'Trunk music': The day the world changed for the Chicago mob

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There were 8 inches of snow on the ground and the overnight temperature was below zero.

But it wasn't the bitter winter weather of February 7, 1985 that proved to be a cold reality for the Chicago Outfit.

It was the frightening sound of "trunk music."

That term, "trunk music," is mobdom code for the gurgling sound emitted by a dead body that has been stashed in a car trunk for too long.

Hal Smith became "trunk music" 35 years ago Friday. The "independent" bookmaker was murdered by the mob because there is no such thing as an independent bookmaker in a city controlled by the mob.

For the Outfit, that killing began a concentrated effort by federal law enforcement in Chicago to prevent a gangland war and stop the progression of murders that had been a mob business model for decades.

The Hal Smith killing resulted in a federal prosecution that put away several top hoodlums for years and, most importantly, was the precursor to "Operation: Family Secrets." That case, still two decades away, would decimate the Outfit. But without the prosecutions from the Hal Smith murder, the Family Secrets case might never have been made.

In 1985 Smith, 48, had been warned, by none other than the boss of the Outfit's north suburban gambling operations Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis.

For months Solly D had been telling Smith that if he didn't start paying the Outfit a $6,000 per month share of his sports book profits, he would indeed end up as "trunk music" according to federal authorities.

He didn't listen, and on that cold February day in 1985 he was tortured, strangled and mutilated by an Outfit hit squad.

A few days later Smith was found in the trunk of his car that had been parked outside an Arlington Heights hotel.

With notable timing, five years to the day after Smith was killed, a federal grand jury in Chicago handed up indictments against 20 members of a mob crew run by Ernest "Rocky" Infelise. The crew included Solly DeLaurentis. It also featured a mobster named B.J. Jahoda, who was involved in the Smith hit and decided in 1989 that it was in his best interest to cooperate with authorities. He worked undercover, secretly recording 200 conversations with Outfit associates. Jahoda's tapes and testimony, and years of government evidence, resulted in sweeping convictions.

Jahoda, Infelise and most of those convicted in that case have died. DeLaurentis however did a long prison stretch but is now out and living in the northwest suburbs. Federal investigators believe he has resumed a leadership role in what is left of the Outfit.
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