The Paradiso Files generated headlines when first published in February 2008. Nine days later, Paradiso died at the age of sixty-five without commenting on any of Burke’s accusations, including that he murdered Joan Webster, a Harvard graduate student who disappeared from Logan Airport in 1981. Boston-area prosecutors announced in September 2008 that Burke’s revelations had led them to reopen the unsolved murder cases of three young women – Melodie Stankiewicz, Holly Davidson, and Kathy Williams. There were “too many similarities between the individual cases to ignore,” a prosecutor involved in the new investigation said. Burke’s account leaves little doubt that Paradiso’s deeds should go down in infamy, alongside those of the Boston Strangler.
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The Paradiso Files
Boston's Unknown Serial Killer
By Timothy M. Burke
Steerforth PressCopyright © 2008 Timothy M. Burke
All rights reserved.
The Combat Zone
Prior to 1970, Boston's Scollay Square was the city's unofficial red-light district. The former home to bars, burlesque shows, and bawdy houses, the square was razed by city officials intent on localizing the burgeoning porn industry into the newly formed Combat Zone section of Boston.
A four-block area bordered by Chinatown and the theater district, this "adult entertainment zone" centered on Washington and Tremont Streets, between Boylston and Kneeland Streets, extending to Park Square. The Combat Zone received its unlikely moniker from the large number of local military officers who frequented the strip clubs, porn shops, and prostitutes in the area.
Violent, crime-ridden, sleazy, and drug-infested, the Zone attracted dozens of soldiers, sailors, hookers, students, pimps, tourists, police, and businessmen alike. Home to the Pussy Cat Lounge, the Intermission Lounge, the Sugar Shack, the Two O'Clock Lounge, and the Naked Eye, as well as a slew of peep shows, nude dance clubs, and bars, the Combat Zone was the new epicenter of Boston's seamy underbelly.
At 2 AM the bar doors closed and the drunken patrons emptied onto the streets. The rabble would then find their way to the late-night Chinese restaurants adjoining the Zone — places like the South Seas Restaurant, which featured after-hours beer euphemistically named "cold tea" as well as hot-and-sour soup, General Gau's Beef, and Strange and Slippery Chicken.
Outside the restaurant, the street scene continued to play itself out with hookers soliciting the recent evacuees from the nearby 663 Club and other bars and strip joints. Throughout the area, prostitutes from sixteen to sixty plied their trade under the watchful eye of pimps as well as police. The action was wide open; there were no limits in the Zone.
Florence White was a runaway at the age of sixteen. A street child with an innocent smile, she stood alone on January 5, 1970, turning tricks on Harrison Avenue, just opposite the South Seas Restaurant.
It was cold that night, and traffic was slow as Lil' Flo surveyed the scene from her corner perch. A light snow was beginning to fall, blending with the white fabric of her coat and matching boots. Silently watching her breath disappear into the night air, she stared straight ahead as a newspaper page pinwheeled across the street. Behind her the stench of stale urine wafted from the doorway. Nearby, an outdoor speaker blared remnants of the recent Christmas past as Bobby Helms sang "Jingle Bell Rock."
"Yeah, that's me, dancin' and prancin' in the frosty air," the girl sang as she listened to the music, wishing she were home.
A Zone regular who'd left her mother and dropped out of school at fifteen, Flo had been seduced by the life of easy drugs and random sex. It all came too quickly for a girl running from an unwanted past. Pimped out and drugged up, she was well accustomed to making and receiving propositions when the pale green car pulled up alongside her curb just before two in the morning.
"Youse need a ride home?" the lone driver asked the girl with the innocent smile.
"Yeah, are ya goin' out tonight?" she answered sweetly into the thin air.
The driver smiled in agreement and summoned her to the passenger's side with a tilting nod. White kicked the sidewalk snow from her midcalf boots as she walked toward the front of the car and peered in the windshield. The streetlight above her highlighted the image of a woman-child as she glided past the illumination of the headlights and reached for the door.
She shuddered from the cold leather seat beneath her short skirt as she closed the heavy door behind her. The girl glanced across the seat and smiled at the potbellied driver.
He looks Italian or Jewish, she thought as the man threw the car into gear. The driver turned his unsmiling face toward her as he pulled out into traffic and reached into his leather coat pocket.
"Youse coming with me," the driver said as he brandished a silver gun and reached across the girl's body to lock the door. There was a sudden rush of fear in the girl with the innocent smile. The driver held the revolver beneath the dashboard, pointed the shiny barrel at her breasts, and spoke once again without emotion.
