Hillsborough County Florida Murder of Angelo Lazarra


Officers Believe Lazarra Victim of Enemy Racketeers

Investigators starting at the bullet riddled body of Angelo Lazarra, 50 year-old Italian who was assassinated Sunday night, took up a three-forked trail in search of his slayers yesterday and were confident last night one will lead to solution of the crime. Sifting a half dozen possible motives, police and county officers dug into Lazarra's business and private life and developed the three following theories of the murder:

That Lazarra was slain because he knew too much of the operations of a firebug ring he was investigating for Sheriff Joughin and Fire Chief White.

That he was killed by racketeers with whom he was said to be associated, or by rival operators.

That he was the victim of a personal enmity resulting from his alleged activities with racketeers.

Investigated Incendiarism

Most substantial was the first theory, said officers, who knew of Lazarra's investigation of the wholesale incendiarism, which has baffled law enforcement officers and the fire department for months. Lazarra had been working on the case for some time and was said to have developed strong evidence against leaders. Seeing their racket threatened, the fire bugs either hired assassins or lay in waiting themselves for Lazarra at Twenty-ninth street and Twenty-first avenue and killed him, officers believe. Sheriff Joughin leans toward this theory. Lazarra, he said, had been thorough in his investigation and undoubtedly had enough evidence to cause trouble.

Police working on the theory that Lazarra was the victim of a gangster's war said he had become deeply involved in the legal operations as a go-between. He is said to have visited a gambling house a few minutes before he was killed. They believe he stepped into a death trap when he made his appearance there.

Had Personal Enemies

The final theory, that of slaying by personal enemy was listed simply as a motive which should not be overlooked in following up the other trails. A man in Lazarra's position, it was held, was certain to have scores of enemies, persons who would like to see him out of the way. Lazarra was killed by two gunmen who drove their automobile, a Chevrolet sedan, alongside his car a short time after midnight Sunday night and fired two charges of lead slugs from a shotgun into his face. His left shoulder was torn away by one charge and his neck broken by the other. After he was shot he evidently slumped over the steering wheel, his body holding it steady while the car continued for six blocks before stopping in a ditch.

A coroner's inquest scheduled for yesterday morning before Justice of Peace, E. H. Jones was postponed until Thursday after State Attorney Parkhill questioned several witnesses. Those questioned were E. M. Appin, of 103 East Lambright street, streetcar conductor; L. L. Fewell, policemen; Eugene Vining, 1214 Twenty-ninth street, student, and J. S. Sheed, proprietor of the Oak Park tourist camp.

Witnesses Missing

Two witnesses, who saw the murder car lay in wait for Lazarra, we're missing at the hearing yesterday. They are Ed Lamar and John Thompson, negroes. Officers yesterday search the city for them but late last night had not been able to find them. In the meantime, officers were questioning residents in the neighborhood of the scene of the shooting and endeavoring to trace down the Chevrolet sedan which +the killers are said to have used for their work.

Lazarra was driving south on Twenty-ninth street, and as he approached Twenty-first avenue, the gunman's sedan, parked on the street with motor running, shot out alongside him. The gunman fired twice at Lazarra, turned their car around, and disappeared on Twenty-first avenue. Officers immediately called State's Attorney Parkhill into the case and began an intensive investigation to find the slayers. While the motive is not yet definitely determined, the fact that Lazarra was armed is accepted as an indication that he expected trouble. The fact, also that the two gunmen lay in wait for him showed they knew his movements.

Another new angle was entered into the case also yesterday in that two lead slugs, taken from Lazarra's left shoulder, was evident to officers that the gunmen had prepared their own bullets for the killing. The slugs apparently had been especially cut out in large pieces, the buckshot removed and in its place between 10 and 15 of the slugs had been packed in the shell against the powder. This, officers pointed out, would make the shots more effective. The slugs were removed from the body by Dr. W. J. Lancaster.

