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Fingerprint of Patriarca crime family associate solves 30-year-old slaying

Inside the Mafia

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One of the men who authorities say killed Howard Ferrini in 1991 will never be brought to justice because the killer himself was the victim of an infamous gangland slaying.

The Bristol County District Attorney’s office has identified Patriarca crime family associate Kevin Hanrahan as one of Ferrini’s killers after the FBI employed new fingerprint technology.

Kevin Hanrahan_634849
Kevin Hanrahan

Ferrini’s body was found in the trunk of his blue Cadillac at Logan International Airport on Aug. 21, 1991. A bag was wrapped around his head and he had injuries consistent with being beat with a hammer (the medical examiner’s office determined the victim ultimately died of asphyxiation).

At Ferrini’s Berkley, Mass., home, police found evidence of a violent beating: the killers attempted to clean up the blood and a hammer was missing from Ferrini’s toolbox.

At the time, investigators found a fingerprint on the bag around Ferrini’s head, but it wasn’t until advanced FBI technology some 30 years later were they able to identify who they belonged to.

Hanrahan was a ruthless enforcer of the Patriarca crime family with a penchant for violence. His demise was as violent as his lifestyle: he was shot three times to the head as he walked out of a Federal Hill restaurant in 1992.

Former mob capo Robert “Bobby” DeLuca admitted to helping plan the hit on Hanrahan, but the actual gunman has never been identified. DeLuca was released from prison last year after a federal judge in Boston ruled his health was at heightened risk during the pandemic and he was deemed not a threat the community.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said while they are pleased they were able to identify Hanrahan in the Ferrini case, they don’t think he acted alone.

“We suspect another person, or others, because of the nature of the crime scene, the size of Mr. Ferrini and putting the body in the car and driving the Cadillac to Logan airport,” he said.

Quinn said this major development in the Ferrini case is part of his office’s renewed effort to reexamine unsolved cases in Bristol County.

“You have to take the time to go through all of these cases to reexamine the evidence because something might stand out that didn’t before,” Quinn said.

Ferrini’s daughter Kelly was just 18 when she heard on the news the unidentified body at Logan was her father’s. 

“He was a great father,” she said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday he took me out. ‘Spoiled brat’ is what everyone called me.”

The development in her father’s murder has her reliving those years and trying to piece together why her dad was the target of Hanrahan and others. Ferrini was an avid gambler, who was found with $6,000 in cash in his pocket when his body was discovered. At the time, Hanrahan and mob associate Gordon O’Brien were shaking down area bookmakers. Quinn declined to speculate on a motive.

Kelly Ferrini also wonders if a failed kidnapping of a Rhode Island bookie may be behind her father’s slaying.

O’Brien was arrested in 1990 and accused of plotting with others to kidnap bookmaker Blaise Marfeo. Howard Ferrini’s home was raided in an effort to locate O’Brien at the time, but Kelly insisted her father would never have cooperated with police on any investigation.

“He and O’Brien were friends,” she said, recalling meeting O’Brien multiple times at her father’s Taunton pub. “It’s just so confusing.”

Quinn declined to say if O’Brien is another suspect in Ferrini’s murder. O’Brien died in 2008.

“My father didn’t do the greatest things in his life,” Kelly Ferrini said. “But he was the greatest father to me, and I do think somebody should pay for it.”

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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