"Youse coming with me, bitch."CHAPTER 2
The Corner of Cottage and Webster Streets
The pale green car passed quickly through traffic from the Combat Zone toward the Callahan Tunnel. The dark, cavernous passage beneath the waters of Boston Harbor had opened in 1961. It was named for Lieutenant William F. Callahan, son of the first chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike; he'd been killed in Italy shortly before the end of World War II. The tunnel carried one-way traffic from downtown Boston to East Boston and Logan International Airport.
The mismatched couple shared a fear-induced silence as their car snaked past the other occasional night-owl motorists, eventually approaching the tollbooths at the end of the tunnel.
"I wish Sugah was here. Sugah would protect me," the street hooker said softly. Several miles away her pimp had just begun searching for Lil' Flo on the empty streets outside the South Seas Restaurant.
"If youse says another word, I'll fuckin' kill ya. Youse hear me?" The driver pressed the cold steel of the muzzle against her left temple.
The girl with the innocent smile nodded in panicked agreement as she whispered a Hail Mary to her God.
The car rolled through the deserted tollbooth, turned toward East Boston, in the direction of Maverick Square, and a short distance later stopped at the corner of Cottage and Webster Streets. The large man with the potbelly parked the car, ordered the teenager outside, and directed her toward a three-story brick house with a gray door.
"Just get the fuck upstairs," the man hissed as he motioned with the gun toward a narrow stairway leading to the top floor.
There was nowhere to run, no one to help, and no one to protect her. She was alone, more alone than she had ever been. Inside the dirty and disheveled two-room apartment, the man put the silver gun to the terrified girl's head again. She closed her eyes and asked God to forgive her for being bad.
"Get your fucking clothes off, bitch, you're gonna suck me off." He pushed her into the center of the room and made a call on his phone.
"Yeah, I got me one. Get the fuck ovah here," Lil' Flo heard him say.
Before she was naked, another man appeared at the door.
"You're gonna do him too, honey," Potbelly said, pointing to his groin and laughing.
"Oh, that's good, bitch, now get rid of those boots," the newcomer said as he undid the front of his pants.
Shivering from the cold, the girl stared at the hunting rifles in the rack on the wall and did what she was told. Potbelly's callused hands clumsily groped her body as she stood naked in the center of the room.
"You see those guns, don't you?" he said as he fondled her and then pushed her to the musty couch. "You say one word to the fuckin' cops and you're dead." He brought the thick lips of his mouth to hers.
She screamed briefly in pain as he entered her. The first punch to her face made her bite down hard on her tongue. The second and third ground her teeth into the right side of her mouth. The rush of pain passed quickly and silently as she stared at the ring on her left hand, sobbed softly, and thought of her mother.
Potbelly's bulk engulfed her small body as he wrapped his fingers around her throat. The smell of his skin and lust hung in the air. She felt nauseated as she watched the second man reach to turn the volume up on the ancient Philco radio positioned on a nearby table.
There was no one there to hear her as the eerie sounds of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" drowned out both her cries for help and the rhythmic slapping of the big man's body against hers.
"Get the cunt's money and the diamond ring off her finger," Potbelly said to the second man as he rolled off the girl with the innocent smile and began to gather his scattered clothes from the floor.
Lil' Flo instinctively pulled her thin legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them as the second man approached.
"Give me that fuckin' ring," he barked, and the girl complied.
She started to cry again as the second man stood before her and pulled his soiled black pants down to his knees.
"Oh look, the dirty little whore's cryin'," he laughed as she retreated farther into the sticky cushions of the musty couch.
"The little bitch must feel really bad she ain't gettin' paid to suck my dick," the second man mocked as he angled his body toward her face. "This is gonna feel really good, ain't it honey?" When he was finished, number two turned to Potbelly.
"Whadda ya wanna do with the bitch now? We can't just let her go."
Potbelly smiled and waved a switchblade in the air.
"She ain't gonna say nothin', are you bitch?" Potbelly said menacingly as he reached into his pocket and removed four round-headed bullets.
"You see these, honey? I got one waitin' here just for you. If ya sez a word to anybody, youse dead meat. She's nothin' but a little whore. No one's gonna believe her," Potbelly told the second man, then turned back to the girl. "Get your shit and get the fuck out of here."
She grabbed her white coat and matching boots from the threadbare rug and ran to the door naked. She dressed at the bottom of the stairs and went quickly outside into the cold January night. It was still snowing, and the side of her face ached. Tears streamed from her eyes as she stood alone shaking in the dark. She didn't care about herself or the money. It was her mother's engagement ring they had stolen from her. The ring was all that remained from a distant memory of an abandoned life. In her child's mind she knew at that moment what she needed to do.
Lil' Flo glanced back at the dark brick building with the gray door at the corner of Cottage and Webster Streets. She wiped her tears with the bloodstained sleeve of her white coat and headed toward the police station. Maverick Square and District 7 were just five blocks away.CHAPTER 3
"That's the man that hurt me, oh my gawd, that's him," Florence White said as she thumbed through the plastic-covered three-ring binder of mug shots.
