Love is a Risk True Crime Short Story by E.W. Count

risk.lifriericops-5Paolucci did not give up where the Caddy was, because he did not know, but the witness did know where Lifrieri had done the murders. Crime Scene was called to Viola’s coffee warehouse, and they recovered blood evidence in the very closet Paolucci described. He also told the detectives how Lifrieri had lured the younger woman to Blue Chip with a promise to pay her back. . . and how, before very long, the mother had followed her daughter there — only to meet the same horrible fate.

The detectives still had no clue to the bodies’ location. The Caddy had remained where the junkie had parked it, until an odor made it unwelcome. Viola told Lifrieri, “Get rid of the car.” Mob guys often push cars into the water, and Paolucci offered Tomasulo a likely location on the Brooklyn waterfront. As soon as the detective could, he called the NYPD scuba team to do a search. No Caddy.

To try a murder, prosecutors really like to have a body — at the very least, proof of death under violent circumstances. The Brooklyn DA needed proof that the blood found in Blue Chip’s closet was Rosemary’s. Her father, Gerald Vasquez, gave the detectives a sample of his blood for DNA comparison with the crime scene blood. The delicate DNA lab tests were completed over the summer, and came back a positive match.

“In a rare move for a murder case,” reported the Daily News on Tuesday, September 17, 1991, “Lifrieri was arrested, even though the bodies have not been recovered.” Cadieux had asked The News reporter to emphasize that point; other media noted it, as well. The PI was sure that someone would come forward with information.

On the night of the collar, Lifrieri denied the crimes to the arresting detectives, and lied again about what he had done with his Caddy Fleetwood. Lifrieri occupied the prisoners’ cell adjacent to the squad room at Brooklyn South Homicide. Det. Tomasulo and the informant, Paolucci, put their heads together. Paolucci, “under arrest as an accessory,” would be thrown in the cell with Lifrieri, and would tell Lifrieri to do the right thing. “I don’t wanna go for two murders! Tell them where you put your car.” Hours later, when Tomasulo released Paolucci, the junkie did not say where the car was, but he told Billy Jack, “Not to worry — you’ll find it. . . “

Before midnight that same Tuesday night, September 17, the 577-TIPS line rang at 1 Police Plaza, in the Crime Stoppers squad office. Referring to The News article, the anonymous tipster gave an address only blocks from Lifrieri’s home. The bodies, the tipster said, were in the trunk of a car, parked in an open air lot in the Bay Ridge section of South Brooklyn. It was too late for the next day’s papers, but on Thursday, shots of the gray Cadillac were featured — along with the bizarre news that since April, 1990, Lifrieri had been paying to park the car — a hundred dollars per month. Why he kept the bodies is an abiding mystery.

In New York City, the Crime Stoppers squad advertises rewards of up to a thousand dollars if a caller’s tip pans out. Anonymity is key: the caller gets an ID number, and never need give a name to collect the money. The identity of the hotline caller will never be known. Well, not for sure. The junkie has since died of AIDS. But, Det. Tomasulo contends, “Of course, Paolucci knew the hotline and he knew their rewards are plenty more than we could pay him. . . .”

In 1988, the year Rose Santoro and her daughter died at Lifrieri’s hands, more than two percent of all New York City murders were committed by spouses (legally married, or common law) who killed their partners. Rose Santoro never should have put aside her fear of sharing her daughter with any man. Indeed, the story and statistics confirm what the mother had always known, love is a risk.


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