Anatomy of a Hit

“In a world where there are few roses, Roger Touhy never pretended to be one but his finish emphasizes that even a man who was not so good may be the vic¬tim of men who are worse.”—Chicago Sun Times

In the early evening of the night he died, Roger Touhy prepared to drive to a meeting at the Chicago Press Club with Ray Brennan and their book publisher to discuss Factor’s suit against them.

At the same time, across town, John Factor dined at the Singapore Steak House on Rush street. The place was owned by two old saloon keepers named Fritzel and Jacobson, whom Jake had known from Prohibition days. Tommy Downs managed the restaurant which was popular with the mob in the 1950s. Downs was once in charge of security at the Sportsman Park Race Track which was previously owned by Bugs Moran and later by Frank Nitti. In 1959 the Singapore Steak House was secretly owned by Chuckie English, a former member of the 42 Gang and right-hand man of Sam Giancana, and itremained one of Chicago’s celebrity hangouts despite the mob connections.

Jake said he had flown in from Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his son Jerome and to press his suit against Touhy and Brennan over The Stolen Years.

Also seen in the Singapore that night was Murray Humpreys, who had helped Factor rig his own kidnapping almost three decades before. As always, Humpreys sat with a glass of whisky in front of him. The Hump put it there to impress the others and nothing more, since he never drank.

During the rest of the evening, the normally low profile Humpreys made sure of accounting for his whereabouts. He left the Singapore and strolled down Clark Street where he was seen at Fritzels, a fashionable restaurant and later at L’Escarot, anoth-er restaurant, returning home he said at 3:00 A.M.

Tubbo Gilbert left his palatial homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs where he lived in semi- retirement, and was in town overseeing his exten-sive real estate and contracting interests. He would later tell reporters that he had flown into Chicago to spend the holidays with his grandchildren.

At 5:00 RM. sharp, Walter Miller pulled his car up to the front of Roger’s sister’s home to take Touhy to his meeting with Brennan and the publisher. At 5:55, they pulled into the Sheraton Towers Hotel garage and took the elevator to the top floor to the wood-paneled press club. Brennan, customary scotch in hand, greeted them at the door. They hung up their winter coats and walked to a round table in the middle of the room where Richard H. Brown, a New York lawyer representing the book’s publisher, Pennington Press, was seated.
Brennan ordered appetizers and a German beer for Touhy. They talked for three hours about the book. It was a grim conversation. Factor’s suit had hurt the book’s sales because the big chain depart-ment stores fearing a suit from Factor, refused to carry it. As if that wasn’t bad enough the Teamsters had refused to load and carry copies on their trucks.
At 9:15 Miller said they had to leave because Roger was on an 11:00 P.M. curfew. Brennan helped his two guests on with their topcoats. Miller’s coat sagged from the heavy .38 caliber in his right pocket.

The last thing Touhy said to Brennan was, “Factor goes around calling me every vile name in the book. I’m going to Springfield on Friday to ask Governor Stratton for a full pardon. Goodnight, kid.”

Miller drove quickly to Touhy’s sister’s house. He was worried about making the curfew so he didn’t take the precaution of driving around the block as he usually did. They were running late and it was a bitter eight degrees outside with an ugly wind whip-ping across the street.

He parked and the two men slowly walked up the six steps of Ethel’s porch, Miller’s hulking frame tow¬ering over the limping and bent Touhy. The only sound that could be heard was the occasional passing traffic on Washington Boulevard a half a block away. Then Roger heard a call from one of two men running toward him. “Wait, hold on, we’re police officers!”
Roger and Miller turned their heads as one. Instinctively, Miller reached for his service revolver but it was too late. The men were running toward them, leveling their shotguns as they sprinted across the frozen street. With a policeman’s eye, Miller noticed that one of the killers stood at least six feet tall. He was wearing a topcoat. The other was perhaps three inches shorter. Miller aimed at him and fired.

The killers fired back. Miller raised his left arm to cover his face and nearly had it blown off at the elbow. Dozens of pellets lodged into his back and legs. The transom over the door was shredded by shot pellets and the vibration from the blasts had shattered the glass in the front door.

