On October 4th, 1951, mobster Willie Moretti was murdered in a restaurant in Cliffside Park. Moretti was an underboss in the Genovese crime family, running operations, primarily gambling, from Hasbrouck Heights and Deal.

Moretti is infamous for a couple of reasons: his connection to Frank Sinatra and his appearance at the Kefauver hearings. According to the Mafia Encyclopedia, Moretti was Sinatra’s godfather; Sinatra had risen to prominence singing with Tommy Dorsey’s band, but as his fame soared, he wanted to get out of his contract with Dorsey, but Dorsey refused. The story has it that Moretti obtained Sinatra’s release by shoving a gun down Dorsey’s throat and telling him he would pull the trigger if Dorsey refused to let Sinatra out of his contract. The tale may or may not be true, but Dorsey released Sinatra from his contract. The incident is supposed to have been the inspiration for the storyline in The Godfather film.

Moretti’s murder was probably because of his appearance at the congressional organized crime inquiry known as the Kefauver Hearings. Moretti didn’t keep his mouth shut, joking, telling stories and mugging for the cameras. His bosses were not pleased. They believed that Moretti’s erratic behavior was due in large part to his advanced case of syphilis, making him mentally unstable and, therefore, untrustworthy.

Because of his declining mental faculties, mob boss Vito Genovese is supposed to have referred to Moretti’s murder as a “mercy killing.” On October 4th, 1951, Moretti was having lunch at Joe’s Elbow Room in Cliffside Park with four other mobsters; shots rang out and Moretti was dead with bullet wounds in his face and head. The crime was, unsurprisingly, never solved. Moretti was buried in South Hackensack.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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