Lazarra lived at 2313 Eleventh avenue. Funeral services will be held this afternoon at 4:30 o'clock from the residence. Burial will be in Myrtle Hill cemetery. Survivors are his wife, Mrs. Rosalia Lazarra; his father, Jose Lazarra; three sons, Jose, Sam and Frank Lazarra; seven daughters, Misses. Angelina, Frances, Josefina, Adella, Rosalia, Jennie and Mary Lazarra; two sisters, Mrs. Rosalia Capitano and Miss Maria Lazarra, and a brother, Tony Lazarra.

[Source: The Tampa Tribune; Pages 1 & 3; Tuesday, July 28, 1931.]
Transcribed and Submitted by Tam Inman.


A reward of $500 was offered last night by Sheriff Joughlin for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the slayers of Angelo Lazarra who was assassinated late Sunday night as he drove along Twenty-first avenue. Announcement of the reward was made after eight days investigation by both city and county officers along the lines that Lazarra "knew too much" about recent fires and explosions supposedly set off by an arsoning. No arrests had been made last night and the two negros who were a short distance away when the two shots were fired were still being sought.

Negroes Saw Cars

The negroes, Ed Lamar and John Thompson, were walking along Twenty-ninth street about halfway between Michigan and Twenty-first avenues when Lazarra drove past and the murder car drew alongside and the two men in it fired two charges of slugs at him. They said they heard the shots and, turning around, saw the two automobiles beside each other. One of the cars stopped, they said, while the other one kept coming toward them on Twenty-ninth street. The car that stopped after the shooting, turned around and disappeared on Twenty-first avenue.

These witnesses said Lazarra's car went on pass them but that they did not know it was carrying a dead man. One of the negroes identified Lazarra as he lay slumped in the car. Officers were not certain information given by the negroes would throw any further light on the identity of the slayers or their car. After Lazarra was shot his car continued for six blocks south on Twenty-first avenue, halting in a ditch where Lazarra's body fell partly out onto the running board and his pistol fell to the ground.

Slayers' Car Hit Post

Report's that his car, carrying its dead driver, had struck a telephone post, were discounted by investigators yesterday who said it was the murderers' car that struck the post in the slayers' haste to turn around in the street and speed northward. This new theory was borne out by marks on the post. Dents in the post indicated that if they had been made by Lazarra's car, his automobile would have stopped there. An inquest in the case is scheduled to be held tomorrow morning before Justice of the Peace Jones of the Gary district. Funeral services for Lazarra were held yesterday afternoon from the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church, interment in Myrtle Hill Cemetery.

[Source: The Tampa Tribune; Page 1; Wednesday, July 29, 1931.]
Transcribed and submitted by Tam Inman.



An inquest into the murder of Angelo Lazzara Sunday night by two gunmen who drove alongside his car on Twenty-ninth street and riddled his body with slugs, will be opened this morning before a coroner's jury empanelled by E. H. Jones, Justice of the Peace of Gary District. Witnesses will be examined by State Attorney Parkhill. With no concrete evidence developed to establish identity of the gunmen, Judge Parkhill said and after taking of testimony of the little evidence in hand, the corners probe probably would be continued pending the investigation of new clues. Both the sheriff's department and police are continuing their investigation on the theory that Lazzarra was put on the spot because, as an undercover operative for Fire Chief White, he had learned much of the operations of a gang of firebugs responsible for numerous incendiary fires here.

Finds Murder Slugs

Making a personal inspection at the murder scene yesterday, Judge Parkhill bound to slugs imbedded in trees on the Westside of Twenty-ninth street, showing definitely that the gunman's first shot was fired at a point about halfway between Twenty-second and Twenty-first avenues, as Lazarra was driving south on Twenty-ninth street. Officers were continuing their search yesterday for eye witnesses of the killing, particularly two negroes, John Thompson and Ed Lamar, known to have been within half a block of the cars as the shots were fired. Their testimony is needed to support evidence already in hand regarding a description of the gunmen's car.

