The True Crime Edition
The Murder Plot of "Iron" Mike Malloy
His friends tried to kill him eight times for insurance money.
Photo by Mark Asthoff on Unsplash
In the 1930s, New York was already flattened by the Great Depression. People across the city had lost their jobs and homes, and the financial structure of New York bared no resemblance to its former position in the world market. It was a desperate era, where many tried to earn money however they could.
Michael Malloy had moved to New York in the 1920s. The former firefighter was between 40 and 60, depending on the newspaper, and hailed from County Donegal in Ireland. He’d moved to America for a better life but would never find his American Dream.
Due to the Depression, Mike was unemployed, homeless, and became an alcoholic despite the prohibition. He never paid his bar tabs, and his local speakeasy had grown weary of him and the enormous amount of alcohol he was drinking.
The Mermaid was owned by Tony Marino, who was not only the proprietor of the establishment but was also a murderer. He had taken out life insurance on a homeless woman, Mabelle Carson, a few years earlier due to rising debts. He then killed her by force-feeding her alcohol and left her by an open window on a particularly cold night. He received $2,000 from the policy he took out on her accidental death, around $130,000 today.
The Mermaid via thejournal.ie
Tony Marino and some of his regulars noticed that Malloy appeared to have no family and no friends. Every morning, he would appear at the door of the speakeasy and waited for it to open so that he could begin his day of drinking. He would drink until he passed out, usually on the floor, and never paid for his drinks. Marino revealed to Pasqua that business wasn’t good, and something had to be done about the man.
The group devised a plan to bring them the fortunes they desperately needed and rid them of the pest that Malloy had become.
Tony Marino had already committed one murder, and Pasqua was an undertaker, so he could easily get rid of the body. Their plan was set; they were going to murder Mike Malloy and split the insurance money.
Regulars of the Mermaid heard about the plan and wanted to be involved. The Murder Trust, as they were known, included Dan Krisberg, a grocer who needed the money for his family, “Tough Tony” Bastone would do anything for a price. There were also criminals John McNally, “Tin Ear” Smith and Joe Maglione. The bartender, 28-year-old Joe Murphy, also became involved.
Policies were taken out on “Nicholas Mellory”, the name the Trust decided to give Malloy in death. Because of Pasqua’s connections, they could easily forge a death certificate for the fictitious man.
The reported amount the Trust could take out of Mike Malloy’s life differs, from $800 to $3,500. However, the amount ended up being irrelevant, as so much money was spent trying to kill Malloy.
Tony Marino gave Mike Malloy an open tab at the Mermaid, telling the man that the competition in the area was high and he needed bodies in his bar. Every time Malloy finished a drink, his glass was refilled, and this continued all night. He drank and drank until he’d finally had enough and told Marino that he’d be back tomorrow.
This continued for three days, with Malloy stopping to eat free sardine sandwiches during the binge. He constantly drank during this time, and the Murder Trust was lost as to how he hadn’t drunk himself to death yet. They were counting on Malloy choking on his vomit, but there wasn’t an opportunity; he didn’t stop drinking.
John McNally offered to run Mike Malloy over with his car, and the men were on board with the idea, with a few tweaks.
Joe Maglione convinced taxi driver Harry Green to do the deed and offered him $150 of the insurance pay-out.
The Trust pulled the drunk Mike Malloy into Green’s car and drove him away from the speakeasy. Murphy and Bastone hauled Malloy out of the cab and held him up while Green began revving his car's engine. Malloy managed to get out of the way twice before he was mowed down on the third attempt.
Green even reversed the cab over him to make sure he was definitely dead, and the men bolted from the scene, leaving Malloy to die alone in the street.
The Murder Trust nominated Joe Murphy to call around the hospitals and morgues looking for his missing “brother”. After three days of reading the obituaries, they found him in a local hospital. He wasn’t in the morgue; he was very much alive. Apart from a few bandages and a broken collarbone, Mike Malloy didn’t look that different when he returned to the bar a few days later, looking for a drink.
Without him knowing, the Trust decided to kill Joe Murphy with the car instead. One night, they drugged the bartender, put Malloy’s identification in his pocket, and hit him with Green’s cab. Murphy didn’t die either but instead spent two months in hospital.
Tony Marino tried the same method used on the unsuspecting Mabelle “Betty” Carson a few years earlier. They got Malloy as drunk as they could and put him in the back of Pasqua’s car. They carried the unconscious man to a park bench in Crotona Park, removed his clothing and poured water on him. In the dead of winter, this would surely have killed the naked man, covered in freezing water, they believed.
