NEW YORK, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Parishioners at a church in former mob boss John Gotti's old New York City neighborhood said vandalism wouldn't have happened if he were still around.
A 4-foot stone statue of the Virgin Mary outside St. Mary Gate of Heaven church on 101st Street in Manhattan was decapitated last week, police said. The NYPD is investigating the matter as a hate crime but longtime residents and church-goers said if Gotti were still in charge such an act would never have happened -- and if it did, he would have gotten to the bottom of it by now.
"When he was here it was a quiet neighborhood," Ralph Francisco, 70, a lifelong congregant at the church, and the owner of a funeral home across the street, told the New York Daily News. "Now we have drugs being sold on the street. And this thing here, it never would have happened [if Gotti was around]."
Gotti, who died in a federal prison in 2002, was head of the Gambino crime family. He earned the nickname "Teflon Don" after being acquitted three times during high-profile trials in the 1990s before a trusted underboss turned into a government informant.
Though he did not attend the church, St. Mary Gate of Heaven was the site of Gotti's daughter's wedding in 1984.