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Feature Articles


June 2000

The "Babe"

By Scott M. Deitche


     On April 9, 1961 a 17 year old Miami boy was walking around the shoreline of Kobe Lake, looking for an ideal place to fish. His attention was diverted by a two men in a pickup, driving near the lake. They dropped a canvas bag into the water and took off. The youth ran over to where the bag was dumped, reached down and brought it up. Curious as to its contents, he opened the bag and discovered a skull, and arm and leg bones.

     The next morning, attorney Joseph Gassen was skimming through the Miami Herald at breakfast when he came upon the story of the bag of bones. Having a gut feeling that the bones may be that of a client’s missing husband, he called the police. The next day, dental records confirmed that the skeleton was indeed Gassen’s client’s husband, Louis “Babe” Silvers.

     Babe disappeared on January 24, 1960, and his wife hired Gassen to have Silvers declared dead to collect on the estate. She did not have a role in the killing, but she knew that when men like Babe disappeared, they rarely came back. Lou had stepped on someone’s toes and was now gone for good.

     Police had a preliminary list of suspects, and thanks to a tip, soon found the remainder of the skeleton in a shallow grave near the home of Miami/New Jersey underworld figure Joseph Farinella. This was significant because Silvers was also a Miami underworld figure, with ties to a cadre of mobsters.

     Babe Silvers was born January 20, 1915 in Brooklyn, NY. In 1932 he was arrested for the first time for robbery and spent 5 years in a reformatory. Reform, though wasn’t an option for Silvers and upon release he went back to small-time crimes, graduating up to bigger scores, and prison sentences. Babe was arrested for bookmaking, assault, larceny, and homicide. He spent time in most of the New York state prisons.

     He married Lila, in 1951 and in April of that year went to Miami for a honeymoon. He liked the warm climate and moved down there permanently. Lou set up shop as a loanshark and bookmaker and established himself with various underworld figures. Babe’s associates and business partners included:

     Bennie Hussick- a bookmaker from Philadelphia, Hussick was partners with Lou’s brother, Pat in gambling and loansharking. He was also a partner with Babe in a horse betting parlor. Bennie later took up with Santo Trafficante Jr., and became a member of the Trafficante family’s Miami faction.

     Thomas Altamura- Tommy was a made member of the Gambino family and a top loanshark in Miami. He was closely aligned with Santo Trafficante.

     Mickey Grasso- owner of the nightclub Club 22, and a convicted bookmaker. He was involved with Babe in the blue Bay Motel.

     John “Peanuts” Tronolone- a bookmaker, club owner, and mob soldier. Tronolone later became boss of the Cleveland family.

     On the evening of January 23, 1960, Babe was seen at the Tahiti Bar where he got into a heated argument with Bennie Hussick, JohnTronolone, and underworld figure John Parisi. Babe left the Tahiti and went over to the Chi Chi Club to see Tommy Altamura. After a few drinks Tommy saw Silvers leaving and walking towards his car. That was the last time Silvers was seen alive.

     Babe stopped showing at his usual haunts and was absent from home as well. His wife and brother went to police to file a missing person’s report, but they all knew Babe was gone. Police went around to all Babe’s friends to ask of his whereabouts, but no leads came through. Tomy Altamura showed he was all heart and started giving Lila Silvers a weekly income supplement as well as hiring a private investigator to find the missing gangster.

     By the time his bones were identified, police had questioned over twenty-five mobsters in the Miami area, including Mike Coppola, Frankie Dio, Joe Indelicato, and all of Silvers’s business partners. At first they thought the argument Silvers had the night he disappeared led to his demise. Police were later proven wrong. They were now certain of the identity of one of the killers, Joseph Farinella, although Farinella later beat the charges on a technicality. What was the reason police Farinella murdered Babe?? A simple underworld faux pas that Silvers should have known better than to do- he welshed on a bet.


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