On this day in 1985, Gambino Crime Family boss Costantino Paul Castellano and underboss Thomas Bilotti were gunned down outside of Sparks Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan. Castellano’s murder is the most high-profile mob hit of the last 30 years.
The Gambino Family is the largest of New York’s “Five Families,” with operations extending from New York to California. When boss Carlo Gambino died of natural causes in 1976, he named Castellano his successor. His reign as boss was full of controversy and strife (What mob boss’ isn’t?) and by December of 1985, he was openly feuding with Gambino Family capo (captain) John Gotti.
The two scheduled a dinner meeting at Sparks Steakhouse. When Castellano and Bilotti arrived, numerous gunmen approached their car and shot them. Gotti and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano watched from a nearby car.
Gotti became boss of the Gambino Family a month later and led until he was convicted in 1992 of numerous charges, including conspiracy to murder Castellano. Ironically, Gravano was the key witness in the case.