Before the blasts knocked him to the ground, Miller was able to get off a total of five shots. Two shots landed in the windshield of a car parked on the opposite side of the street, two more grounded themselves into the front lawn and one found its way into the leg of one of the assassins.13

(13. Several days later, reporter Sandy Smith went to the home of Sam Giancana and interviewed the crime boss about the killing. The Chicago Police had been telling reporters that they "were searching high and low" for Giancana, to question him about the Touhy murder, but were unable to find him. Smith, who interviewed Giancana on his front lawn, noted that the gang¬ster’s foot was wrapped in bandages and he limped. It’s possible that Giancana, a former 42 Gang member who was noted for his fantastic driving skills, may have been the third gunman that Miller saw and Touhy hadn’t seen. Miller reported that he shot at least one of the gun¬men and heard him scream out "Son of bitch!"

Almost at the exact moment that Miller was blown backward, two huge blasts from the killers’ shotguns knocked Roger across the porch and then smashed him face first into the ground. Pellets tore a hole in Touhy’s inner left leg, the other pellets dug into his right upper rib cage. His leg was barely attached to his body.14

(14. Police officer Daniel Stillwagon said later, "They blew that guy apart; you could see that the leg was just hanging on by some veins and some skin.")

In all, the killers fired at least seven blasts with their shotguns and probably three more with an automatic pistol and then they were gone.

The murder had taken less than forty-five seconds.

Miller crawled over to Touhy and said, “Say an act of contrition, Rog.”

Ethel was in the kitchen drying the dinner dish¬es when she heard the blasts. She had been half lis-tening for her brother’s footsteps on the front porch, but when she heard the blasts, she knew he was dead. She had been expecting it.

She ran out to the front steps and saw Roger, twitching violently in a massive pool of his and Miller’s blood.

She bent down over her brother and tried to pick up his head.

Roger held her hand and moaned, “It was two cops.”

Patrolmen Robert Peters, Henry Sullivan and Daniel Stillwagon were the first on the scene. They didn’t try to stop the blood because it didn’t seem possible. Their only thought was to rush Touhy to a hospital.

Two ambulances were called, but there wasn’t enough time to wait; Peters could see that Touhy was bleeding to death in front of his eyes.

When a third squad car pulled up, Peters placed Roger in the back seat and drove him to nearby Saint Anne’s hospital.

Miller, who was conscious but in agony, volun-teered to wait for an ambulance and told the cops to get Roger to a hospital.

Peters rode in the back seat with Touhy, holding his hand and making a valiant but hopeless effort to stop the gush of blood from the gaping holes in the dying old man’s legs.

Roger kept nodding his head at the cop and say-ing, “I’m all right, I’m okay.”

But he wasn’t. He was losing too much blood from the shotgun pellets drilled into his leg, in the place where his knee had been just a few minutes before. They arrived at the emergency room at 10:35 P.M. where a shock trauma team headed by Dr.Patrick Vitullo placed Roger under an oxygen tent and wheeled him into an operating room.

Dr. Vitullo applied a tourniquet to the upper por-tions of Touhy’s legs in a fruitless effort to stop the bleeding just as Chief of Detectives John Archer stepped into the room, slipping and almost falling to the floor that was slippery with Touhy’s blood.

Dr. Vitullo leaned over Roger’s face to check his breathing.

“Mr. Touhy, who shot you?”

“Two men.”

“Do you know them?”


“Where is your identification?”

“I never carry any.”

“Do you have any money on you?”

“About $200.00.”

“Where is it?”

“Right front pocket.”

Then he faded.

“Mr. Touhy, you must try to stay awake.”

There was no reply. A nurse rifled through Roger’s bloody pants’ pockets and found $240, a pack of non-filtered cigarettes, a pair of reading glasses and two drawings from his sons, done twenty-six years before.

The doctor worked frantically, but knew his patient would never survive the massive loss of blood. Father Richard Birmingham was brought into the room and gave Roger Touhy the last rites of the Catholic Church which he completed at 11:23 P.M. Two minutes later, at 11:25, Roger Touhy expired.

Ray Brennan came into the emergency room just as the nurse pressed down Roger’s eyelids for the final time and pulled the sheet up over his head. “Rotten bastards,”he whispered over and again. The killing shook Chicago and the question all over town was “Why?”...Why kill a rumpled, half-crippled old man? Why, as Newsweek put it, kill the “not so Terrible Touhy”?
Nobody in Chicago really wanted an answer, but they had to make it look as though they did. By now, 701 mob murders later, going through the motions of showing outrage, was standard practice.

Mayor Daly was awakened by his aides who told him that Roger Touhy had been killed. Daly climbed out of bed and ordered Police Commissioner O’Connor to personally investigate the killing.

