Caizzo also arrived at Ellis Island and immediately became the gangs next target. Caizzo was no stranger as he was one of the men responsible for the murder of Magaddino's elder brother, Pietro, in 1916. Francesco Puma, who was believed to be the overseer of the murder, approached Bartolomeo Fontana, a man who was associated with the Good Killers in Detroit and from who'm they knew was a friend of Caizzo. Puma demanded Fontana to murder Caizzo in order to safe his own life. Fontana would later reveal to the police that this was something the Good Killers often did: they would force young immigrants to commit a murder on their behalf only to be murdered themselves a couple of days/weeks later, under the motto "Dead men can't speak".
In July 1921 Fontana eventually murdered Caizzo and dumped him in a river. He however started to fear for his life and decided to turn himself in to the police. Fontana started to talk to detective Fiachetti and revealed a lot about the murder syndicate. Not much later the police took actions and arrested most of the gangs leadership in August 1921. During the arrest Puma was beaten badly by the cops who took him in custody. According to records "Puma's eyes and arms were bruised and blackened and that when his shirt was removed his back showed black and blue marks". During their imprisonment at the Tombs jail newspapers told the story of the Good Killers and their actions for the last 15 years. Fontana also told the police that 'the chief' of the gang had about $200.000 to bail out his associates if they ever ran into problems. The identity of the so called chief is not known but Fontana did tell he was a crimeboss in Buffalo, so it is possible 'the chief' was Giuseppe DiCarlo. Puma was released after a $20.000 bail was payed.
In 1921 a murder attempt was made on the life of Magaddino and Milazzo during a drive by shooting. Both men survived but they decided to leave New York and move away to other Castellammarese branches in America. Puma also relocated and went to live in 508 East Twelfth Street. During this time Puma started to fear for his life. Investigators believed that this was because he feared retaliation by associates of Camello Caizzo or other enemies. During 1922 Puma nearly survived a murder attempt but only told his family about his wounds. Later it was revealed that Puma had been cooperating with the police in their investigation about Sicilian criminal activities. Therefore it is possible that he was attacked by his own associates on the night of November 4, 1922, which would be his last. As Puma walked on the street, cigar in mouth, he was approached by 3 gunmen. The men drew their guns and started to shoot Puma who fell to the ground. One bullet missed it's target and wounded a 12 year old playing girl. Witnesses told that as Puma fell to the ground the men didn't stop firing as they stayed to empty their guns on him. Police rushed Puma to the hospital and hoped to hear who shot him, but Puma didn't gain consciousness anymore and died.
(Source: "Foes shoot gunman full of bullets", November 5 1922; "Three more admit death band killing", August 18, 1921)
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