Organized Crime Figure. Born in Castelvetrano, Sicily in 1900, John Scalise became involved with the Mafia early in his life. At some point in his late teens or early twenties, possibly in retaliation for a murder, Scalise lost his right eye in an attack. His ill-fitting glass eye would give him a sinister appearance. Shortly after this, Scalise traveled to America, entering the country illegally and settling in Chicago’s Little Italy. He was soon working for the six Genna brothers. Contrary to common belief, it was here that he first met Albert Anselmi, who would become his crime partner and best friend. Although younger, Scalise was much more dangerous and intelligent, and soon enough the student was leading the teacher. The pair became noted as the Gennas’ deadliest killers, as they were suspected, along with New York gangster Frankie Yale, of murdering North Side gang leader Dean O’Banion on November 10, 1924. Shortly thereafter, on June 13, 1925, Anselmi and Scalise, along with Mike Genna, ambushed North Siders Bugs Moran and Schemer Drucci in Little Italy, shooting up their car with shotguns and wounding Drucci. About an hour later, as the shooters raced south on Western Avenue, they were pursued by a detective squad and overtaken at the corner of Western and 60th. During the ensuing gun battle, Chicago Police officers Charles Walsh and Harold Olsen were killed and Michael Conway severely wounded. The fourth officer, William Sweeney, pursued the fleeing Anselmi, Scalise, and Genna towards the next block of houses. Genna was fatally shot by Sweeney while the other two fell into police hands. Anselmi and Scalise were bound over for trial. Prosecutor Bob Crowe vowed to send both men to the gallows. During some of the most bizarre legalistics in American history, the two killers’ lawyers managed to convince the jury that they had reacted against "unwarranted police aggression." Anselmi and Scalise were found guilty of the manslaughter of Officer Walsh, drawing a sentence of 14 years in prison. Four months later, after taking many weeks in order to secure enough people who were willing to serve on the jury, they were acquitted of the murder of Officer Olsen due largely to the same arguments as the first trial. Nine months later, in December 1926, Anselmi and Scalise were granted a retrial by the Illinois Supreme Court and released from prison. In June 1927, they were tried once again and acquitted of the murder of Walsh. By then, the two, through the events and trials of the past two years, had forged a close bond, and they went to work for Capone with a venganance. Because they had gotten away with murdering two Chicago Police officers, Anselmi and Scalise had a very unsavory reputation, so much so that they were automatically suspected of guilt any time some of Al Capone’s enemies turned up dead. Upon the murder of Unione Siciliane president Pasquale Lolordo in January 1929, the two rose even higher, with the ambitious Scalise acting as vice-president to Joseph "Hop Toad" Giunta, although there were those who insisted that Giunta received most of his marching orders from John Scalise. Not yet thirty years old, Scalise had come quite a ways, allegedly boasting that he was "the most powerful man in Chicago." After the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of February 14, 1929, the "Murder Twins", as they were now called, fell under suspicion. Cook County prosecutors ended up with only enough evidence to indict Scalise for the massacre, along with Jack McGurn. The indictments became moot when Albert Anselmi, John Scalise, and Joseph "Hop Toad" Giunta turned up dead on a lonely road near Hammond, Indiana in the early morning hours of May 8, 1929. All three had been severely beaten and shot to death. One of Scalise’s numerous wounds was a gunshot into his glass eye, the fragments lodging in his face. The coroner said he had never seen such disfigured bodies. Within a few days, informants stated that the three men were lured to a banquet with their Sicilian friends and, while trying to break up a quarrel that was being staged for their benefit, were attacked and killed. Years later, a more popular story would emerge that Al Capone had discovered that Anselmi and Scalise had decided to betray him. At the climax of a dinner thrown in their honor, Capone produced a baseball bat and beat the three men within an inch of their lives, before two or three gunmen stepped in to finish the job. However exactly the two died, no one shed any tears over them. Scalise’s body was shipped back to Castelvetrano, Sicily for burial.
Bio by: Dennis Rice