Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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Wanted Wednesdays: Santo Trafficante (1914-1987) April 28, 2010

When you think of Organized Crime what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, or even The Sopranos. Florida also has had to deal with their own problems with organized crime and not just the mafia on vacation in our sunny state.

Trafficante was born in Tampa in 1914 to Mafia Don Santo Trafficante, Sr and Maria Giuseppa Cacciatore who were both born in Italy. He started working for the mob in 1953 when he 39. His father sent him to Cuba which at the time was under the power of Fulgencio Batista. While there he set up illegal casinos.

Santos Trafficante, Louis Santos, Enrique Chacon, Samuel Balto were various alibis Trafficante used to deal with his businesses both legal and illegal. Including the casinos in Cuba he was also involved in casinos and nightclubs in Tampa.

In 1959, when Fidel overthrew Batista in Cuba he shut down Trafficante’s casinos and even threw him in jail before deporting him to the United States. It was at this time it is believed that he started talks with the CIA in plots to kill Castro up until his death on March 19.

Trafficante has been charged with gambling operations, at least four Mafia slayings, illegally bribing union officials, racketeering and conspiracy, rumored to be involved in a Mafia plot to kill President John F. Kennedy, though he denied there was any such conspiracy. Over the years while he was charged with all these crimes he was either released or served little to no time.

Information comes from the Cuban Information Archives and Biography.com

 

Wanted Wednesdays: Unsolved Homicides April 7, 2010

If you’ve ever watched prime time shows such as Law & Order, Cold Case, or CSI you’ll know that homicides never close. So I went searching for the oldest open case of homicide in Florida. I found the Sims Homicide which occurred on October 22, 1966 in Leon County Florida. Here is what they know:

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell was the first deputy on the scene 31 years ago on October 22, 1966. At approximately 11 p.m., Dr. Robert W. Sims, 42; and his daughter Joy, 12; were found dead. Helen Sims, 37, was gravely wounded by two gunshots to the head. The older Sims daughters, Virginia, 17; and Judy, 15, were not at home; both were baby-sitting. Joy Sims had been gagged with a stocking and tied up. Her mother was found on the floor; both parents also were tightly bound. Dr. Sims was killed with one bullet to the head; Joy had been stabbed seven times in the chest and abdomen. Mrs. Sims, who had been shot twice in the head and once in the leg, died later at the hospital.

Officers gathering evidence found nearly 1,000 latent fingerprints. There was no sign of forced entry; however, the door lock might have been faulty. The absence of any struggle hints that the victims may have known their killer. More than one killer may have committed the murders. There was no evidence of a struggle in the home, and it would have been difficult for one person to subdue two adults and a child alone.

Anyone who might have information that would help solve this case is urged to contact the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, (850)922-3300.

Leon County Sheriff’s Office http://lcso.leonfl.org/

There are currently 64 unsolved homicides in Florida according to The Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Sims case being the oldest of the them.

 

Wanted Wednesdays: Code Adam March 24, 2010

I have decided to add a new type of post to my blog. It’s called Wanted Wednesdays and will explore the history of Florida’s criminal underbelly.

I’m going to start it off with Code Adam.

Adam Walsh 6 1/2 years old

Code Adam was named after Adam Walsh who was murdered in 1981 in Hollywood, Florida. On July 27, 1981 Adam and his mother Reve went to Sears to look at lamps. Adam saw some video games which were new. Anyone remember Nintendo?  He was allowed by his mother to play video games while she went to look at the lamps. When she came back to the video games Adam was gone. It is thought that he was abducted outside the door after being asked to leave by security along with some older children who were also playing the video game.

On August 10, 1981 his severed head was found in Vero Beach, Florida 100 miles away. The rest of his remains have never been found. Possible suspects for Adam’s kidnapping and death were Jeffrey Dahmer, Ottis Toole, and Henry Lee Curtis. While no one was brought to justice it is believed that Ottis Toole performed the crime.

In 1984 he co-founded National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Adam’s kidnapping and murder spurred John Walsh to begin the television show America’s Most Wanted. It has been since 1988. It has helped “television program has helped take down over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children.”

Code Adam was founded by Wal*Mart in 1994 and was named after Adam Walsh whose story you just read. Many public places including museums, amusement parks and retail stores voluntarily participate in Code Adam. In 2003, Congress passed legislation requiring all Federal buildings to participate in the Code Adam program.

The program consist of six steps.
1.  If a visitor reports a child is missing, a detailed description of the child and what he or she is wearing is obtained. Additionally, all exterior access to the building is locked and monitored; anyone approaching a door is turned away.
2.  The employee goes to the nearest in-house telephone and pages Code Adam, describing the child’s physical features and clothing. As designated employees monitor front entrances, other employees begin looking for the child.
3.  If the child is not found within 10 minutes, law enforcement is called.
4.  If the child is found and appears to have been lost and unharmed, the child is reunited with the searching family member.
5.  If the child is found accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian, reasonable efforts to delay their departure will be used without putting the child, staff, or visitors at risk. Law enforcement will be notified and given details about the person accompanying the child.
6.  The Code Adam page will be canceled after the child is found or law enforcement arrives.

While law enforcement and John Walsh himself believe that Ottis Toole committed the crime it will never be known for sure since Ottis recanted his confession and died a few years later of cirrhosis of the liver without a deathbed confession. In 2008, Adam Walsh’s case was officially closed and Ottis Toole named as the perpetrator.

TV trivia: John Dogget from the hit TV science fiction show X-Files, loses a son in the same manner as John Walsh did. Because it is television and X-Files they were able to solve Dogget’s son’s murder.