The arrests of 127 suspected Mafia leaders throughout the New York and Tri State area has once again focused attention on one of the most notorious killings by the mafia of the last 30 years which is mentioned prominently in the indictments.
That was the Shamrock Bar killings in Queens when Irish American owner Richard Godkin and co-owner John D’Agnese were shot dead.
D'Agnese died from a single gunshot to the face and Godkin died from a point-blank gunshot to his chest.
A witness to the crime was Linda Gotti, niece of the infamous Don and girlfriend of D’Agnese . She later recanted her evidence on the stand.
A court affidvait at the time gives the flavor of what happened.
“April 11 1981 It is "Western" night at the Shamrock Bar, a bar located in Richmond Hill, Queens at 86-09 Jamaica Avenue.
It is late, perhaps 2:30 a.m., and a man and a woman are seated together at the bar. A third individual, a young man, will accidentally spill his drink upon the dress of the first man's date.
This ill-timed act induces a heated response from the first man, an individual who is now known to have been Frank Riccardi. The bartender's attempts at peacemaker are to no avail. Riccardi is hot and the intervention of John D'Agnese, one of the co-owners of the saloon, only raises his ire.
D'Agnese is left with no recourse but to "86" the unruly patron. Riccardi and his date comply with the owner's command to leave, but before he exits Riccardi threatens: "I will be back!"
Unfortunately, Riccardi is true to his word, and some 20 minutes later he, and two other men, push their way into the crowded bar seeking vengeance. Violence has arrived and death will soon follow.
Shoving D'Agnese against a pinball-type bowling game, Riccardi and one of his two accomplices are engaged in roughing the owner up when a gun shot rings out. John D'Agnese has been fatally shot and his friend and co-owner, Richard Godkin, is seen running across the room to offer his assistance.
He is apparently unaware of Riccardi's second accomplice, standing armed and silent along the wall. The gunman is quick to react and the act is repeated. Richard Godkin has also been shot and, he too, will expire that morning.
The bloodletting at the Shamrock Bar was on April 11, 1981. The defendant was not arrested until on or about November 23, 1998. His arrest, subsequent to his November 19, 1998 indictment by the Grand Jury and pursuant to an arrest warrant, was effectuated some seventeen years and seven months after the incident. Citing the excessive pre-indictment delay, the defendant has moved to dismiss the indictment as violative of his due process rights under both the State and Federal Constitutions. The People have opposed such relief and a Singer (44 NY2d 241 (1978)) hearing was ordered by the Court. The hearing spanned three days of testimony: March 30, April 12 and April 16, 1999, and included four People's witnesses: Retired Detectives William Gill and Carmine Bottari, Detective Thomas Mansfield of the "Cold Case Squad," and former Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Segal.(Note 1)
Based upon a careful examination of the credible testimony adduced at the Singer hearing; due consideration of the moving papers and memorandums of law submitted by both parties; and, a review of the applicable case and statutory law, the Court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
Findings of Fact
Retired Detective William Gill, formerly of the 102nd Precinct's Detective Squad, was assigned to investigate the D'Agnese - Godkin double homicide on the morning of the shooting. Together with a Sergeant Snyder, he responded to the crime scene, the now empty Shamrock Bar. During the course of his investigation he would interview approximately 20-25 individuals, a group consisting of the bartender that evening and patrons present at the time of the crime. From the bartender it was soon learned that the names of the perpetrators were Frankie "The Geech;" Ronnie "The Jew;" and "Pepe." Through further investigation and with the assistance of then Detective Carmine Bottari and other members of the Queens Homicide Squad, it was ascertained that Frankie "The Geech" was Frank Riccardi and that Ronnie "The Jew" was Ronnie Barlin.
Riccardi, who was determined to be the instigator of the incident (the individual who had been asked to leave the bar), was positively identified by the bartender, who knew him from another hang-out, named the Patio Club, and by a female witness-patron, one Linda Gotti, who was able to identify Riccardi through his high school yearbook photograph. Barlin, who had a prior criminal history, was identified by the two witnesses thru a Bureau of Criminal Identification photograph. Following his arrest, Barlin was placed in a lineup and Ms. Gotti came forward to again identify him as one of the perpetrators.
Who was "Pepe?" From a Special Agent contact within the FBI, Detective Bottari learned that the federal government was very much aware of an individual named "Pepe." In fact, they were willing to provide the subject's address and telephone number to the police, as well as the name of a woman he supposedly lived with, a "Jackie."
Could the FBI's "Pepe" be the very same "Pepe" that the police were interested in locating?
Reasoning that a picture would be most helpful to any further investigation, Detective Bottari authorized the taking of surveillance photos at a club known as a "wise-guy joint"(Note 2),on 101st Street, near the Brooklyn border. The decision bore fruit immediately, for among the photographs taken were two that would eventually be identified by witnesses as the man then known as "Pepe," soon to be correctly identified as Robert Vernace.
Several visits by different detectives to the home of "Jackie," or Jacqueline (Settle) Vernace, yielded the following information as of September 30, 1981. Yes, the man in the surveillance photo was her husband and his name was indeed Robert Vernace(Note 3). Other than that single admission, Jackie was uncooperative with the detectives. No, she couldn't tell the police where her husband was, he had "left home"...was "gone," and she was very pregnant that Fall of 1981.
The surveillance photos were also shown to the bartender and to Ms. Gotti, with positive results in each case. The former was able to make Vernace out as one of the three perpetrators, while the latter was able to establish his presence within the Shamrock Bar at the moment of the shooting.
Oddly, the surveillance photographs were never shown to any of the 20-25 other witnesses. It must be assumed that the police were confident that they possessed probable cause for the arrest of the defendant based upon the two positive identifications made by the bartender and Ms. Gotti.
Yet, why did they not attempt to buttress this proof and exhibit the photos to the other witnesses as well? No satisfactory answer to that question was ever given at the Singer hearing.