"He took me to Cottage Street. He said he would kill me if I told you." Tears welled in her eyes as she spoke. "He took my mother's engagement ring. It's all I had. Look, you can still see the marks on my neck and my face. He did that to me."
"Are you absolutely sure he's the one?" asked Detective Ed Mahoney, the man with the badge and the reassuring smile.
"Yep, it's him, I know it's him. He had a switchblade and a silver gun and those funny-lookin' bullets. He's the one that raped me."
From hundreds of suspects' photographs at District 7, the girl had selected just one. It was Leonard J. Paradiso, a local mob wannabe with a sadistic temper. The youngest of six children, Paradiso was born in Italy on December 8, 1942. He was twenty-eight years old, large-framed, potbellied, and the current occupant of 31 Cottage Street, a three-story brick house with a gray door.
Known as Lenny "the Quahog" throughout East Boston and the North End, Paradiso was a fish merchant who'd earned his peculiar nickname selling clams and shellfish at the Feasts of the Saints in the insular Italian sections of Boston.
A truancy and discipline problem early on, Paradiso dropped out of school in the eighth grade and was sent for two years to the Lyman School for Boys, a reformatory. He later joined the merchant marines and was discharged for being AWOL. Seemingly outgoing and friendly, he'd apparently been psychologically wired early in life to hate women. Paradiso married in the mid-1960s; his wife divorced him two years later for cruel and abusive treatment.
Based on Lil' Flo's identification, the police applied for a search warrant for the house with the gray door at the corner of Webster and Cottage Streets.
On January 11, 1970, Lenny "the Quahog" was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of Florence White. Inside his two-room apartment, the detectives found a fully loaded silver .38-caliber revolver, a switchblade knife, hunting rifles on the wall, and bullets matching the description Flo had given. The serial number on the revolver had been obliterated, making the weapon untraceable.
As the detectives led the handcuffed Quahog out the gray door to their waiting cruiser, he turned to Mahoney and, with his best East Boston linguistic calling card, told him, "Youse fuckin' guys got the wrong fuckin' guy."
Ten days later Paradiso's case was "bound over" from the East Boston District Court to the Suffolk County Grand Jury for indictment.
Suffolk County is the geographic center of eastern Massachusetts. Lying alongside the Atlantic, it comprises the cities of Boston, Revere, Winthrop, and Chelsea. Bordered by Essex County on the north, Middlesex on the west, and Norfolk to the south, Suffolk County is also the center of criminal activity in the commonwealth. The Suffolk County Grand Jury sits five days a week to hear evidence on the region's major crimes. The jury consists of twenty-three citizens chosen at random from voter registration lists who serve for a period of time ranging from three to six months.
The grand jurors' responsibility is to determine whether there is "probable cause" to believe that a crime has occurred and that the person charged committed it. A majority vote is all that's needed to charge a suspect. If probable cause is found, a "true bill" of indictment is returned, and the defendant is arrested and arraigned on the specified charge. It's that simple. If probable cause is not found, the true bill is not returned and the case is dismissed.
The assistant district attorney assigned to Florence White's case spoke bluntly to the detective as the two men sat in the District 7 booking area talking between the ebb and flow of the station's daily arrests.
"Listen, Eddie, you and I both know if this girl comes into the grand jury and testifies about what happened to her, this Quahog guy's all done. It doesn't matter if she's a hooker or not. No one rapes and beats the shit out of a sixteen-year-old like that."
"I know. You shoulda seen her, her white coat covered with blood. We got pictures of what she looked like. It's just a matter of getting her there. She's a street kid," the detective added. He pulled Lil' Flo's black-and-white likeness from the manila folder.
"Shit, look at her. Man, he did a job on her. This grand jury will indict a piece of toast. This bastard's looking at ten to fifteen years in Walpole minimum." Quickly the DA added, "On the other hand, if she doesn't show up, we're toast."
The older lawyer raised his hand to his forehead. "Tell me this guy's not out on bail?"
"He made bail in district court. The judge said he was a lifelong member of the community and set bail at just a hundred bucks personal recognizance."
"Are you kidding me?" the DA asked incredulously. "Who was the judge?"
"Turn-'Em-Loose Bruce," the cop retorted.
"That figures," the lawyer said with a grimace. "Look, I'm sorry, but the quickest I can get you into the grand jury is on February 5. That's only two weeks away. Just make sure she's here, will ya?"
It was late January 1970, and the marks had just begun to fade from the girl with the innocent smile's face and neck. As she crossed Tremont Street in her white boots and coat, she stopped in front of the Two O'Clock Lounge. Staring back at her through the plate glass window was a poster touting the club's featured stripper.
