Death Scene at 1st Ward Democratic Club

In this bonus episode I try my hand at a dramatic reading of the 1950 newspaper articles reporting on the famous Kansas City mob executions of Charles Binnagio and Charles Gargotta.

On April 5, 1950, Binaggio and Gargotta left their bodyguard at the Last Chance Saloon and drove to a secret meeting at the 1st Ward Democratic Club. The next morning, a passing taxi driver discovered theBinnagio bodies in the club, each with four bullet wounds to the head. Gargotta is the body on the floor near the door, under a large portrait of then-president Harry S. Truman. Binnagio was found sitting in his chair. Gargotta and Binnagio had taken other mobster’s, including New York City mobsters, money to support several state wide political candidates, including the governor. Their gubernatorial candidate, Forrest Smith, won the 1948 election. He had promised to appoint Kansas City and St. Louis Police Board members who would appoint gambling friendly police chiefs in both cities. These new police officials were to ignore mob backed illegal gambling. Smith double crossed the two Charlies and neither city was opened up for mob supported gambling interests.

The high profile murders of Gargotta and Binaggio, and exposure of their planned subversion of the criminal justice system, created public pressure on President Harry Truman to support a congressional investigation into organized crime. President Truman did not oppose the now famous Kefauver Commission hearings in the U.S. Senate, named after Senator Estes Kefauver. This travelling commission exposed organized crime activities in all major American cities. During these hearings, Kefauver made the following observation about Gargotta:

“If ever a human being deserved the title of ‘Mad Dog’ it was Gargotta.”

 

 

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