YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The 1962 car bomb murder of Youngstown mobster “Cadillac Charlie” Cavallaro and his son, Thomas, riveted the nation.
The final blow in a two-year mob war that rocked the city, it has become part of local lore.
Memories and facts about the blast and its aftermath will surface on Nov. 10 when the surviving son of Cavallaro and an FBI agent who worked the case come to Stambaugh Auditorium.
Charlie Cavallaro Jr. and Cecil Moses will share their stories in CAVBOMB, a special event presented by the Youngstown Mob Talk podcast. Johnny Chechitelli and James Naples, hosts of the podcast, will interview the guests at the event, which will also include filmed re-enactments.
While Cavallaro Jr. and Moses have communicated online in the past, the Stambaugh event will be the first time they will meet face to face.
CAVBOMB – that’s what the FBI labeled the case for its files – will be preceded by a dinner in the Stambaugh ballroom emceed by Jimmy Mulidore, a Las Vegas musical great and Youngstown native who knew the city’s top mobsters.
Mulidore will share stories of growing up with the Naples brothers, who would become the city’s dominant crime family, and others.
It was the 1960 killing of Sandy Naples that sparked the mob war.
The dinner will start at 5 p.m. and the presentation at 7 p.m. To purchase a ticket, go to ExperienceYour-Arts.org.
Tickets to the optional dinner can also be purchased at the site; follow the prompts after clicking on selected seat from the seating chart.
This is a once in a lifetime event,” Chechitelli says. “[Cavallaro and Moses] have never talked publicly about it. They’re getting older, and it’s now or never.”
Cavallaro is 73 and lives in Missouri; Moses is in his 80s and lives in Tennessee.
“[Cavallaro] told me that multiple TV networks reached out to him over the years, wanting him to tell his story,” Chechitelli says. “He turned them down every time. So, this will be an exclusive.”
Chechitelli asked Cavallaro why he is finally talking about the tragedy after more than 60 years.
“He said he trusted us, trusted that we would do it correctly and not fabricate anything,” he said. “I felt honored by that, and now we have an obligation to do it right.”
Like Cavallaro, FBI agent Moses also has never talked about the case with the media.
In a phone interview, Moses said he is almost certainly the last living FBI agent who worked the case. He was in his mid-20s at the time and stationed at the FBI’s Cleveland office.
Moses went on to have a long career with the FBI but says the CAVBOMB case was one of the most horrific ones he ever worked.
“I can remember some of the details like it happened yesterday,” he said in a phone interview.
“I hadn’t thought about if for a long time, but [Chechitelli] sent me some info from his research and it jogged my memory.”
Moses’ wife was pregnant at the time. Frightened, she took their 2-year-old son and stayed with her parents in Cincinnati during the investigation, which kept Moses in Youngstown for about eight months.
“It was scary, because it was being said that [the mafia] was going to blow up an FBI car to make a statement,” Moses says.
“You hated to turn the key.”
As word of that mafia threat spread, owners of Youngstown parking garages refused to let the agents in, forcing them to park on the street, Moses recalls.
“At the end of the day, we would look under the car and check the hood for fingerprints before starting it,” he says.
For a long time after the case ended, Moses says he got a nervous feeling every time he turned the key to the ignition.
The scene of the bombing also left an indelible mark on his psyche. “[Cavallaro’s] torso was impaled on a fence post several hundred yards away,” Moses recalls. “That was burned into my mind.”
The explosion also killed Cavallaro’s 11-year-old son, Tommy.
Charlie Jr., who was 12 at the time, was just outside the car when the bomb went off, and was badly injured.
“We didn’t think he was going to make it either,” Moses recalls.
Moses says the CAVBOMB case resonated across the country and made headlines worldwide.
The death of an innocent child and the maiming of another brought a lot of attention from federal authorities.
“It angered [then attorney general] Bobby Kennedy, who didn’t like the mob in the first place,” Moses says. “He ordered the FBI to pull out all the stops” to investigate it.
The bombing also angered mafia bosses across the country.
“We had them wiretapped,” Moses recalls. “They were angry [at the carelessness of the Youngstown mobsters] because it brought a lot of heat down on them.”
The Youngstown crime bosses were in a unique situation, Moses says.
While the Cleveland and Pittsburgh crime families wielded some control in Youngstown, “There was no clear line on who was calling the shots, and that’s what caused the infighting,” he says.
Chechitelli concurs that Youngstown was not under the control of any outside mob family in 1960 but rather had its own boss – Sandy Naples.
“Cleveland wanted to take over,” Chechitelli says. “Naples wouldn’t kick in, so they killed him.”
The two-year war that began with the Naples hit ended after the Cavallaro bombing, because it brought so much FBI attention.
“Everyone had had enough,” Chechitelli says.
The optional preshow dinner with Jimmy Mulidore will include a short film on the jazz musician and bandleader who grew up in Youngstown’s Brier Hill neighborhood and went on to work with Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Barbra Streisand, Ann Margret and just about every other major star of the era.
It will include footage of Mulidore in his heyday, performing in Vegas casinos.
Mulidore will also perform a few jazz songs with an ensemble.
The core of his presentation will be a speech on the Naples family.
“I grew up with them – Sandy, Joey and Billy,” Mulidore said in a phone interview from his Las Vegas home. “I’m part of their family. I knew another side of them. Yes, they were notorious racketeers. But I will talk about the good that they did.”
Mulidore will also talk about his cousin, Jimmy “Danks” Petrella, and notorious Youngstown mob leaders “Fats” Aiello and Charlie Carrabia.
Pictured at top: “Cadillac Charlie” and his sons. From left: Charlie Cavallaro Jr, Charlie Cavallaro Sr, Tommy Cavallaro and stepson Allan Carter.