*Approximately fifty people have asked me to tell this story, so here you go. Now you can stop asking. 😉

If you’ve seen Casino, you know this scene.

Psychopath Nicky Santoro and his brother Dominick Santoro, (played respectively by Joe Pesci and Philip Suriano) meet in a nondescript cornfield to discuss business with lieutenants of the Las Vegas casino bosses. Nicky’s been skimming casino profits, but he doesn’t think the bosses know. They did.

Nicky narrates the scene, just as he narrated the entire movie.

So I set up a meeting with the guys way out in the sticks. I didn’t want my brother getting f—d around. I mean, what’s right is right. They don’t give a–

The narration ends with Nicky’s scream as a mobster (Frank Vincent) arcs a heavy aluminum baseball bat into his lower back, dropping him to the ground.

What follows is two minutes of cringing gore. Even shutting your eyes isn’t an escape. You’d still hear the meaty metallic thud of the metal bats, the painful grunts, and Nicky’s sobs. The scene ends as the mobsters scatter shovelfuls of dirt over the bloodied and still-breathing bodies of the two brothers.

Did it really happen?

It did, and just outside Morocco, Indiana (another source says Enos, Indiana) in Northwest Indiana. This story’s been told a dozen different ways. What I relate here sticks to the pathologist’s and the police findings, not the rumors. 


It did happen in Indiana, but different sources put it in the Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area or between rows of corn in a field nearby. After looking at (literally) fifteen versions of the story from a variety of newspapers, not one gives a precise location. More likely than not police kept that secret for the investigation’s sake…and to keep morbid sight seekers from wandering out there.  

An Illinois farmer working land in Northwest Indiana found the grave. He thought deer poachers had made the five-foot mound to hide their kill, a common issue in that region of Indiana. One source stated he saw the bare plot of dirt which was supposed to be full of corn, but in the police images of the grave, the plants around the grave are obviously not corn.

EXCAVATED SPILOTRO GRAVESITE

The farmer started to dig up the mound to see what the poachers had buried. The farmer stopped his digging when the stink of decomposition and the sight of bare human skin struck him. He hurried away and immediately called police.

The two bodies stacked one on top of the other were Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, a former Las Vegas enforcer, and his brother Michael Spilotro, a part-time actor and restaurant owner. Dental records were needed for identification because of their violent death and decomposition in the June heat. Once removed from the crime scene, police transported the brothers to the Indiana University Medical Center for study. 

A few miles from the gravesite, authorities found another car, this one burned out with gasoline. They believe it had been used to transport the brothers, alive or dead, to the gravesite.

The two men had been beaten to death, according to Indiana forensic pathologist Dr. John Pless (beaten with bare hands or by kicking, not baseball bats) and had died of asphyxiation by internal hemorrhage (choking on blood, not by being buried alive). 

DR. JOHN PLESS

The identification had hardly surprised anyone, including the FBI. Anthony Spilotro and brother had disappeared about a week earlier, after last being seen in Oak Park, Illinois. Their Cadillac DeVille had been left at a motel near O’Hare International Airport. Anthony Spilotro had long been in the FBI’s sights and was suspected in at least 22 murders. His brother, however, was a low-level gangster and by 1986, was largely out of the business, instead running a restaurant and trying to start an acting career.

MICHEAL AND ANTHONY SPILOTRO

During the series of RICO arrests in 2005, the details behind the brothers’ slaying came to light, but, like any story involving organized crime, truth…changes. Supposedly the two brothers were called to a small house in Illinois and lured into the basement, told that Michael Spilotro was going to become a “made man.” Instead, both were murdered.


Anyone raise an eyebrow at that? That, uh, sounds a lot like the plot to Goodfellas, where a psychopath, once again played by Joe Pesci, meets a similar fate. The truth is we may never know the truth. And I don’t think we need to.

This is not the first time Chicago’s organized crime violence has spilled into Indiana, going back to Capone’s appreciation for our pastoral surroundings and even earlier, to infamous serial killer H.H. Holmes using Indiana as a dumping ground. Or the Leopold and Loeb case, where–

Well, those are stories for another time.