The murder of reputed Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali on Wednesday recalled New York City’s last major mob hit nearly 35 years ago: the assassination of Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steak house on a December afternoon in 1985.
Castellano, who at the time was the 70-year-old reputed leader of the same family, which was seen as the nation’s largest and most powerful crime organization at the time, was gunned down outside of New York City’s Sparks Steakhouse on 46th St.
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After exiting a limousine outside the restaurant, Castellano and his underboss, Thomas Bilotti, were approached by three men in trench coats who shot them each about six times, the New York Times reported at the time.
His murder was orchestrated by John Gotti in a power move that would see him become head of the family, according to testimony by mafia underboss Salvatore Gravano. Gravano said he and Gotti watched the execution from a car nearby.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, who at the time was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, condemned the killings and vowed to find those responsible.
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“Everyone should be outraged at something like this,” Giuliani told the paper at the time. “Law enforcement has an obligation to investigate it fully and to try and identify and prosecute those people who are responsible for it. A murder makes the whole world a little bit less safe for everybody – no matter who is murdered.”
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Castellano, known as “The Howard Hughes of the Mob” and “Big Paulie,” succeeded Carlo Gambino after his death in 1975, becoming the acting boss of the Gambino crime family.