MONTREAL — The patriarch of a notorious Mafia family, which for decades wielded power within Canada and internationally, was shot and killed in his own home Wednesday afternoon.
The shooting of Nicolo Rizzuto, 86, heralded the precipitous demise of a long-dominant criminal organization that, for decades, lorded over the underworld with few rivals.
A gunman entered the north-end mansion and fired at least one shot. Two female members of his family were also believed to be home and were unharmed. A frantic 911 call was made and Rizzuto was rushed to hospital.
He was pronounced dead there.
A neighbour expressed surprise at the death. Even though other members of the family had been killed or disappeared in recent months, he figured the elderly, fedora-wearing Sicilian immigrant might be spared.
“Not with the old man. He was 86 years old – you figure he’s out of the situation,” said the neighbour, who identified himself as Paul.
“I don’t know why they went to that extent of going after the old fella.”
Wednesday’s murder drove an unmistakable nail into the coffin of a once-formidable criminal organization.
The Rizzuto crime family came to prominence with a violent coup against its Calabrian rivals in the 1970s.
It became one of the most powerful Mafia families in the world, with tentacles reaching into untold businesses considered legitimate including bars, restaurants and construction companies.
The clan was brought to its knees in a massive 2006 police dragnet where scores of mobsters were arrested. It appears to have received its coup de grace over the last year. The family and its associates have been targeted in a series of slayings that crime analysts consider an attempt to end its hold on power.
The reputed boss of the family. Vito Rizzuto, is in a U.S. jail.
Because he was behind bars he couldn’t attend the funeral for his own son, Nicolo’s grandson and namesake, when he was shot down last year in broad daylight. It’s now unclear whether he might attend his father’s.
Nicolo Rizzuto was not considered the family boss but was instrumental in its rise and blood-soaked revolt against the Calabrese Cotroni family. Over the years, he racked up several convictions and prison sentences, including for cocaine-trafficking in Venezuela.
In August 2009, Federico del Peschio, 59, a Rizzuto family friend, was shot to death behind a restaurant in north-end Montreal.
Last May, Paolo Renda, 70, a top lieutenant and a member of the Rizzuto family by marriage, mysteriously vanished close to his Montreal home.
Renda was considered the No. 3 in the operation, the “consigliere” or councillor, and is married to Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.’s daughter, Maria.
The site of his disappearance was not far from Wednesday’s shooting.
The upscale Montreal neighbourhood was blocked off by police tape and crawling with police cars.
Media and curious onlookers were kept far from the home with the giant marble columns that belonged to Rizzuto.