Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Baloni Bullet and the Black Hand

The " Baloni Bullet" was discovered in a manila envelope in a bound volume of "Sandusky Register" newspapers during obituary indexing

On the night of March 9th, 1916, James Baloni (aka Bologna) rushed into the home of Angelo Lauria (aka Lowrey) to call the Sandusky police. He reported to Chief Weingates that his older brother Giuseppi (aka Thomas) Baloni had been shot in the neck and lay dead in the alley at Camp and North Depot. James had also suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh. Both had come from Italy and were working as section men on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

James told police that he had no idea who had shot them. But the coroner noted there were powder burns on Giuseppi’s neck, indicating the murderer was at close range. He also discovered a 32 caliber revolver with 5 loaded chambers lying beside the body. Surely, there was more to the story than what James was telling the chief. In fact, James was also carrying a fully loaded revolver.

Weingates interrogated James before taking him to Providence Hospital. He also questioned Angelo Lauria…. No one was talking. The chief hoped the bullet would reveal the truth. Had the Baloni brothers fought and shot each other? Had Angelo Lauria shot both brothers? What was the motive? Was it a family argument or was it the work of the “Black Hand”?

Black Hand tactics were at work in Italy at the turn of the century and then infiltrated Italian neighborhoods in large U.S. cities. Black Hand gangs used extortion and threats of violence to extract protection money from their intended victims. The term Black Hand evolved from the cryptic notes that bore black lettering and drawings. Now, Chief Weingates suspected the Black Hand may have come to the Sandusky area.

Eventually the bullet did reveal the truth. It was not of the same caliber as that of the Baloni brothers’ revolvers. Pressuring Angelo Lauria further, he confessed that it was his brother Dominick who had murdered Giuseppi and wounded James. Dominick had fled the city on the very night of the killing.

Less than a week later Diego Lauria, cousin of Dominick and Angelo, turned up dead at the Vissenera boarding house. Two 38 slugs were extracted from his head. All eight boarding house residents were held at the police station and questioned. Chief Weingates told the “Sandusky Register” reporter that Diego had been implicated in a Black Hand murder at Marblehead a few weeks earlier.

Further investigation led Chief Weingates to suspect boarding house resident Vincenzo Denneria as the man who had killed Diego Lauria. Vincenzo was picked up while on the run in Toledo. He later confessed that he had murdered Diego because he feared Diego was out to “get him.” The two had quarreled when Diego had lured Vincenzo’s cousin Mariano Dennaria to Marblehead to extort $100 from another Italian. In a matter of three weeks, Giuseppi Baloni, Diego Lauria, and Mariano Dennaria had all been victims of revenge. Chief Weingates’ theory had proved correct. The Black Hand had indeed come to Sandusky.

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