CHAPTER SIX

Gerald and Harold

Jerry Tillinghast, center, with his arm around the man he was convicted of murdering, George Basmajian, left. The man on the right is Matthew Guglielmetti, another member of the Patriarca crime family. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Jerry Tillinghast, center, with his arm around the man he was convicted of murdering, George Basmajian, left. The man on the right is Matthew Guglielmetti, another member of the Patriarca crime family. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Police discover a bullet-riddled body in the backseat of a car. Jerry Tillinghast and his brother Harold are arrested. But doubts are soon raised about Harold’s involvement. And now, Jerry has a choice: break the mob’s code of silence, or allow his brother to join him in prison.

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Jerry Tillinghast, right, with barber Vinny DeQuattro, who wears a gold medal he won cutting Tillinghast's hair for a contest. DeQuattro says Tillinghast and Basmajian visited the barber shop not long before Basmajian was found dead. Tillinghast was arrested for his murder. Courtesy of Vinny DeQuattro.

Jerry Tillinghast, right, with barber Vinny DeQuattro, who wears a gold medal he won cutting Tillinghast's hair for a contest. DeQuattro says Tillinghast and Basmajian visited the barber shop not long before Basmajian was found dead. Tillinghast was arrested for his murder. Courtesy of Vinny DeQuattro.

A lot of people were my friends that passed away suddenly.
— Jerry Tillinghast
George Basmajian, far left, enjoys a lavish meal at the Adult Correctional Institutions with other wiseguys in the early 1970s. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

George Basmajian, far left, enjoys a lavish meal at the Adult Correctional Institutions with other wiseguys in the early 1970s. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.



A policeman examines the yellow 1974 Mercury in which George Basmajian's bullet-riddled body was found. Basmajian was sitting in the backseat when he was shot nine times in the torso and face. One detective said the car was steaming up inside when it was discovered. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

A policeman examines the yellow 1974 Mercury in which George Basmajian's bullet-riddled body was found. Basmajian was sitting in the backseat when he was shot nine times in the torso and face. One detective said the car was steaming up inside when it was discovered. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Another policeman shines a flashlight into the Mercury where George Basmajian was murdered. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Another policeman shines a flashlight into the Mercury where George Basmajian was murdered. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.


The title page of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island's opinion for the Basmajian murder trial.

The title page of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island's opinion for the Basmajian murder trial.


Vinny Vespia, pictured here in the early 1970s, was a state police detective. He followed Jerry and Harold Tillinghast to the scene of George Basmajian's murder. Courtesy of Sheila McKenna.

Vinny Vespia, pictured here in the early 1970s, was a state police detective. He followed Jerry and Harold Tillinghast to the scene of George Basmajian's murder. Courtesy of Sheila McKenna.

We considered it a war against organized crime. It was us against them.
— Vinny Vespia
The case against the Tillinghast brothers depended heavily on the testimony of state witness Vinny Vespia. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

The case against the Tillinghast brothers depended heavily on the testimony of state witness Vinny Vespia. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

In August 1979, Jerry Tillinghast climbs into a van at Superior Court on his way to prison for the murder of George Basmajian. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Michael Delaney.

In August 1979, Jerry Tillinghast climbs into a van at Superior Court on his way to prison for the murder of George Basmajian. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Michael Delaney.


A 1980 mugshot of Harold Tillinghast, taken after his murder conviction, at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

A 1980 mugshot of Harold Tillinghast, taken after his murder conviction, at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


CRIMETOWN EXTRA

Listen to an interview moment—handpicked by the Crimetown producers—that didn't make the final version of this episode.


Jerry Tillinghast (center, in a white sweatshirt) was 60 years old when he was released from prison. He spent nearly 30 years behind bars. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach.

Jerry Tillinghast (center, in a white sweatshirt) was 60 years old when he was released from prison. He spent nearly 30 years behind bars. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach.

News coverage of Jerry Tillinghast's release from prison in 2007. Video courtesy of WPRI.


My favorite word is choices. You make it, you own it. You reap the benefits, suffer the consequences.
— Jerry Tillinghast
Jerry Tillinghast, right, as he is escorted from prison in 2007. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach.

Jerry Tillinghast, right, as he is escorted from prison in 2007. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach.


Episode Credits

Crimetown is Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell and Mike Plunkett, with additional production by Laura Sim. It is edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Fact-checking by Mick Rouse. This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed and scored by Matthew Boll. Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. Our credit music this episode is "Into the Grey" by Vanessa Bley. Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. Our ad music is by Matthew Boll. Additional sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound. 

Additional mixing by Martin Peralta and Enoch Kim. Our digital editor is Kate Parkinson-Morgan. Our design director is Ale Lariu.This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Thanks to the Providence Journal, WPRI, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Tim White, Dan Barry, Lisa Newby, Mary Murphy, Greg Mallozzi, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place and we are honored to tell a part of its story.

Ale LariuEpisode Six