March 11, 2018


The Man Who Wouldn't Die : The plot to kill Michael Malloy for life-insurance money seemed foolproof--until the conspirators actually tried it (Karen Abbott, 2/07/12, SMITHSONIAN.COM )

The "Murder Trust," as the press would call them, now included a few other Marino's regulars, including petty criminals John McNally and Edward "Tin Ear" Smith (so-called even though his artificial ear was made of wax), "Tough Tony" Bastone and his slavish sidekick, Joseph Maglione. One night in December 1932 they all gathered at the speakeasy to commence the killing of Michael Malloy.

To Malloy's undisguised delight, Tony Marino granted him an open-ended tab, saying competition from other saloons had forced him to ease the rules. No sooner did Malloy down a shot than Marino refilled his glass. "Malloy had been a hard drinker all his life," one witness said, "and he drank on and on." He drank until Marino's arm tired from holding the bottle. Remarkably, his breathing remained steady; his skin retained its normally ruddy tinge. Finally, he dragged a grungy sleeve across his mouth, thanked his host for the hospitality, and said he'd be back soon. Within 24 hours, he was.

Malloy followed this pattern for three days, pausing only long enough to eat a complimentary sardine sandwich. Marino and his accomplices were at a loss. Maybe, they hoped, Malloy would choke on his own vomit or fall and slam his head. But on the fourth day Malloy stumbled into the bar. "Boy!" he exclaimed, nodding at Marino. "Ain't I got a thirst?"

Tough Tony grew impatient, suggesting someone simply shoot Malloy in the head, but Murphy recommended a more subtle solution: exchanging Malloy's whiskey and gin with shots of wood alcohol. Drinks containing just four percent wood alcohol could cause blindness, and by 1929 more than 50,000 people nationwide had died from the effects of impure alcohol. They would serve Malloy not shots tainted with wood alcohol, but wood alcohol straight up.

Marino thought it a brilliant plan, declaring he would "give all of the drink he wants...and let him drink himself to death." Kriesberg allowed a rare display of enthusiasm. "Yeah," he added, "feed 'im wood alcohol cocktails and see what happens." Murphy bought a few ten-cent cans of wood alcohol at a nearby paint shop and carried them back in a brown paper bag. He served Malloy shots of cheap whiskey to get him "feeling good," and then made the switch.

The gang watched, rapt, as Malloy downed several shots and kept asking for more, displaying no physical symptoms other than those typical of inebriation. "He didn't know that what he was drinking was wood alcohol," reported the New York Evening Post, "and what he didn't know apparently didn't hurt him. He drank all the wood alcohol he was given and came back for more."

Night after night the scene repeated itself, with Malloy drinking shots of wood alcohol as fast as Murphy poured them, until the night he crumpled without warning to the floor. The gang fell silent, staring at the jumbled heap by their feet. Pasqua knelt by Malloy's body, feeling the neck for a pulse, lowering his ear to the mouth. The man's breath was slow and labored. They decided to wait, watching the sluggish rise and fall of his chest. Any minute now. Finally, there was a long, jagged breath--the death rattle?--but then Malloy began to snore. He awakened some hours later, rubbed his eyes, and said, "Gimme some of th' old regular, me lad!"

The plot to kill Michael Malloy was becoming cost-prohibitive; the open bar tab, the cans of wood alcohol and the monthly insurance premiums all added up. 

Posted by at March 11, 2018 7:03 AM