MOROCCO, Ind. -- A farmer plowing a cornfield found the battered bodies of reputed Chicago mobster Anthony 'Little Tony' Spilotro and his brother, Michael, the apparent victims of a 'botched' gangland hit, officials said Monday.
The brothers, who were about to go on trial on a variety of criminal charges, had been beaten to death, suffering severe blows to their heads, necks and chests, said Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist at Indiana University.
There was speculation the Spilotros may have been ordered killed by reputed Chicago mob chief Joseph Ferriola because Anthony Spilotro refused to cede his power in the organization.
Ed Hegarty, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office declined to comment on who may have slain the brothers and why, except to say the killers 'left the scene of the crime with the intention that these bodies would never be found.'
'The fact that we are here now (having found the bodies) is evidence that it was botched,' Hegarty said.
Pat Foran, assistant special agent in charge of Las Vegas FBI office, said the Spilotro murders were 'being investigated as a gangland hit.' He said Las Vegas historically has been an open city for the mob, but no immediate successor was in sight.
Mike Kintz of nearby Momence, Ill., found the bodies Sunday night as he was plowing a cornfield in northwest Indiana near the small town of Morocco. State police Sgt. James Wallace said the bodies were stacked in a 5 -foot-deep grave.
Hegarty said Kintz became suspicious because no corn was growing in the area of the grave.
Pless, the pathologist, said the killer or killers probably used their hands and feet to batter the Spilotros, but he had not determined whether the brothers had been killed at the gravesite or elsewhere, or whether they had been bound during the beatings.
Part of the FBI investigation focused on a burned-out car found June 16 about 3 miles from the gravesite on the Indiana-Illinois border. Authorities said the car may have been used to transport the brothers to the gravesite.
Anthony Spilotro, 48, and Michael, 41, were reported missing June 16 by Michael's wife, Anne. The two brothers were last seen June 14 in Chicago suburban Oak Park, Ill., driving away in Anne Spilotro's car.
That car was found June 16 in a hotel parking lot in Schiller Park, another Chicago suburb near O'Hare International Airport. Police said a check of the car uncovered 'nothing unusual.'
Anthony Spilotro, of Las Vegas, the reputed head of Chicago mob's operations in Nevada, faces a federal trial in Kansas City, Mo., on charges of skimming money from the Stardust and Fremont hotels in Las Vegas, and a second federal trial in Las Vegas for allegedly violating the civil rights of a police informant who was shot to death in October 1979.
In 1983 he was charged with racketeering for allegedly directing the 'Hole in the Wall Gang,' a burglary ring in Las Vegas that netted Spilotro more than $1 million in 1980 and 1981. Seventeen others also were charged including Michael Spilotro, who was later dismissed as a defendant.
The three-month, $1 million trial Las Vegas ended in a mistrial April 8 after the jury failed to reach a verdict during 11 days of deliberations. A new trial date had been set for June 16, and a warrant was issued a day later when Anthony failed to appear for the proceeding.
One juror in the interrupted first trial told the court her ability to functon was hampered because she overheard a conversation by two other jurors and believed they were talking about a bribe.
Spilotro had been considered a contender for operating the Chicago mob after Joseph 'Joey the Dove' Aiuppa, the old boss, and Aiuppa's top lieutenant, John 'Jackie the Lackey' Cerone, were ordered to prison on their coviction stemming from the skimming trial in Kansas City earlier this year, mob experts say.
But the scepter apparently passed to Ferriola, who quickly began installing people loyal to him in key positions, according to the experts.
Some theorized after the Spilotros' disappearance that Anthony was refusing to cede the Las Vegas job to a Ferriola appointee or that Spilotro's many problems with the law were becoming a security risk for the mob.
Michael Spilotro, of Oak Park, Ill., a bit actor in television movies and owner of a Chicago restaurant, was awaiting federal trial in Chicago on extortion charges stemming from 'Operation Safebet,' an FBI investigation of suburban sex clubs. A third Spilotro brother, Victor, 52, also was charged in that probe.