Killing someone takes a lot of wickedness backed by an equal amount of temerity, none of which was lacking in Tony Marino, Joseph “Red” Murphy, Francis Pasqua, Hershey Green, and Daniel Kriesberg, when they gathered at a shabby speakeasy in New York City on a cold winter night in 1933, and hatched a scheme. It was the height of the Depression, and these five lowly men were struggling to make their ends meet. Tony was the proprietor of the establishment—a derelict store wedged between a small awning shop and a brick wall. It never seemed to open, until late at night, when the doors were unlocked to usher in all kinds of shady characters looking to wet their whistle.
Depression-era speakeasy. Illustration by Virnard/Shutterstock.com
But not all of Tony Marino’s customers paid. Some emptied out their dirty pockets and put the rest on a tab, which was conveniently forgotten. The biggest offender was Michael Malloy, an old Irishman who came to America seeking a better life, but instead found himself, along with the rest of the nation, plunged into poverty and homelessness.
Malloy worked as a firefighter before the stock market crash. Then he began doing odd jobs like sweeping alleys or collecting garbage. At nights he staggered to the door of Marino’s speakeasy and drank his brains out. He was, the Daily Mirror wrote, just part of the “flotsam and jetsam in the swift current of underworld speakeasy life, those no-longer-responsible derelicts who stumble through the last days of their lives in a continual haze of ‘Bowery Smoke.’ ”
That night, as Malloy sat snoring in one corner of the bar, the five men discussed the hard times and how they might earn some quick bucks. Over several rounds of drinks, the men decided on a sinister plan—they would take out an insurance policy on innocent naming themselves as beneficiaries, then they would kill the victim and collect the cash. Marino had pulled off such a scheme once before. Just the previous year, he had befriended a homeless woman, convinced her to take out a $2000 insurance policy, and then one frigid night, got her drunk and left her naked, wet and and unconscious beside an open window. The medical examiner ruled her death as an accident, and Marino collected the policy amount without incident.
Marino and his party of crooks believed they could do it one more time. All they needed was someone expendable with no friends or family. Mallory fitted the bill perfectly.
Tony Marino’s speakeasy. Photo: Ossie Le Viness/NY Daily News
The five conspirators started cosying up to Malloy and plied him with free drinks. They explained to him that the men were collecting signatures for a petition that would get Marino elected to local office. If Malloy signed the petition, Marino promised he would get unlimited credit. The promise of free booze delighted Malloy, and he hastily signed everything that was put in front of him. Without knowing Malloy signed three insurance policies, for a total of over $3,500 (roughly $70,000 in 2020).
The plan was simple. Malloy was in his fifties, although he looked at least a decade older, and was in awful shape. With unlimited credit, Marino thought that Malloy would abuse it and drink himself to death. But Malloy turned out to be a hardy fellow. Each night, Malloy would drink half his weight in booze, thank Marino for his hospitality, and return the next day without fail.
The gang realized that alcohol alone wouldn’t do the job, so Marino started adding a little antifreeze to his drinks. But that made no difference. Antifreeze was replaced with turpentine, followed by horse liniment, and finally rat poison was mixed in. Still Mallow lived. The group then tried raw oysters soaked in wood alcohol, because Pasqua, one of the conspirators, had seen a man die after eating oysters with whiskey. Then came a sandwich of spoiled sardines mixed with poison and carpet tacks. Malloy not only lived, he thrived, even putting on weight.
The group concluded correctly that Malloy had an iron stomach and it might be impossible to kill him with alcohol and food. So they decided to try out the tested method—freeze him to death, like Marino did with the homeless woman. On an exceptionally cold night they waited until Malloy passed out, put him outside, and poured water over him. But that didn’t work either. Malloy woke up sometime later, and dragged his half-frozen body to Marino’s speakeasy to sleep it off on the floor.
By this time killing Malloy had become as much a matter of pride as payoff. With monthly insurance payments looming large, Marino in desperation hired a cab driver to run over Malloy. But that only left Malloy with a few broken bones. After a short stint in the hospital, Malloy was back at the speakeasy.
Tony Marino and Frank Pasqua, after their arrest.
This time, the gang had enough. On February 22, after Malloy passed out for the night, they took him to Murphy’s room, put a hose in his mouth and connected it to the gas jet. This finally killed Malloy. He barely lasted five minutes. They bribed a doctor to pronounce him dead by lobar pneumonia and he was quickly buried. But a story like this stays rarely buried. Soon word got out of “Malloy the Durable” and when the rumors fell on the cop’s ears, an investigation was opened. Malloy’s body was exhumed and forensically examined
What the murderers didn’t know was the gas that killed Malloy was carbon monoxide, a gas that forms such a lethal and stable bond with proteins in the blood that it stays with the body for months. Laboratory analysis easily found lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the remains of old Malloy. A little grilling from the cops and both the doctor, who conducted the initial autopsy, and the cab driver hired to run down Malloy sang like a bird. The entire gang was arrested.
Hersey Green went to prison, while the other four members were executed in the electric chair.
# Karen Abbott, The Man Who Wouldn’t Die, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-man-who-wouldnt-die-89417903/
# Harry Brent, The incredible story of ‘Durable’ Mike Malloy – a Donegal man living in New York who simply refused to die, https://www.irishpost.com/life-style/incredible-story-durable-mike-malloy-donegal-man-living-new-york-simply-refused-die-169395
# Deborah Blum, The Legend of Mike ‘The Durable’ Malloy, History’s Most Stubborn Murder Victim, https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-legend-of-mike-the-durable-malloy-historys-most-st-5918834