“CRIME FLASHBACK” – The Murder of Johnny “Pops” PAPALIA
Written by: Stephen G. Metelsky (under pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
Originally Published in recurring column “CRIME FLASHBACK” – Niagara This Week (2011)
It was the balmy summer of 1997. An area of Niagara Falls known for its quaintness was to be no longer. In an instant a man lay dead at the foot of his doorstep as the smell of gun powder permeated the air. The rapid spontaneous fire erupting from the .38 caliber gun was no accident. The shooter was on a distinct mission to kill this night. As Carmen Barillaro lay dead, his killer, reputed Mafia hit man Kenneth Murdock stood above him, reveling in the last piece of contract work that had been successfully completed on behalf of the Musitano crime family. This murder was not an accident. It was a sanctioned hit from the criminal underworld of traditional organized crime, emanating from Hamilton.
A couple months earlier, May 31, 1997 to be exact, the man Barillaro reported to, Johnny “Pops” Papalia was gunned down in broad daylight on the streets of Hamilton. This mafia style execution represented a shift in power in the Canadian underworld as Ontario’s reputed top mobster was now eliminated. On this fateful day Papalia had ventured from his Railway Street offices to have a discussion with Kenneth Murdock, a ‘walk and talk’ in mob parlance, a tactic to avoid a conversation being recorded by a surveillance device. Murdock momentarily lagged behind Papalia as he brandished the .38 caliber gun firmly in his hand. With a stroke of the trigger Papalia lay mortally wounded on the streets of Hamilton. Getting shot in the back of the head at close range represents an atypical modus operandi for the mafia, to ensure the intended target has been eliminated. Murdock had successfully completed his piece of contract work as he fled into the midst of anonymity, but not for long.
Murdock became a cooperating witness against the Musitano brothers, the catalyst being the issuance of a sanctioned contract to now eliminate the hit man. Murdock subsequently confessed to the two murders along with a third murder from 1985. This murder was also committed at the behest of the Musitano family. An outstanding debt owed to the family led to this contract hit.
The Musitano brothers were each freed from jail in 2007 after having served close to seven years of a ten-year sentence after they pled guilty to conspiring to murder Barillaro. Murdock is currently in a halfway house in British Columbia. He has served 10 years of a life sentence for the three-mafia execution-style murders and will be eligible for full parole in December 2011.
ORIGINAL STORY from: 2011 by Stephen G. Metelsky (pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
Photographs/Files courtesy of: UnderworldStories.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a freelance crime writer/journalist, criminologist, organized crime expert (CBC, the Hamilton Spectator, Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Global News, AM 680, 980 News, 900 CHML & Blue Line magazine) & college professor, with over 20 years experience as a police (ret.) sergeant. Stephen is a contributing columnist with Blue Line magazine and has covered true crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.
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