Posts tagged “Max Adonnis

Ringing in the New Year: Murder, the Fish Wrapper, and a New Book

If city homicides continue at their current rate, Milwaukee will witness 365 slayings in 2012. Experiencing five murders in as many days is, of course, purely coincidental, although it seems the stars are aligning at an awkward time. In just a few hours, Police Chief Edward Flynn is set to take the oath of office for a second term, a day after an assistant chief retired under a shroud of secrecy.

But this isn’t the first time Milwaukee began the New Year with a bang. Twenty-one years ago, three people were murdered in the early hours of January 1—two at a tavern on S. 15 and W. Mitchell Streets.  As the following link illustrates, the clatter of gunfire ushering in the New Year is a tradition, of sorts, in some Milwaukee neighborhoods.

To avoid being hit by falling lead, some officers make it a point to have a roof over their heads during the first 15 minutes of the year. Things get real ugly in the ensuing hours as drunkenness sometimes results in a run-of-the-mill argument ending with a body or two being scrapped from the pavement.

Adding to the disproportate increase in January homicides is the unseasonably warm weather. Once the frigid cold returns—and it will—armed gang members with a grudge will hunker down inside their heated drug houses. Data driven policing be damned, experience dictates that the next rash of back-to-back homicides will probably occur during the first warm days of early spring.


Seasoned detectives of yore often referred to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its predecessor, the Milwaukee Journal, as ‘the fish wrapper.’ Obviously, these old school sleuths didn’t think too highly of the crew at 333 W. State Street (although the old Milwaukee Sentinel received higher marks).

Yet I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—better known these days as—is now charging a fee to view its Web site content. As any sound business model suggests, a company giving away its products for free will soon be out of business.

As of this morning, however, the newspaper’s home page, containing a wide variety of information—such as the popular “News Watch” section—is still accessible at no cost.

Here is some free advice for the brass at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: if you actually want people to pay for the content of your newspaper, lock down your Web site.  Do not surrender a single morsel of information unless readers pay for the content. Otherwise, tight-fisted persons, like me, will not fork over $2.35 month. Why? Residents of southeastern Wisconsin are very frugal (i.e. we’re cheap).

On the other hand, if the JS would increase the size of its staff and actually unearth some news of local import, many of us might be willing to pay $5 a month. Over the past ten years, the corruption scandals involving members of the city’s common council, Ald. Michael McGee Jr.’s shakedown of businesses in his district, and public employees using government computers to advocate on behalf of politicians, have pretty much flown under the newspaper’s radar screen.  Instead, the newspaper has three reporters investigating one of the few public institutions that actually performs reasonably well—the Milwaukee Police Department.


Recently, some readers have asked about a number of previous posts currently unavailable at SF.  To view these outstanding articles, readers will need to purchase Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, a Kindle only e-book debuting later this month. I personally selected top-notch pieces, like “Max [Adonnis] & the Mob” and “Serial Killer in Plain Sight for All to See,” for publication. The cost of this new book is just $3 and will be available exclusively at

The proceeds from of Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I help fund this Web site’s overall operations.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

Organized Crime Flick Provides Insight into Thug Life

One of SF’s popular blog posts is Max & the Mob, the story of Max Adonnis and his involvement with organized crime in Milwaukee.

For those of you interested in the workings of organized crime, the movie Kill the Irishman is a must see.  The DVD was released in mid-June.

I purchased the book, by the same name, after its release in 2004. The author, Rick Porrello, is a retired Cleveland PD detective.  Porrello began his law enforcement career when he was just 18-years-old.  In his early 30s, he made detective and was soon assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, where he kept tabs on that city’s mob scene. 

Portello grew-up in the same blue collar neighborhood as Danny Greene, an Irish ruffian who hardened his fists warding-off a group of tough Sicilian kids.  After working as a laborer on the Cleveland docks, Greene stepped into the organized crime scene by taking over the longshoreman’s union, where he hatched a  two-bit larceny ring, which included both Irish union associates and members of Cleveland’s Italian crime family. These crews looted cargo trailers while leaving a trail of enemies that eventually ratted Greene out.  While in custody, Greene maintained the code of silence. Once he was released, he became a smarter criminal and soon found work with a Jewish gangster’s loan sharking operation.

But, like most organized crime figures, the list of Greene’s enemies grew.  He soon found himself in hot water with the godfather of Cleveland’s Jewish mob—a man Greene later killed.

Greene’s rise within Cleveland’s organized crime hierarchy later caused him to run afoul with a La Cosa Nostra crime family.  The battle for Cleveland was on, as bombs exploded and bodies were scraped from the pavement. The movie features some actual footage of crime scenes; however, the message is simple: very few of those living the thug life reach the retirement age untouched by perdition or the law.

SF gives Kill the Irishman five stars. The movie brought back memories of Augie  Palmisano, the Milwaukee organized crime figure allegedly killed by a member of the Chicago mob on June 30, 1978.  


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.  

If your organization is on the lookout for a fascinating guest speaker, please consider Steve Spingola’s Psychology of Homicide Presentation.  To learn more, visit:

© Steve Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

Max & the Mob

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department Homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010