Victim's Car Continues

Lazzara's car continued south on Twenty-ninth street for several blocks, finally stopping in a clump of bushes. The gunmen's car, described as a new Chevrolet sedan, wheeled about immediately after the shooting and raced at top speed north on Twenty-ninth street. Residents aided Judge Parkhill in his investigation at the murder scene. The slugs were found embedded in small oak trees opposite the point where a trail of blood began on the street pavement.

[Source: The Tampa Tribune; Page 1; Thursday, July 30, 1931.
Transcribed and submitted by Tam Inman.


Lazarra Murder Still Remains Mystery

A coroner's jury reported a verdict yesterday that Angelo Lazarra slain by gunmen Sunday night on Twenty-ninth street, came to his death at the hands of unknown parties. No motive for Lazarra's slaying was advanced in the hearing, and there was no evidence to support any other verdict. Despite the more commonly accepted theory that Lazarra was "put on the spot" because he was employed as an undercover operative for Chief White and had learned much of the operations of a firebug gang here, there was no mention in the inquiry of this phase of investigation.

The jury's verdict leaves the murderer mystery in the hand of Sheriff Joughin and State Attorney Parkhill for a solution. Judge Parkhill, who virtually asked an instructed verdict, said he and Sheriff Joughin would carry on an exhaustive investigation, "possibly with more success in producing evidence to establish identity of the gunmen."

Three Witnesses Examined

The verdict was returned to E. H. Jones, justice of the peace of the Gary district, after examination by Judge Parkhill of three witnesses, who established little more than that Lazarra went to his death from Big Joe Italiano's place; Twenty-ninth street and Buffalo avenue; that report's of two shots were heard and that Lazarra, his body found hanging out the right door of his small car, died from gunshot wounds in the head, back and left shoulder.

Witnesses were Louis Balciro, who said he worked at Big Joe's place and that Lazarra had left there only a few minutes before the shooting; T. M. Graves, a member of the coroner's jury, who said he and his brother, constable H. C. Graves, talk to Lazarra at Big Joe's place, and Dr. W. J. Lancaster, who examined Lazarra's body and produced a slug taken from his neck.

The nature of the conversation between Lazarra and the Graves brothers was not disclosed. Constable Graves said he had gone home before the shooting, and was notified by his brother. Judge Parkhill also place in evidence a slug he found at the murder scene, imbedded in an oak tree on the Westside of Twenty-ninth street, about halfway between Twenty-first and Twenty-second avenues.

Negro Deputy Absent

While there was testimony that Pearl McAden, negro deputy sheriff, was in the vicinity of the murder and heard the report of the killers' guns, he was not called to the stand. It was also disclosed that the negro woman, passenger on a northbound street car, had at least some meager knowledge of the slain and that her name was known to Louis Balciro, but she was not there to testify. "I suggest," Judge Parkhill said at the close of testimony, that the jury be allowed to return a verdict that Angelo Lazarra came to his death at the hands of unknown parties. Then Sheriff Joughin and I can go on with our investigation possibly with more success in producing evidence to establish identity of the gunmen.

Balciro was the first witness examined. "Where do you live?" "Upstairs over Big Joe's place. I have worked for Big Joe about a year and a half." "Did you known Angelo Lazarra?" "Sure I knew him well; about four years." " Where did you last see him?"

Talked to Constable

It was about 12 o'clock the night he was killed. Lazarra was out in front of the place; he was standing there talking to Constable Graves and his brother. Lazarras said "Well, I'm going home." He had his Ford parked in front of the place on Buffalo avenue." "Which way did he go then?" He backed up his car and went south on Twenty-ninth street." "Besided those you have mentioned, was there anyone else about the place when Lazarra left?" "No, Sir, no one around but us." "Did Lazarra say anything peculiar, or act in any way unnatural?" "No, sir, he seemed perfectly natural." "Then as he left Big Joe's he was going towards home?" "Yes, sir, he always went home that way, turning south on Twenty-ninth street."

