On December 5, 1988, police at last took the missing persons report from Gerald and Helen, and began a real investigation. But a time lapse is always an investigative handicap, especially when a crime happens unobtrusively. Someone who had noticed the sudden departure of Rosemary and her mother, but thought little of it in September, would likely have trouble recalling details almost three months later. In a pattern that would repeat itself, the detectives made some progress but then hit a wall.
Upset and impatient, the Vasquez family had consulted a PI and a psychic, before retaining Cadieux. They wanted to follow up on the psychic’s advice that the bodies were in a marsh. Cadieux had no problem with that. “If my daughter was missing,” he said, “I’d try anything, too.” Even the police now went along, diligently searching the nearest marshland, but it was impossibly wet — a body wouldn’t even stay buried.
Then Cadieux followed Lifrieri through Brooklyn, noting the subject’s many stops at businesses where he went in and came out in less than a minute, always empty-handed. With a thirty-second spiel, tops, Lifrieri wasn’t exactly selling coffee — nor any other legitimate product or service.
On Wednesday afternoon, July 5, 1989, Cadieux watched covertly as Lifrieri came home, then approached Lifrieri’s door and rang the bell. The suspect was not about to open the door.
“I’m not a cop,” Cadieux recalls telling the door, “I’m a private investigator, you can talk to me.”
“Why do you want to speak to me?” Lifrieri asked, through the door now partly open.
“Do you know Rosemary Vasquez and Rose Santoro?”
“Yes, but I don’t know why you want to talk to me about them.”
“I’m working for the family,” Cadieux stated the obvious, and wondered aloud whether he might be expected to question people at random. “How did you know them,” he continued, “and what kind of realationship did you have?”
“I was friends with Rosemary. Her father introduced me to her seven years ago. I know her father, Jerry, fifteen years.”
“Was Rosemary your girlfriend?”
“No, we were just friends.”
“When did you see Rosemary or her mother, Rose, last?”
“Sometime in early August of last year.”
“Do you know where they are,” asked Cadieux, “or if something has happened to them?”
“I have no idea,” Lifrieri protested. “The police questioned me about them. I told them the same thing — that I know nothing about them or where they might be.”
Cadieux asked about another woman, whom Lifrieri admitted was his longtime girlfriend, and then the PI changed the focus, “Did you ever borrow $40,000 from Rosemary and her mother?”
“No, I didn’t. In 1987, I owed her $15,000. I paid her $15,000 and $2,500 interest.”
“Where did you get the money to pay Rosemary?”
Lifrieri said he had sold assets, to satisfy an IRS bill.
“Did you ever sign a note for a $40,000 loan?”
“Absolutely not,” said the man Rosemary had loved. The only man her mother had trusted with her cherished daughter was lying to a PI about the loan to him of their life savings.
“Did the police ask you to take a lie detector test?”
“I offered to take one,” Lifrieri announced, “but changed my mind, because I didn’t like the way the police were handling everything.”
“Would you take a lie detector test if I could set one up?” asked Cadieux. “Nothing to do with the police.”
“No, not after the way I’ve been treated.”
“Did you give Rosemary checks for $29,000 and $20,800?”
Lifrieri admitted he had — the checks were for “some condo deal… I know they bounced,” he admitted. “They weren’t supposed to be cashed or deposited. I was pissed off that she put those checks through.”
Cadieux was understanding. “Did you think they were trying to pull a fast one on you?”
“Yes,” Lifrieri said, “I did.”
“Did you think they were trying to rip you off?”
“That’s exactly what I thought.”
“Were you angry at Rosemary?”
“I wouldn’t say angry, but I was upset.” Cadieux knew Lifrieri had written a new set of checks and he got Lifrieri to confirm it. “They were for the same condo deal — not for deposit.”
“If you were upset about the first two checks,” Cadieux wondered, “why did you give them more checks?”
“I felt sorry for them. I wanted to help them out.”
“You thought they were trying to rip you off — why would you want to help them?”
“That’s it, I’m done,” snapped Lifrieri. “If anyone wants to ask questions, they can do it through my attorney.”
Cadieux had kept Lifrieri talking for forty minutes on his doorstep, catching him out several times. The PI knew the cops had asked Lifrieri what happened to the Cadillac Fleetwood registered in his name; Lifrieri had told them he “sold it to some Spanish guys on the street.” He told Cadieux he sold the car for junk.
Lifrieri’s boss at Blue Chip was under investigation by the state Waterfront Commission, Cadieux knew, for highjacking goods off the piers, and by Customs and the DEA for importing Colombian drugs stashed among huge bags of coffee. Viola’s was ‘blue chip’ coffee, all right. The boss of the Waterfront Commission cops was Jack Ferguson, a retired NYPD detective pal of Cadieux. (Detectives frequently remain in law enforcement after retiring with twenty years of NYPD service.)
Anthony Viola, though not an actual “made guy,” was a bona fide Genovese associate. Lifrieri had to have been thrilled by the mob connections he had made — for the big money-making potential. Cadieux figured Lifrieri saw himself as a loan shark or a coke dealer — all he needed was a stake. Say, forty thousand dollars, for openers. The Daily News story about Rosemary and her mom omitted Lifrieri’s mob connection and the fact that his boss was under investigation.