It looks like a quiet place, just steps from the traffic noise of Lake Shore Drive. It is a pleasant courtyard. The building is and always has been well kept. It has an almost serene feel.
Yet, in one of the apartments of this courtyard building, a horrific murder took place.
The story is long, involved, and reads like a gangster saga. The "Godfather" had nothing on the Chicago mob. This is the very short version.
In 1941, Willie Bioff, a former violent pimp, and George Browne, a union thug, were indicted for shaking down the movie industry and Chicago theater chains. They took payoffs to prevent "labor problems". They were front men, bag men really, for the Chicago Outfit and New York mob controlled IATSE and film projectionist unions.*
A Chicago mobster, Nick Circella, a.k.a. Nicky Dean, was in charge of the two men. He was also indicted. Nicky Dean ran night clubs and gambling for the outfit. He was dating a woman named Estelle Carey. Ms. Carey was described as stunning. She was a 26 girl (A dice game) and hostess in Dean's Colony Club on Rush Street.
Carey would steer clients to the big game tables on the upper floors of the club. If the client was a high enough roller, she would provide other services.
After being indicted, Circella and Carey went into hiding for several months. Circella was eventually apprehended. While circumstances are unclear, the mob thought Circella would turn states evidence. Much pressure was being put on him by the Justice Department.
On the afternoon of February 2, 1943 a fire broke out in one of the apartments at 512 W. Addison. Firemen found the smoldering corpse of a woman. She was beaten, stabbed with an ice pick, and set on fire after being soaked with some kind of flammable liquid. The flesh was burned off her legs. Her hair and blood covered the floor and walls.
Police found a blackjack, ice pick, electric iron, and broken whiskey bottle. Estelle Carey owned a lot of very expensive jewelry and furs. Only two fur coats were missing. Police surmised the murder was made to look like a robbery. There had been several fur coat heists in the area recently.
After Ms. Carey was identified, police did not initially suspect organized crime was involved. There was a rule about harming wives or girlfriends of mobsters. The penalty was death.
Eventually several theories emerged, most of them pointing to the Outfit. None could ever be proven.
Nick Circella never talked.
*The account of the Estelle Carey murder is from the book, "Outfit" by Gus Russo.
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