Mobster hitman Tommy Pitera was born on December 2, 1954, in New York City. He is believed to have killed at least 60 people. In 1990, Pitera's deadly crime spree finally ended when he and members of the Bonanno crime family were arrested. Pitera was convicted on six counts of murder and on racketeering and drug charges. He is currently serving time at the United States Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
Mobster and convicted criminal Tommy Pitera was born Thomas E. Pitera on December 2, 1954, in New York City. A member of the infamous Bonanno crime family, Thomas Pitera became one of the mobs' most brutal hitmen. This cold-blooded killer is known by several nicknames, including "The Butcher." He earned this moniker for the way he liked to dismember his victims after murdering them.
Pitera grew up in Brooklyn's Gravesend neighborhood. He became the target of bullies who picked on him for his high-pitched voice. Pitera started learning about martial arts as a way to defend himself. As a teenager, he advanced his martial arts training by studying in Japan. This interest later inspired the nickname "Tommy Karate." Returning to the United States in 1974, Pitera soon put his physical talents to use for the Bonanno crime family.
Life of Crime
As a favor to Gambino crime family member John Gotti, Pitera allegedly killed Wilfred "Willie Boy" Johnson. He took out rivals and associates alike. Not all of his killings were mob-related, however. One of his murders was strictly personal. After the death of his common-law wife Celeste, Pitera sought revenge. He murdered Phyllis Burdi, a friend of Celeste's who had been with her when she overdosed.
In all, Pitera is believed to have killed at least 60 people. "He regularly killed at will anyone who offended him, who crossed him, who hired him to do a piece of work," explained Phil Carlo, author of The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath.
In 1990, Pitera's deadly crime spree finally ended. He and more than 30 other members of the Bonanno crime family were arrested on federal charges in connection to a lethal drug trafficking operation. They are believed to have killed other drug dealers to steal their merchandise, which was then resold on the street. Authorities stated that the group dealt approximately 220 pounds of cocaine each year. While officially charged with seven murders, the group is thought to be responsible for dozens more. Pitera was indicted on 19 counts in all, including those related seven murders and two murder conspiracies.
A search of Pitera's apartment turned up an entire library of books on crime and killing. It included such titles as The Hitman's Handbook and Kill or Be Killed. A treasure trove of weapons was also discovered there.
Trial and Conviction
Pitera's trial began in May 1992. The 12-person jury listened to witnesses, including a member of his own crew, testify about Pitera's crimes. They discussed how Pitera liked to dismember his victims in a bathtub, cutting them up to make them easier to dispose of. He had an almost scientific approach to his murders, choosing to bury the remains deep in the ground to avoid detection and separating the head from the body to avoid identification. It was also revealed that one of his favorite dumping grounds was the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge on New York's Staten Island. And, like many serial killers, Pitera liked to take a keepsake from his victims.
After a seven-week trial, the jury decided to convict Pitera on six counts of murder and on racketeering and drug charges. He was acquitted of the murder of Wilfred "Willie Boy" Johnson, an FBI informant, and of the two murder-conspiracy charges. But Pitera was convicted in the deaths of five criminal associates. Two of these killings happened in 1989 and were connected to drug trafficking, making them possible death penalty cases. The jury had to determine whether Pitera should be put to death in a separate hearing. They decided against the death penalty, and he was later sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Pitera is currently serving time at the United States Penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.
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