HUNTER: What was the motive for the grisly dismemberment murder?

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In the 1970s and 1980s, Jimmy Coonan terrorized New York’s Hells Kitchen as the head of the Irish mob, the Westies.

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Coonan learned of his bloody work from Eddie « The Butcher » Comiskey. This job was to dispose of the bodies of the small army of underworld rivals, rats, rebels and debt sellers.

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The petty criminal reasoned no corpse, no crime. So they dismembered them and then crushed their victims.

He called it « doing the Houdini ».

Coonan came to mind when the OPP announced they had made an arrest in the 2010 dismemberment murder of Bolton contractor Morris Conte.

The 45-year-old was last heard from Caledon on May 21, 2010. It didn’t take long to find him – or at least part of him.

Pieces were discovered in the township of Oro-Medonte. Another body part was discovered hours later in the Lake of Berries and within a week more remains were discovered on the side of a Muskoka road.

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New York Irish mob boss Jimmy Coonan: No body, no crime. NYPD
New York Irish mob boss Jimmy Coonan: No body, no crime. NYPD

DNA tests were used to confirm Conte’s identity, but detectives knew it was Conte because he had been reported missing shortly before the torso and lower half of his body were discovered.

Whoever killed the father-of-three, who allegedly battled cocaine addiction and owed people money, was not interested in following Jimmy Coonan’s lead. They wanted Morris Conte found.

“The remains (were left) in such a way that they were left to be found,” an OPP spokesperson said in June 2011. “There was no attempt to hide (them).

He said it was clear someone was sending a « message ». To whom the « message » was intended was never specified.

Another man was arrested in 2011, but charges of being an afterthought accessory to murder and injuring a human body were dropped.

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Many rumors circulated around the disappearance of Conte more than ten years ago. The mob, drug debts and a love triangle gone wrong were among the theories.

The Toronto Sun reported in 2010 that while Conte – who was known to police – had more than a passing familiarity with organized crime circles, it would be dishonest to describe him as anything other than a minor gambler.

According to investigators, the love triangle theory was more likely. But why send a « message » in a love triangle?

My guess is more along the lines of organized crime. Yet generally, as Marcellus Wallace said in pulp Fiction, « When you’re gone, you stay gone. » Traditional organized crime doesn’t like damage.

Now OPP detectives say the man in the hot seat is Antonino Lucia, 62, of Woodbridge. Cops put the bracelets on Lucia on Monday and charged him with first-degree murder.

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Little is known about Lucia and the cops would not reveal the connection between the accused killer and Conte.

For their part, at the time of the murder, Conte’s family couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill the hard-working contractor.

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Unfortunately, someone did just that.

Maybe Jimmy Coonan was right. Better not to send a « message ».

No corpse. No crime.

A $50,000 reward continues to be offered for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for Conte’s murder.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).


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