She's very pretty, Lil' Flo said to herself. I bet she's nice.
MISS RIO DEL GRANDE, the sign read, FRESH FROM NEW ORLEANS, FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. TWO SHOWS NIGHTLY.
A silver tiara topped an enormous fall of thick dark hair, which hung down to the top of the stripper's large, tassel-covered breasts. An arched finger beckoned seductively from her black-gloved hand. The stripper's dark eyes stared blankly into the crowded street as the girl slowly passed by.
Maybe I could get me a job there someday, she thought with a child's mind. Then everybody would be looking at me.
Straight ahead, a familiar figure wearing a full-length fur coat and a fedora with a peacock feather came striding toward her. It was Sugah, her pimp. The tall man pointed to the girl and fixed his eyes upon her. She sensed something was wrong. Lil' Flo waved and anxiously smiled her smile as the pimp approached. Sugah wasn't smiling back.
Excerpted from The Paradiso Files by Timothy M. Burke. Copyright © 2008 Timothy M. Burke. Excerpted by permission of Steerforth Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book when it first was published, and I have to say, the criticisms of it are less related to the book and more about the guilt or innocence of Paradiso. The BOOK is well-written, intriguing and thought provoking. The author does a great job of describing events and limitations of the investigative process. Paradiso WAS convicted of terrible crimes, and not just once. I don't particularly care where he was born or if he ever visited Italy, that has nothing to do with the FACT that this man was convicted for the crimes he committed.
In this easy to read, page turner, Timothy Burke clearly and concisely outlines his reasons for thinking Paradiso to be a serial rapist and killer. Burke details the investigation and evidence that convicted Paradiso of the Ianuzzi rape and murder and that which leaves him suspect in several other unsolved crimes. Burke provides the reader with a fascinating insight into the mind of a killer, the tedious investigation and the criminal justice system as a whole. The torture of the victims, the frustration of the investigators, the determination of Burke and the district attorney's office are expressed with candor and respect. The author through his character descriptions and relationship with Drew in particular, tells this compelling story of a serial rapist and killer. For the readers added pleasure, throughout the book the author brings us to several Boston venues, writes of historic events and shares an obvious affection for music. Timothy Burke clearly rivals the writing style of Parker.
In the Paradiso Files, Former D.A of Suffolk County turned author Tim Burke takes you into the mind of a sociopath Lenny 'the Quahog' Paradiso, a convicted murderer from East Boston. Burke does an excellent job of bringing you the story of the Quahog through brutal detail and graphic recollection of his involvement as the A.D.A in bringing this suspected serial killer to justice. From beginning to end you will be captivated by the pure and gut wrenching evil that Paradiso inflicted on his innumerous victims, beginning with a young prostitute in the former red light district of Boston, to the luring of both Maria Ianuzzi and Joan Webster into his car where they would last be seen. Seemingly without care or any sense of remorse Paradiso preyed on young women with a catch me if you can mentality that ultimately leads to his conviction. This book will leave you both appalled by a legal system that continued to let the Quahog back on the streets, and thankful that someone like Tim Burke fought as hard as he did to put an animal like this away.
This is probably one of the best true crime books I've read in a long, long time. This chilling tale by first time author Timothy Burke is a sharply written and fascinating story about a serial killer who operated under the radar in Boston during the 1980s. All true crime fans will want to have a copy in their collection.
In all the years that I have been reading true crime stories, this is the first time I've actually read one written by a prosecutor, and in such a compelling way. Full of factual details, blow by blow of events and dialogue, and the plot was kept continually forward without much interruptions in the timeline. It also had updates at the end that was very informative as well. This is definitely the book to read for all those CSI fans who think crime can be easily solved in 30 mins or less.
The author in this book was the district attorney at the time, working on the case. This book was hard to put down and kept my interest throught. Highly recommend.
Interesting read when you know the people, know the locations, and have a vague rememberance of the facts. But having known the main character "ponytail" and he didn't eat Chowder. Indulgences are made. As little fact as that may be there are much bigger ones in this book. Take it for what it is, an interesting read. Not sure about the whole ture life crime. It is to the eye of the writer.
I thought that this was an excellent book. A very well written page-turner about both the legal process and the mind of a serial killer.
Ok so this is supposedly a true story of a serial killer. Hmmmmm, already starts off with a falsehood. Lenny Paraidso was not born in Italy. He was born in Boston and never went to Italy. Also, he was never convicted on any hard evidence. What else could be madeup in this book???
The book is written in a curious third-person format that is self-serving to the author and annoying to the reader. By chosing that particular style, the author can easily excuse away defeats (usually before they happen) and cover himself in glory when he may not deserve it. How many cups of chowder can the "young lawyer" share with "ponytail"?