Heard Two Shots

"What happened then?" "We heard two shots, Mr. Graves said, did you hear those shots?" There was always shooting around that section. He said they sounded like a 45. Then he said, "I'm going up to the corner and see what happened, then we will go and get coffee." We always went to get coffee together. He did not return and I decided to go up there where we heard the shooting." "But before I left a negro woman got off the streetcar at Twenty-ninth street and Buffalo avenue and said there was some shooting up at Twenty-ninth street near Twenty-first avenue." "What became of this woman?" "I took her back up the street with me toward the shooting. On the way I saw Pearl McAden, the negro deputy sheriff, and he asked me if I knew the woman and I told him yes. Pearl McAden did not know then what the shooting was about; that's what he said." "Then you went on up to where the shooting took place; did you see Lazara then?" "Yes, in his car." "Was he dead or alive?" "Dead."

Physician Testifies Dr. Lancaster testified that a slug had broken Lazarra's neck at the base of the skull, and there were gunshot wounds in his face, back and shoulder. Either of the wounds in the face or head would have cause death, he said. Judge Parkhill then turned to T. M. Graves and asked him to explain what he knew of the case. "Lazarra and myself were sitting on the running board of his car talking at Big Joe's place," he said. "We talked for some time, and finally he said he was going home. My brother had been there and talk to Lazarra but he had gone home." Graves then reiterated much of the testimony as given by Balciro.

Graves Guards Stores "What is your business, Mr. Graves?" Parkhill continued. "I have a merchant's control out there; guarding grocery stores and other businesses against robbery. I stay up all night in my work." The jury was composed of Graves, Lawrence Hernandez, Joe Sanchez, C. A. Minton, Joe Pulleo and Charles Sorondo. Lazarra was riddled with slugs by two gunmen who drove alongside his car, and after firing the shots are supposed to have wheeled about and raced back north on Twenty-ninth street. Lazarra's car, with his body slumped out of the door, continued for several blocks and stopped in a clump of bushes south of Michigan avenue. The gunman's car was described as a new Chevrolet sedan.

[Source: The Tampa Tribune; Page 1; Friday, July 31, 1931.]
Transcribed and submitted by Tam Inman.


Seek Gang Responsible For Heavy Losses

Federal investigators have joined with city and county authorities in the investigation of incendiary fires which have caused enormous losses here, it became known yesterday. Finish fight is being waged to round up the leaders of the racket as detectives follow a trail of murder and conspiracy between property owners and incendiary gangsters and steadily mounting losses represent at least 50 percent of Tampa's total fire damage.

One killing has been laid to the firebug ring, detectives feeling positive that Angelo Lazzara, an informer, who tips caused the arrest of several gang suspects, was "taken for a ride" in true underworld fashion. His bullet-ridden body was found slumped in an automobile last July 26. The murder remains unknown salt crime, but Lazzara investigators say, paid the penalty exacted by the firebug racketeers.

Marshall Jones is positive the incendiary ring is the most highly organized underworld gang in Florida. During his three years of constant investigation into all fires within the city limits as well as independent work in the county, Jones has followed the firebug racket from its modest beginning in the wake of the real estate boom. Property owners desirous or employing a firebug, Jones explained, are offered two contract forms. They may either pay a flat fee, ranging from $50 and depending on the size of the building to be burned and its location, or agree to divide the insurance with the gangsters.

Once a contract has been made, the Marshall said, the property owner nearly follows the orders of the racketeers, leaving town shortly before his building is burned so as to establish a personal alibi. And the scientific methods used to start the fires, Jones added, invariably result in complete destruction.

[Source: The Tampa Tribune; Page 7; Thursday, January 14, 1932.]
Transcribed and submitted by Tam Inman.

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