Now it’s time for a very interesting interview that I did with Paul Scharff about his journey after he found out who had really killed his Father, Ron Scharff. You can read all about it in his book, “Murder in McHenry: a son’s pursuit of justice”, an astonish read, that I highly recommend it, if you love “Casino” by Nicholas Pileggi and “Cullotta” by Dennis Griffin and Frank Cullotta.
- Reading your book was such a captivated read, about your determined to solve your father’s murder. Could you sum up what you did so my reader can under you story?
My father was killed at our tavern the PM Pub on June 2nd, 1981 in Lakemoor, IL. Lakemoor is part of the township of McHenry and the township of McHenry is in McHenry County; which is about 44 miles northwest of Chicago. My father was killed with his employee Patricia Freeman. Investigator George Hendle named Patricia Freeman’s boyfriend as the suspect but he was never charged and the case went cold for 27 years. My former babysitter, Holly Hager asked her father Jim Hager whom he thought may have killed my father and Pat. He mentioned Larry Neumann and Holly started to Google him. She traced his name to a Serial Killer website and then a book. The name of the book was called CULLOTTA. The book was the autobiography of Frank Cullotta who was a mobster for the Chicago Outfit (Chicago Mob) who turned government witness. On page 130 of Frank’s book, he described my father’s murder and named the killer as Larry “Lurch” Neumann.
Frank was working for a man named Tony Spilotro who was a Chicago Outfit enforcer sent out to Las Vegas to watch over the skim. If you have ever seen the movie CASINO, it was about the La Costa Nostra skimming money from the casinos. Frank’s boss, Tony Spilotro was played by Joe Pesci. In the movie they reference The Hole in the Wall Gang. That was Frank’s crew in real life and Larry Neumann was part of that crew.
I read the book CULLOTTA and was convinced that the murder on page 130 was indeed the murder of my father and Pat. I reached out to the Publisher of the book and their Public Relation’s person put me in touch with Frank’s co-author, Dennis Griffin. We emailed each other and decided that we would talk by phone the following week. However, I received an email from Denny the very next day.
In his email he said that he reached out to Frank Cullotta and a man named Dennis Arnoldy. Dennis Arnoldy was a FBI agent that became Frank’s FBI Debriefer when he turned government witness. Denny had asked them both why they did not notify the authorities in McHenry County about this information. They both said that they did. Denny, Dennis, and Frank all offered to help me in naming Larry Neumann as the killer of my father and Patricia Freeman. That is where my pursuit of justice began.
2. May you please share with us about how you met Frank Cullotta?
The very first radio show that I did was back in November in 2008. The host was actually Denny Griffin, Frank’s co-author, and Frank and others were on that radio show. The show was called Las Vegas and the Mob. We all phone in to the radio show but we did not meet. About seven months later on June 2, 2009 (the 28th year anniversary of my father’s murder) I was in Las Vegas to do the Heidi Harris Radio Show with Frank Cullotta himself. He came to pick me up in a real nice car (if you read Frank’s book, he likes cars) at my hotel. I remember being so excited. It may sound a little weird to folks outside of Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York; but people from those areas have more than a little fascination with the mob. I am no different and I was about to do a radio show with a notorious mobster and government witness that has been referenced in many books and TV shows. I was running downstairs of the hotel and I saw Frank right away. I open up the door to his car and hop in to shake his hand. When I did, he pulled me closer to him so that we locked eyes with each other. He said “I want you to know that I did everything I could so your father wouldn’t have been killed.” The look was of seriousness and with a tone in his voice to match. I said “I know Frank.” That was not matching the excitement of my mood and my thrill of meeting him. I understood why he felt that needed to say that. He wanted to clear the air but I felt the need to change the tempo. I wanted to do a good job telling my father’s story on this big radio show and have a great time hanging out with Frank. That’s exactly what happened. Before the radio show Frank gave me a tour of Las Vegas of where things were back in the day like his restaurant the Upper Crust; the place that Larry Neumann received a phone call from his ex-wife that sealed the fate of my father. Then we did the radio show and afterwards went out to breakfast. In between all that, I found myself in peculiar conversations with a former mobster and had one of the most interesting days of my life. I had a Great Time when I first met Frank Cullotta.
3. If you have to do this all over, would you do anything different?
Not a Single Thing! I say that with great confidence but that does not mean that I always had confidence in what I was doing. Dennis Griffin (Denny) and I waged a campaign to create awareness of my father’s story. I don’t believe that we really knew what we were doing but gravitated to the need for awareness and transparency. That was the right thing to do. After the McHenry County Sheriff’s office named Larry Neumann as the killer of my father under exceptional status (exceptional status means that they would have charged Larry Neumann with the murder of my father and Pat, but he was already dead) I wanted to get to the bottom of those that covered up the fact that Larry was the murderer at the sheriff’s office in the 80’s. Well the sheriff’s office did not share my inquiring mind. I was going to make sure that their lack of desire to know was not going to be a problem for me but a problem for them. After I released my book MURDER IN MCHENRY, I waged a new campaign against Undersheriff Andrew Zinke. He was the second investigator in my father’s case. I felt that he was trying to hide facts and protect the former McHenry County Sheriff and others that were complicit in the cover up in my father’s murder. I took my experience from my first campaign and attacked Andrew Zinke’s bid to become the next Sheriff of McHenry County. We were successful and Bill Prim, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke’s opponent, beat him for the Republican Primary for McHenry County Sheriff by 97 votes. Myself and a couple of others were noted by the Chicago Tribune as playing an online role that helped influence this outcome along with Bill Prim’s 300 volunteers.
4. I know that you are very much involved with the sheriff’s election. What are you working on next?
I am going to continue to lend my support to Bill Prim for McHenry County Sheriff in his bid to win the general election in November. I will also continue the investigation of my father’s case. I also have been talking to the eldest son whose father was murdered by Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, Tony Spilotro, and John Fecarotta, all Made men in the Chicago Outfit. He has a book coming out real soon and we have been talking about the possibility of us doing some talking engagements together. I am hoping that it works out because we have interesting stories that are needed to be told.
- Can you put your father’s murder to rest now?
I am not sure if that is really the right question. It is like asking a historian if they could put history to rest. There is still more to find out in my father’s case. However, in my pursuits in my father’s case I fully expect it to change pace and tone. I believe that Bill Prim will become the next Sheriff for McHenry County and I have gotten to know Bill over the past year. I believe him to be a man with a great amount of integrity. Bill has with me and with the public conveyed a message of him having a strong believe in law enforcement transparency and public inclusion for the law enforcement of their community. I will certainly take advantage of that. I feel that I will get access to all the information that I was supposed to have and/or find things that were hidden from me. Anything that I am told that I cannot have, I will now trust there is a good reason for it.