The night of July 11, 1928, a man walking past a dump located near the intersection of Maurice and Borden Avenues made a grisly discovery – the body of a man described in newspaper accounts as having been “flashily” dressed in a brown suit. Detective Shearer of the Maspeth Precinct was alerted and responded to the scene. He notified the medical examiner’s office but a determination of whether the deceased was shot, stabbed or beaten to death could not be made on scene because of the advanced decomposition of the body. A murder investigation was opened with the detective thinking that the victim’s body may have been dumped from a car after a gangland hit, incidents of which were becoming increasingly common.
By July 15, police identified the victim as a 21-year-old known gangster named Max Goldstein of East 3rd Street, Manhattan, who had a long rap sheet and was known on the streets as “Skinny the Rat.” He was ultimately identified by his father who recognized the tattoos on his arm. Police determined that his date of death was July 7 as that was the last day anyone reported seeing him alive. Police questioned Jack Nadler, a known Brooklyn gangster, as a suspect. The theory was that Goldstein had gotten in trouble with Nadler’s gang. It was believed they may have “taken him for a ride” then killed him and dumped his body in the Maspeth landfill. Nadler was never charged but may have implicated the eventual arrestees.
By July 24, police had arrested 4 suspects: Charles Capaci, age 24, Capaci’s brother-in-law Dominick Samartino, age 17, Isadore Gottlieb, age 32, and Tony Savarene, age 23. Samartino lived in Manhattan while the others all hailed from Brooklyn. Based on information they had obtained, the police theorized that the men invited Goldstein to the lot under the guise of “meeting some girls” but upon exiting the car, Goldstein was bludgeoned to death.
Capaci and Samartino admitted they were in the car with Goldstein and the other two suspects but did not know that a murder was about to take place. The 4 men went to trial in early December. Realizing that he could be sent to the chair if found guilty, the youngest of the group, Samartino, became a state’s witness at the start of the December 7th trial and testified against the others. He described the chain of events as follows:
The team met up in Brooklyn and were convinced by Gottlieb to drive to the Bronx to pull off a “safe job,” first stopping to pick up some guns in Manhattan. When Gottlieb started driving out to Queens instead of to the Bronx, Capaci protested. Gottlieb replied that he had gotten a tip about some “Lovers Lane petting parties” that the five men could rob. Samartino said he was willing to go along with the scheme but was not clued in as to what the real reason for the trip to Maspeth was.
The men exited the car at the Maurice Avenue dump with Gottlieb lagging behind. Gottlieb suddenly rushed Goldstein and started choking him with one hand while bludgeoning him with a stone held in the other hand. Goldstein broke free and Gottlieb shot a round at him but missed. Samartino said he yelled at Gottlieb to stop because Goldstein had been beaten enough, but Gottlieb ordered his fellow gangster to be killed. Capaci then hurled a rock at Goldstein but missed. Gottlieb picked the rock up and continued to beat Goldstein until he died. The men then retreated to the car and ditched it near the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge. None of his fellow defendants admitted to understanding Gottlieb’s motive but they heard him call Goldstein a “rat” during the crime and believed Goldstein had been identified as a stool pigeon.
The medical examiner reported that there were no bullet holes in Goldstein’s body and that he had died from a skull fracture, which corroborated Samartino’s account. The judge in the case called off the trial to allow the defendants to plead to lesser charges, with the consent of prosecutors. The next day, December 8, Gottlieb pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter, Savarese pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter, Capaci pleaded guilty to second degree assault, and in return for his testimony, all charges were dropped against Samartino. On December 14, 1928, Gottlieb and Savarese were sentenced to 25 years in Sing Sing Prison while Capaci received a 3-month sentence at a workhouse. Skinny the Rat’s killers didn’t exactly get away with murder, but managed to spare themselves the chair.
In the next issue of the Juniper Berry, we will revisit the other mysterious Maspeth murder of 1928.