Murder was just a cost of doing business in the Bensonhurst household of late mobster Greg Scarpa Sr. And as Linda Schiro, the winsome brunette with the button nose who shared the mobster's home for 30 years, matter-of-factly explained on the witness stand last month, Scarpa's many homicides were just thatsimply business.
Asked about the murder of her late son Joey's 18-year-old best friend, Patrick Porco, Schiro's voice grew faint and she plucked anxiously at a gold locket she wore around her neck. Inside was a photo of her son, who was himself killed in 1995.
"Patrick Porco is my son's friendwas my son's friend," Schiro said, correcting herself. "They were like brothers." She recounted in trembling tones how on May 27, 1990Memorial Day weekendFBI agent Lindley DeVecchio had called Scarpa, his secret and much-prized FBI informant. DeVecchio, she testified, had an urgent warningthat Patrick Porco was talking to the police about another murder he and Joey had committed.
She told how Scarpa had furiously ordered his son to accompany his cousin, John Sinagra, to find and kill his friend. And she told how Joey had returned home from his murderous mission and fled upstairs, where he collapsed in wails. "He was in a fetal position in the hallway," she testified. "He kept saying, 'I loved Patrick.' And I say, 'I know, Joey. I loved Patrick. We all loved Patrick.' "
Of all the stories Linda Schiro told over the yearsto the writers with whom she met, as well as to the rapt courtroom she appeared before last monthher account of the slaying of Patrick Porco has been the most consistent and compelling, hence the most believable.
When the Voice reported two weeks ago that Schiro had told dramatically different versions in 1997 about three of the four murders she alleged DeVecchio had helped her mobster boyfriend commit, charges were abruptly dropped.
But Schiro's account on the witness stand of the murder of Patrick Porco was essentially consistent with the way she told it to me and reporter Jerry Capeci 10 years ago. Which left an important question dangling in the air: Was the district attorney's star witness telling the truth, at least about this one crime that was so painful to her?
"Patrick Porco was like my son," she testified. Which could be a very good reason to believe her. Or not.
The prosecution's theory of the Porco slaying was that DeVecchio had used his law-enforcement connections to find out that Porco was being leaned on by detectives seeking to catch the killers in another murder, that of Dominick Masseria, a 17-year-old who was gunned down on 15th Avenue in Bensonhurst on Halloween night, 1989.
"Linda will tell you she was there in 1990 when DeVecchio alerted Scarpa that Porco was weak, and had to be killed," is the way assistant District Attorney Joseph Alexis put it in his opening statement to the court.
But even before Schiro took the stand to tell that story, another witness for the prosecution had already testified otherwise. Reyes Aviles, a convicted drug dealer who had been buddies with Joey Schiro and Patrick Porco, testified that Porco told him "two or three times" that he had informed Joey and his notorious father about his conversations with the cops.
"Patrick told me he had told Joey, and most likely told his father," Aviles testified.
A police memo that never made it into evidence because of the trial's abrupt conclusion told the same story.
In a handwritten note written on May 28, 1990the day after Porco's murderNYPD detective William Powell stated that he and another officer had interviewed Porco's sister Donna at her home in Bensonhurst.
"Donna Porko [sic] stated that after her brother Pat left the 62 Pct. on 1/24/90 he told Scarpa that he had been in the 62 Pct. & had spoken to the detectives, but that he didn't say anything," Powell wrote.
The January 24 date is most certainly a typo. In a hearing last summer concerning the murder indictment of Joey Schiro's cousin, John Sinagra (that case was later dismissed as well), veteran Detective Al Lombardo testified that he had a separate meeting with Porco at the Brooklyn district attorney's office. Lombardo wasn't sure of the date, but he said he was certain it was after April of 1990.
Lombardo testified that Porco told him he was "from the neighborhood" and didn't want to talk about the Masseria killing.
"And what did you tell him?" asked Sinagra's attorney.
"I said they're going to kill you," Lombardo responded.
Detective Powell's memo, along with Reyes Aviles's testimony, suggest that if, as Schiro claimed, DeVecchio reached out to Scarpa on May 27 to warn him about his son's friend, it was already old news. Scarpa already knew about it from a better source than even his FBI handler: Porco himself.
There was another piece of Linda Schiro's tearful version of the Porco killing that didn't mesh with testimony from a prosecution witness. During the trial, the D.A. called Lori Porco Wagner, another of Patrick Porco's sisters, to the stand. Linda Schiro had insistedto Capeci and myself, as well as on the witness standthat her son Joey was so inconsolable about having been forced to kill his best friend that he'd stayed in his room sobbing for days.
But Lori Wagner said that on the day of her brother's death, she had learned about his murder in a phone call from her sister Donna. Wagner said she immediately went looking for answers from Patrick's best friend, Joey Schiro.
She testified that she found him not crying in his room at home but at Romano's Restaurant, an old-world neighborhood favorite on 13th Avenue and 71st Street. Wagner said Schiro was dining with three other members of the gang that he and her brother ran with.
"I walked in and he was sitting there having dinner," Wagner testified. "And I just said to him, 'You killed my brother. You're sitting here having dinner and my brother is dead.' "
Joey Schiro didn't say anything in response, she said.
There was one more piece of testimony about Joey Schiro's behavior immediately after he'd killed his best friend that also doesn't seem to square with his mother's description. A friend of Joey Schiro's named John Novoa, who was partners with Schiro in a cocaine and pot sales business, took the stand during the Sinagra hearings last summer.
Novoa, who was with Joey Schiro when he was killed five years later in a drug deal gone bad, testified that he'd encountered Schiro and Sinagra in a corner store in Bensonhurst immediately after Porco's murder. Sinagra, claimed Novoa, who testified under a cooperation agreement with the government, was standing there playing a Joker-Poker video game, presumably one of the many illegal, mob-controlled devices that can still be found in Brooklyn shops. Joey Schiro was "pacing up and down the store, looking outside," Novoa testified. "They were panicking all over the place, and Joe was just screaming that he wanted to get out of there."
Novoa said that the pair told him about shooting Porco. "That they clipped Pat," as Novoa put it. "They thought he was a rat."
Much later, Novoa said he heard separate and competing accounts of the murder from the killers. He said Sinagra told him that Joey had been driving, while Sinagra sat in the front passenger seat, with Patrick in back. Sinagra told him he'd "spun around and shot Pat," Novoa testified. "Pat was pleading for his life, and he shot him in the mouth."
A couple years after that, Novoa testified, Joey Schiro insisted to him that he was the trigger man, not Sinagra. Novoa said their stories jibed on one ghoulish aspect: that they'd had a hard time throwing the body out the door onto a Sheepshead Bay street.
"[Porco's] foot got stuck on the seat belt," Novoa testifed. "And they were pulling and pulling and they couldn't get him out."
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