Feature Articles

December 2001

Mad Sam

By John William Tuohy

     One evening, a black man was walking home from work on a Chicago Street when a man, a man he had never seen before, pulled up alongside him, leaped out of his car, gun in hand, and ordered the black man into the car.

     The crazed man then drove to a small mansion in suburban Chicago, where a woman in her mid 40's was waiting. Then the man with the gun forced the woman to perform oral sex on the bewildered black man as he watched. When it was over, the black man ran from the house. Terrified that he would be accused of rape, he sprinted to the nearest police station and told the detectives what had happened.

     The police investigated and found out that Mad Sam DeStefano was the crazed man with the gun, and the woman whom he forced to perform the sex act was his wife. She had said something, or done something, real or imagined, to upset him, so Mad Sam taught her a lesson.

     They didn't call him "Mad Sam" for nothing.

     I once asked a retired Wise Guy, "Was DeStefano as crazy as they say he was, or is that just more legend?"

     The mobster immediately shook his head. "He was sick. Crazy, sick, a sick dog, worse than you can ever think. We didn't whack him a second too soon."

     There is little doubt in anyone's mind that Mad Sam was completely insane. DeStefano's partner in his dope running business, rogue cop Tommy Dorso, told the FBI, "DeStefano is not normal. Mentally, physically or spiritually... and he knows it."

     Dorso went on to say that he once saw Mad Sam roll on the floor, spit running from his mouth, begging Satan to show him mercy and screaming over and over again, "I'm your servant, command me."

     Like most of the hoods who controlled the Chicago mob in the 1950s through the 1970s, DeStefano came out of the 42 gang, but unlike most of the other members of the gang, DeStefano wasn't born in Chicago's little Italy. He was born and raised in middle class surroundings in southern Illinois and moved to Chicago while he was a teenager.

     In the basement of his expansive home that he built for his wife and three children, Mad Sam had a complete, soundproofed, torture chamber. On the wall was a wooden cabinet where Sam kept his weapons of choice, razor sharp ice picks, with which he used to stab his victims in the groin and ears. He put it to use too.

     When a Chicago restaurant owner named Adler fell behind in his payments to DeStefano's juice operation, Mad Sam kidnapped him off the streets, dragged him to his basement and stabbed him with his ice picks, killing him and then dumping his body in a sewer drain a few blocks from his house.

     The only reason the cops found the body was that in the spring, the sanitation department was trying to unblock the sewer which had backed up and yanked out Adler's body, which was perfectly preserved in the ice, stab wounds and all. Mad Sam thought that was hysterical, and laughed about it for days.

     There is another case, the case of a collector who worked for Sam and tried to cheat DeStefano out of his cut. Mad Sam stripped the collector naked, and handcuffed him to a boiling radiator. After and hour, the man screamed "Unk", his name for DeStefano, "Unk, kill me man, please, I'm on fire!"

     DeStefano said: "Then we need to put the fire out."

     Mad Sam had his boys bring the collector's family out to his restaurant, and treated them to a full course Italian dinner. When the meal was finished, DeStefano's boys, who included Tony Spilotro, brought the naked and severely burned collector to the table and threw him at his mother's feet. Before any of them could go home, DeStefano made them urinate on the collector's body.

     His madness knew no ends. On September 26, 1955, DeStefano was called at his home by a syndicate hood and told to take his brother Michael, a known drug addict, out of a Cicero gambling joint where he was causing a problem.

     DeStefano went to the casino, took his brother into his own car and shot him in the head five times. Then he drove his brother's dead body to their brother Mario's house, in Cicero, where he stripped the body of its clothing, scrubbed it clean, dressed it in new clothes, put the body into a car, drove it to a street corner in Chicago, went home and phoned the police and told them where the body could be found.

     Then why did the Bosses keep him around? Money. Mad Sam was an earner. In the mid 1950s, when Wise Guys considered loan sharking beneath their dignity, DeStefano leaped into the business and cornered the market. The bosses, Ricca, Accardo and Giancana, invested a hundred grand in DeStefano's loan business and got a return for ten times that amount.

     But, it was the murder of Leo Forman that brought Mad Sam down. Forman, a commercial real estate broker, was also one of DeStefano's collectors.

     One afternoon in 1963, DeStefano was in Forman's office and there was an argument, which ended with Forman throwing DeStefano out of his office.

     A few days later, DeStefano had Tony Spilotro and Chuckie Grimaldi lure Forman out to DeStefano's brother's house in Cicero. Once he was there, Forman was beaten and carried down to the basement where Mad Sam DeStefano was waiting, a hammer in his hand. DeStefano got right to work. He hammered in Forman's knees, head, crotch and ribs, stabbed him with an ice pick twenty times and then shot him in the head, killing him. They dumped the body in a trunk of a car and left it on the end of an empty street.

     Ten years went by, but in 1973 the FBI turned Chuckie Grimaldi into an informant. Based on the evidence he provided them with, federal warrants were drawn up for the arrests of Spilotro, Mad Sam DeStefano and his brother Mario, for the murder of Leo Forman.

     At the pre-trial, DeStefano defended himself and turned the entire proceedings into a circus. But the government had its own tricks. It would offer DeStefano immunity for his testimony. That was enough. The order was issued from the bosses to turn Mad Sam DeStefano into trunk music.

     Tony Spilotro and Mad Sam's own brother were given the contract.

     They drove out to DeStefano's house on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning and pulled into the driveway. Mad Sam was in the garage. When he saw the car pull in, he lifted up the garage door and waved Mario and Spilotro inside. When they were within a foot of Mad Sam, Spilotro lifted a shotgun out from under his coat and shot off Mad Sam's right arm. The second blast tore open his chest. He was dead before he hit the ground.

     Several months later, Spilotro and Mario DeStefano were acquitted of all charges in the Forman killing.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to

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