After the infamous Bonanno capo killed his victims, he dragged them into a bathtub and dismembered them limb by limb with the precise skill of a professional, according to a bombshell new book, “The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath” (William Morrow) by Philip Carlo.
Pitera is now serving life in prison for six murders, but investigators say the number of people he killed is likely ten times that high.
“Did he kill more people than we knew about? Yes. Did he kill 60 people? No one knows for sure,” said Hunt.
Neither Carlo nor Hunt believe Pitera was a serial killer — although he did keep trophies from his victims, including wedding bands, a classic serial killer trait.
But he was certainly more bloodthirsty than your average mafia hitman. Mafia assassins murder on orders from their bosses, to protect their turf, or for profit, explained Hunt. And while Pitera, nicknamed “Karate” because he studied martial arts, readily whacked on behalf of his bosses, he seemed to enjoy a good kill just for the thrill.
He killed anyone who knew too much about him, including most of his own crew members and friends. He murdered drug dealers so he could steal their goods. He killed anyone he suspected of being a rat.
He even broke a time-honored mafia law — killing a woman.
Phyllis Burdi, a Cindy Crawford look-alike who had a taste for hard drugs, was with Pitera’s wife Celeste the night she overdosed and died — and Pitera blamed Burdi. He exacted his revenge one night, shooting her while she slept and cutting up her body, writes Carlo.
“Tommy was a psychopath, an animal,” said Hunt. “He’d walk into a social club and the guys would all turn to face him. No one wanted their back to Tommy Pitera.”
Carlo got unusual access to both Hunt and the informant who brought down Pitera, a crew member named Frank Gangi — virtually the only one Pitera didn’t kill.
In the book Carlo describes, with eyewitness detail, the gruesome, methodical way Pitera disposed of one victim, Talal Siksik, who he believed was squealing to the cops: “He walked to the bathroom, got undressed, neatly folding his clothes. Then, without a second thought, he got in the tub with the body. He turned on the water in a steady flow, so the blood would be immediately washed down the drain. Without hesitation, Pitera proceeded to remove Talal’s head, arms, and legs. When the body was in six pieces Pitera calmly put what was left of Talal [inside the trunk.] With that he turned up the force of the water, washing down the remnants of the blood. He then took a long, careful shower, got out of the bathtub, and casually began to dry himself,” Carlo wrote.
Then Pitera drove the body to the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge on Staten Island, where, by light of the moon, he and his men dug their own personal cemetery.
Later, Gangi got arrested for drunk driving — and he immediately called for a detective, ready to turn on his old friend Tommy, even though he was only facing a ticket. “This is about murders, terrible murders,” he told the arresting cop, according to Carlo. Gangi just couldn’t live with the guilt.
When DEA agents raided Pitera’s house, they found a virtual “library of death” — hundreds of books on killing, dismemberment and war. Later they would find seven bodies in his personal cemetery on Staten Island. “You can just imagine him driving over the Verrazano, listening to Frank Sinatra, with a body in the trunk,” Carlo said.