|Room of death|
The Mafia, both in the United States and Italy, has traditionally established "murder houses" where wholesale killings could take place without the troublesome need to keep moving around. One such place in Brooklyn was bossed by the notorious Roy DeMeo, butcher for Paul Castellano and the Gambino family.
An even more brutal operation was run in a decrepit storehouse near Brancaccio, a rundown section of Palermo, Sicily. Some of the Brancaccio victims died for their knowledge about Italian Mafia matters, but perhaps an equal number were silenced to stop leaks about the "Sicilian connection," the heroin pipeline from the island to the United States.
Victims were seldom dispatched quickly but tortured to ascertain what smuggling secrets they might have revealed to authorities. Undoubtedly, some of the victims cleared themselves under the tortures but were too far gone to survive. Still the local mafiosi were not unhappy about such miscalculations since the horrors of the Palermo "room of death" remained a valuable lesson to cohorts considering defecting.
New inductees to the Mafia were sometimes taken to the room of death to witness the slow, painful killing of a suspected informer. As the victim, finally, gratefully, expired before an inductee's eyes, he was informed, "That's how you could die."
During the massive arrests against the Italian Mafia in the 1980s, the bosses of the Cupola—the ruling Sicilian Commission—found it wise to shut down the murder room. The boss or bosses overseeing the deadly acts there were assassinated.
This spirit of mob tidiness is hardly unusual. The same fate awaited Roy DeMeo when his operation got too hot. Undoubtedly, his erasure was approved by Gambino boss Castellano, even though DeMeo had always been one of Big Paul's most ardent supporters and a most willing executioner.