March 14, 1981
Chicago, Illinois
The body of William “Butch” Petrocelli (43, pictured) is found

Petrocelli, a crime syndicate boss at the time of his death, went missing on December 30, 1980. His body was found nearly 4 months later, decomposing in the backseat of a parked car. Petrocelli had paper stuffed in his mouth before it was taped shut, his feet were bound with rope, and his hands taped to his chest. It was determined he had been stabbed twice in the chest, his throat had been slit, and his face burned. Two cans of lighter fluid left in the car suggested they had held the accelerant used to burn Petrocelli’s face. The medical examiner estimated Petrocelli had been killed 7 weeks before his body was found, and investigators believed the smoke-darkened car windows were likely the reason the body had remained undiscovered during that time.

Henry Aleman, who had been serving a 30-year sentence for his part of a burglary ring, had previously been partnered with Petrocelli to carry out killings. Some sources indicate Aleman had ordered the death of Petrocelli after the latter changed the “taxes” applied to bookmakers or those paying “protection money,” earning Petrocelli around $100,000. Petrocelli claimed he was giving the money to Aleman’s wife to support her during her husband’s incarceration as well as towards legal fees for Aleman’s appeals. When it was discovered the money was going to neither of these causes, Petrocelli was killed. Other sources claim Petrocelli’s “flamboyant” lifestyle caused resentment amongst his peers.

Petrocelli’s murder remained unresolved for decades until the culmination of Operation Family Secrets, an FBI investigation into crimes orchestrated by the Chicago Outfit. In 2007, charges of 18 murders and one attempted murder were brought against five men — Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph Lombardo, Frank Schweihs, James Marcello, and Nicholas Calabrese — with Frank Calabrese named by prosecutors as Petrocelli’s killer. While the jury was deadlocked on Calabrese’s guilt in Petrocelli’s murder, he was convicted of involvement in 7 other killings and sentenced to life in prison. He died 5 years later at the age of 75.

“On December 25…” Chicago Tribune. December 25, 2015
Herion, Don. The Chicago Way. Xlibris Corporation, 2010
“Jury findings in Family Secrets killings.” Chicago Tribune. September 28, 2007
“A look at 18 murders detailed in mob case.” Associated Press. September 11, 2007.
Robinson, Mike. “Undertaker Tells of Mobster’s Death.” Fox News. July 26, 2007. Accessed: March 14, 2020.,4675,MobTrial,00.html
“Decomposed body of reputed top mob boss identified.” UPI. March 16, 1981.
Smith, Sam and O’Brien, John. “Missing mob figure Petrocelli found slain.” Chicago Tribune. March 15, 1981

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