Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lufthansa Heist Revisited

The End of Tommy DeSimone

Two of the murders carried out in actor Joe Pesci's portrayal of Thomas DeSimone are the most graphic in recent mob movie memory. Hill in Wiseguy describes a DeSimone that was a cold and careless killer. He discusses Burke and DeSimone's penchant for murder: "It didn't take anything for these guys to kill you. They liked it. They would sit around drinking booze and talk about their favorite hits. They enjoyed talking about them.

Hill describes three murders that DeSimone was involved in. The first was a best friend and hijacking partner of Burke who ratted out a hijacking scheme to the police. From the back seat of a car DeSimone strangled the man with a piano wire. The second murder was that of "Billy Batts." Although different from the movie portrayal where DeNiro and Pesci nearly stomp and kick Batts (played by popular movie mobster Frank Vincent) to death before finishing him off on a lonely country road, the actual murder was just as brutal.

One night a party was held at Robert's Lounge for "Billy Batts," described as a long time friend of John Gotti and a made member of the Gambino Family, after he had been released from prison after a six-year stretch. DeSimone was 20 at the time, according to Hill, and "Batts" had not seen him since he was in his early teens. "Batts" remembered that Tommy had once shined shoes and he made a comment to that effect, which DeSimone took as an insult.

DeSimone held his anger in check. When Hill thought the furor had died down, he was shocked to hear DeSimone tell him and Burke, "I'm going to kill that f***." Two weeks later DeSimone got his chance when he arrived at a bar owned by Hill. DeSimone sent his girlfriend home and told Burke to keep "Batts" there. Burke got "Batts" at the end of the bar and began exchanging stories with him and buying him drinks. When DeSimone returned, he had a .38 revolver and a body bag. He walked behind "Batts" and yelled out, "Shine these f***in' shoes" and began to beat the man about the head with the revolver as Burke clutched "Batts" around the neck. Later, on their way to a makeshift grave in a dog kennel in upstate New York, they realized "Batts" was still alive, thrashing around in the trunk of Hill's car. They stopped and finished him off with a shovel and a tire iron.

The other brutal murder, also portrayed in the Goodfellas film, was that of the teenager named "Spider." DeSimone once shot the young man in the foot while ordering him to dance. One night while Spider was recovering, DeSimone started in on him again. This time Spider stood up for himself and told DeSimone to "go f*** himself." After being goaded by the others in the room, DeSimone pulled a gun and shot the teenager three times in the chest, killing him instantly.

Hill claims that during the week after Christmas 1978, DeSimone was going to become a made member of the Lucchese Family. Burke and Hill were down in Florida at the time where Jimmy was trying to straighten out a cocaine deal after a professional scam artist had ripped him off to the tune of $250,000. Burke called DeSimone's mother to check on the blessed event. Burke disguised his inquiry by asking if Tommy "had seen his godmother yet?" DeSimone's mother replied that due to a heavy snowfall, it had been called off.

The following day Burke called again. Hill never revealed, and possibly never knew, who Burke spoke to this time, however, he knew something was terribly wrong when he saw Jimmy slam down the receiver so hard the entire telephone booth shook. Hill relates what happened next:

He came out of the booth and I saw he had tears in his eyes. I don't know what's going on, and he says that they just whacked Tommy. Jimmy's crying. The Gotti crew. They whacked Tommy. It was over Tommy having killed Billy Batts and a guy named Foxy. They were made guys with the Gambinos, and Tommy had killed them without an okay.

On January 14, 1979, Cookie DeSimone notified police that her husband had disappeared. Although his body was never found, Tommy DeSimone was immortalized, undeservedly, by Joe Pesci's fictionalized portrayal of him.