O’Connor ordered his police to pick up Marshal Ciafano and Sam Teets Battaglia. Ciafano and Battaglia were the mob’s favorite hit men, both were former 42 Gang members who had fought against Touhy in 1932, and both ha

d been arrested by Walter Miller a few years before on armed robbery charges.
Marshal Ciafano was found at the Trade Winds bar by detectives who dragged him screaming, off his bar stool and carried him by his arms and legs to a waiting squad car, tossed him into the back seat and drove him to police headquarters for questioning.
They found Battaglia in his expensive home in Oak Park and hauled him in for questioning but then let him go.

Neither Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Murray Humpreys nor Sam Giancana were ever quesntioned for their role in Touhy’s murder.

(15. A recently declassified FBI document reveals that on January 28, 1960, Humpreys discussed Touhy’s killing with labor goon Joey Glimco. The informant who reported the conversation said it was conducted mostly in whispers. Suspecting that he would be arrested by the U.S. Treasury, which was investi-gating Touhy’s murder, for his role in the killing, Humpreys said, "Dirty bastards, if I ever want to dispute them, I didn’t keep it all to myself, see?... I figure, if they’re gonna get real hot on me, they want to fuck with me like they did on that shit, they’re not gonna give me shit. So, I just keep still, ’cause I got the answers for them.  He also added that, "He (Touhy?) was dying a long time ago. He was on a stretcher, you know?")

Several days after the murder, John Factor testi-fied at the coroner’s inquest with an enormous dia-mond ring glittering from his pinky finger. Police ushered him into a waiting room where Ethel sat in a corner with Tommy Touhy Jr., her face buried in a Persian lamb coat, her eyes hidden by dark glasses. The room was small. Factor, always amiable, turned to the Touhys and nodded and smiled. They glared at him. Then he realized who they were. He turned his face to the wall and waited for police officers to move him to another room.
Before he left Chicago for Los Angeles, Factor was allowed to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence. This was the same type of test Touhy wasn’t allowed to take to prove his own innocence more than twenty-four years earlier. Chief of Detectives Archer watched the test being administered and announced to the press mob waiting on the street, “Factor had nothing to do with the shooting and no knowledge of the participants or the reasons. We have no further reasons to question him.” Reporters tracked down Tubbo Gilbert who met them with his standard, “I have no comment,” but then, as always, he talked anyway; “I have no idea who would want to do this either.”

Perhaps not realizing the blatant stupidity of the question, Tubbo asked “I’ll say this, if Touhy was so innocent, why did he need a bodyguard?”

Roger’s body traveled from the Alexian Brothers Hospital to the Cook County Morgue—the same route that John Dillinger’s and Frank Gusenberg’s gunned down bodies had taken back in 1936.
While Touhy’s dead body was waiting for trans-port to the morgue, a scant two blocks from his childhood home on South Robie Street, a photogra-pher snapped a photo of the corpse, his face frozen in terror and pain, the mouth pried open in one last frantic breath for life.
Roger’s grief-stricken sister was left with the awful task of identifying her brother’s body a few hours later.

The next morning, at 8:30 A.M., a solitary hearse bearing Touhy’s body in its coffin, slowly pulled out of the back alley of the funeral parlor. It was decid¬ed Touhy would be buried at the family grave at Chicago’s Boot Hill Cemetery, Mount Carmel. Not far from his gravesite were the tombs of Dion O’Bannion, Frank Nitti, the Genna Brothers, Paul “Needle Nose” La Briola, A1 Capone and by 1992, Tony Accardo.

 The tombstone, it would bear the name TOWEY, the Anglo-Irish spelling of his family name, in the northwest corner of the burial ground where his brothers Johnny, Joe, James and Eddie were buried.

(Towey is not an native Irish name, it is French -Norman)

Secrecy surrounded the funeral. Chief of Detectives Archer, who had been planning an obser-vation detail for the funeral which he expected to take place the following week, was caught complete¬ly off guard and was told about it by a Chicago Tribune reporter.

Arriving at the site only minutes after the coffin, Archer watched from the warmth of his car as Clara and her sons, Roger Jr. and Tommy, stood in the bit¬ter winter cold while the funeral director recited Roman Catholic prayers over the coffin. Nearby, six workmen stood by with their shovels at ready. There were no other mourners, no flowers, no pallbearers. 

The service ended in seven minutes and a weeping Clara was led away to a car by Tommy. A freezing wind picked up and swept across the yard as the workmen lowered Roger Touhy’s coffin in its grave.

Archer walked up to the gravesite and one of the workmen paused from shoveling dirt and asked, “Is it true they only gave him twenty-eight days of free-dom?”
Archer nodded, that it was.

“That hardly seems enough,"the workman said. “Just doesn’t seem right.”