When Marino opened shop the following day, he found Malloy curled up in the basement of the building. He had walked back from Crotona Park, around half a mile away and fell asleep at the speakeasy. When he eventually woke up, he complained to Marino that he had caught a cold and needed a drink.
By this time, another payment was due on the insurance policies, and the Trust was getting angry. They needed to act, fast.
They knew Malloy loved seafood, so they offered him a plate of seemingly harmless oysters while he drank. Instead of the usual sauce that accompanied the crustaceans, the Trust had doused them in a type of ethanol. The denatured alcohol can cause death or at least a coma, and the Trust were positive this would kill the Irishman. Instead, once Malloy was finished with the several plates of oysters, he simply burped.
The Trust were furious. They didn’t understand why the man wouldn’t die. It had become about pride, not just about the money, so they began to try other methods to see if any of them would stick.
The Trust decided to switch out Malloy’s usual drinks of whiskey and gin for wood alcohol instead. Methanol had caused over 50,000 deaths over the previous few years, and if the liquid didn’t kill its consumer, it would undoubtedly cause blindness.
“He didn’t know that what he was drinking was wood alcohol, and what he didn’t know apparently didn’t hurt him. He drank all the wood alcohol he was given and came back for more.” the Smithsonian Mag reported.
The Trust weren’t simply spiking his drink with the wood alcohol; they were giving him entire shots of the paint shop purchase.
Malloy’s wood alcohol drinking continued over the next few days, and apart from inebriation, the poisonous drink didn’t harm the man. One evening, Malloy finally dropped to the floor of the Mermaid. The men checked his pulse and discovered his breathing had begun to slow. Then Malloy began to snore.
The Trust couldn’t believe it, as they were sure they’d finally killed him. Instead, Malloy had a nap on the floor of the bar, and a few hours later, he awoke, asking for another drink.
Joe Murphy made another attempt to kill the Irishman. He let a tin of sardines rot, then added shrapnel and put the contents in a sandwich for Malloy. Instead, the man finished the sandwich and asked for another.
The final attempt
Several months after the plan was concocted, Mike Malloy finally died. On the 22nd of February, Malloy was found in a hotel room. The Trust got him drunk and inserted a tube into his mouth, with the other end attached to a gas lamp, and bound it tightly with a rag.
The room where Malloy died via NY Daily News
Local doctor Frank Manzella filed the fraudulent death certificate stating that pneumonia had killed Malloy, and he was quickly buried in a $10 coffin.
The first policy was cashed, and the men received the $800, but Pasqua was told he would have to wait for the rest of the settlement. Tony Bastone complained so much about his cut of the money that he was mysteriously killed outside of the Mermaid one night.
Around the speakeasy, it was no secret what the Murder Trust had done. Coupled with Bastone’s murder and rumours around town, police began to suspect that something wasn’t right around the circumstances of Mike Malloy’s death.
Malloy’s body was exhumed from his cheap grave, and due to the expense of embalming ($5), Pasqua hadn’t bothered. Therefore, it was much easier to see the red flush of carbon monoxide poisoning and see the poison levels in Malloy’s system. The Murder Trust were eventually rounded up in the summer and quickly sent to trial.
The trial for the Murder Trust began in October, by which time Harry Green had turned State’s Witness for a smaller charge in the murder plot.
Tony Marino, Dan Kriesberg, Joe Murphy and Frank Pasqua turned on each other in court, and Marino even pled insanity, but nothing would get passed the prosecutor.
District Attorney Samuel Foley had become a local celebrity in recent years due to his role in the prosecution of Richard Hauptmann, the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapper.
All four were eventually convicted of murder and were transferred to Sing Sing Prison, where they awaited the electric chair. Harry Green was sentenced to five to ten years in prison, and Dr Frank Mazella was sentenced to three months for “failing to report a suspicious death”.
On the 7th of June 1934, Tony Marino, 28, Dan Kriesberg, 29 and Frank Pasqua, 24, was electrocuted.
Two hours beforehand, Joe Murphy was given a reprieve due to diagnosed as “mentally unbalanced”. Born Archie Mott, he had been committed to the Connecticut School for Boys and escaped a few years earlier.
Despite Samuel Foley’s advice to not execute the clinically unstable man, he was sent to the chair a month later.
(Clockwise) Dan Kreisberg, Joseph Murphy, Frank Pasque and Tony Marino via smithsonianmag.com
It took eight attempts to kill Mike Malloy, but his accidental resilience ran out in the end. The tale of Mike the Indestructible, Mike the Durable and Iron Mike live on, and he became a legend with his outrageous story. He was finally laid to rest at Ferncliffe Cemetery in Westchester County, New York, where visitors still lay flowers for him.