The St. Louis Family
The Leisures and Trupiano
Less than a year after Jimmy Michaels' murder, his supporters retaliated by planting a bomb under Paul Leisure's car outside his mother's home on Nottingham Avenue on August 11, 1981. The ensuing blast cost him his right leg and left foot. In addition, his face was severely disfigured. Members of the Flynn faction struck back a month later on September 11, by wounding Charles John Michaels, Jimmy's grandson, outside the Edge Restaurant. Authorities were surprised at the shooting because Michaels, who had no record, was not involved in the union power struggle. On October 16, George M. "Sonny" Faheen, Jimmy's nephew, was killed by a bomb planted in his Volkswagen Beetle, which was in the parking garage of the Mansion House Center. Again, authorities were baffled because Faheen was a city worker and not involved in the union power struggle.
On March 24, 1982 James A. Michaels III, another grandson of Jimmy Michaels, and Milton Russell Schepp, a former St. George, Missouri police chief, were charged with the Paul Leisure car bombing. Michaels was convicted of the Leisure bombing by a federal jury on October 19, 1982. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
In another twist, Michael E. Kornhardt, charged with the murder of George Faheen, was killed on July 31, 1982 while free on bond. Police theorized he was silenced to prevent him from striking a deal with the FBI. The murder of Kornhardt proved to be the undoing of the Leisure gang. Paul, Anthony, and David Leisure, Robert Carbaugh and Steven Wougamon were charged with Kornhardt's murder.
On April 14, 1983 eight members of the Leisure faction were indicted on state capital murder charges and federal racketeering charges. The charges would be handled in separate trials. The eight men indicted were Paul Leisure, business agent for Local 42 and part owner of LN & P Company, a towing company owned by the Leisure family; Anthony Leisure, Paul's brother and a business agent for Local 110 and part owner of LN & P; David Leisure, a cousin of Paul and Anthony and a part owner of LN & P, charged with murder and assault; John F. Ramo, an employee of LN & P charged with making the bomb that killed Jimmy Michaels; Ronald J. Broderick, a business agent for Local 110; Charles M. Loewe, a LN & P employee charged with the wounding of Charles John Michaels; Robert M. Carbaugh, a part-time employee of LN & P charged with killing Michael Kornhardt; and finally Steven T. Wougamon also charged with the murder of Kornhardt. Testifying against this group would be Fred Prater, the ex-LN & P employee who had become a protected government witness. Prater admitted to the U.S. Attorney that he had built the bomb that killed Jimmy Michaels.
On April 2, 1985 bothers Paul and Anthony Leisure and their cousin David, along with Steve Wougamon and Charles Loewe were convicted. Ramo and Broderick, who had pled guilty to charges earlier in the trial, testified against them. With the last defendant, Robert Carbaugh, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. On May 1, 1985 Paul and David Leisure were sentenced to 55 years in prison. The sentence consisted of 20 years for conspiracy, 20 years for racketeering, 5 years for obstruction of justice, and 10 years for manufacturing the bombs. Anthony Leisure received 40 years and Charles Loewe received 36 years. Wougamon was sentenced at a later date. Within weeks of the convictions, the five men and Carbaugh would be indicted on state murder charges. In the second trial, Paul Leisure was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 50 years on December 7, 1987. Later, Anthony and David Leisure were found guilty with Anthony receiving a life sentence. David, however, in a mob rarity, was sentenced to death.
Raymond Flynn, who was tried separately, was convicted by a federal jury for his role in the car bombings and sentenced to 55 years in prison in March 1987. An appeal in 1988 reduced his sentence to 30 years.
Attorneys for David Leisure tried desperately to save their client. They argued he had diminished mental capacities and that it was his cousins who were the ringleaders. David was "merely a follower who knew no better," they claimed. The attorneys went on to state that he "was born into a poor family two months premature, wasn't toilet trained until age eight, dropped out of school in the third grade, and used alcohol and drugs as a child."
An unlikely call for clemency came from Michaels' grandson, James A. Michaels III. He wrote Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan stating, "The Michaels' family and the Leisure family have experienced enough grief for one lifetime. I feel that the execution of David would bring additional needless hardship, not only to his family, but to my family as well."
Leisure's execution was set for 12:01 am September 1, 1999. A last appeal was being reviewed stating that one of Leisure's attorneys was a drug addict at the time of the trial. The man in reality was a law student and only part of the defense team during the trial. While Leisure waited for the final appeal to be ruled upon, he had a last supper of steak, baked potato, salad, apple pie, ice cream and a Pepsi.
With all appeals exhausted, Carnahan denied clemency and Leisure was strapped to the gurney inside the death chamber at the Potosi Correctional Center. His last statement was, "I am an innocent man. The lawyer who represented me was on drugs. Tell my children, family and relatives I love them."
The only family member present was Leisure's sister. Sobbing with her head resting on a priest's shoulder, she watched as her brother mouthed the words "I love you," as a lethal dose of drugs ended his life.
Incredibly, David Leisure's death was the first execution of a member of organized crime since the electrocution of Louis "Lepke" Buchalter at Sing Sing in 1944.
On July 22, 2000 Paul Leisure died at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri where he had been incarcerated since 1993. Leisure, who was 56, suffered from heart disease.
Meanwhile the new St. Louis mob boss finally emerged. Described as low-key and elusive, Matthew M. "Mike" Trupiano, Jr. was identified by the FBI as the heir apparent to Giordano in the wake of Vitale's death in 1982. Trupiano, a nephew of Giordano, was born in Detroit and as one federal investigator stated, "He got messed up in gambling in Detroit and was sent here for some guidance from his uncle."
In May 1986, Trupiano was fined $30,000 and sentenced to four years in prison for running a gambling ring that handled bets on college and professional football games. During the trial, witnesses testified that Trupiano's bookmaking operation lost money. It was the first time federal agents had ever heard of an underworld bookmaking operation running in the red. Some insiders believed it might have been due to Trupiano's own gambling in which he lost more than won.
In transcripts of recorded conversations, Trupiano was heard to say, "He got no respect, either from mob chapters or his own underlings." Other comments overheard indicated that Italian-American businessmen kept him at arms length, and mob families cheated him out of money from the sale of a hotel in Las Vegas. Trupiano claimed his own soldiers were holding out on him from their bookmaking take. By the time Trupiano was released from prison, after serving just 16 months of the sentence, the St. Louis mob "had dwindled to a handful of soldiers."
The newspapers described Trupiano as "flashy, temperamental, profane, averse to neckties and a compulsive gambler." The FBI kept him under so close surveillance that he was arrested in 1991 for running an illegal gin rummy game in the back room of a used car dealership on South Kingshighway. Prosecutors stated that since Trupiano was an officer of Laborer's Local 110, and was playing cards on union time, that he was in effect embezzling from the union. In June 1992, the Local 110 membership voted him out of office. In October, Trupiano was convicted on one of six counts and sentenced to two and a half years in prison and told by the judge to "shun gambling in all forms."
Trupiano's health deteriorated in prison. He suffered from diabetes, underwent daily kidney dialysis, and had suffered one heart attack. He died after suffering a second heart attack at St. Anthony's Medical Center in south St. Louis County on October 22, 1997.
In the wake of Trupiano's death there are two men local mob watchers say are candidates as family leaders Joseph Cammarata and Anthony Parrino. According to Ronald Lawrence, both men are retired, "at least from their legitimate jobs." He claims Stoneking's testimony was really responsible for putting away the mob in St. Louis.