CHAPTER NINE

A Deal With the Devil

Frank "Bobo" Marrapese led the Federal Hill crew of the Patriarca crime family. He was a suspect in several murders in the 1970s and '80s. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Frank "Bobo" Marrapese led the Federal Hill crew of the Patriarca crime family. He was a suspect in several murders in the 1970s and '80s. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


One night in 1982, a 20-year-old man is senselessly murdered at an abandoned gas station. A mobster is taken into witness protection after he pins the murder on his boss. This brutal crime will push three wiseguys out of the mafia in very different ways. 

More on this episode from the Providence Journal →

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Kenneth Carlson, pictured above in a high-school yearbook photo, was Ronald McElroy's best friend.

Kenneth Carlson, pictured above in a high-school yearbook photo, was Ronald McElroy's best friend.

Where I grew up, your friends didn’t get murdered. That was something on TV.
— Ken Carlson, childhood friend of Ronald McElroy
Ronald McElroy was 20 years old when he was beaten to death. He had recently graduated from East Providence High School.

Ronald McElroy was 20 years old when he was beaten to death. He had recently graduated from East Providence High School.

The Providence Journal reports on the death of Ronald McElroy in an article from August 24, 1982. Ronald's brother, Jimmy, recounts details from the night of the murder, saying that some things were hard to remember and what he did recall "didn't make sense." In the article, Jimmy fondly remembers his brother: "He was an all-around guy... He played softball for my team when I needed somebody... He loved waterskiing. He loved everything." Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

He was an all-around guy.
— Jim McElroy, on his brother, Ronald

In an article dated June 12, 1984, The Providence Journal reports on Bobo Marrapese's indictment for murder in the killing of Ronald McElroy. The reporter notes that Bobo was already serving a ten-year term in federal prison for buying a truckload of stolen chairs. Courtesy of The Providence Journal. 


Ronald McElroy's mother told the Providence Journal she had no idea that William Ferle had been involved in her son's death until a few months after Bobo Marrapese's indictment, when she read a newspaper account of courtroom testimony. "I believe the attorney general's department deliberately concealed information about the involvement of William Ferle in the brutal killing of my son, and I demand that Ferle now be indicted and brought to justice," she said. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Ronald McElroy's mother told the Providence Journal she had no idea that William Ferle had been involved in her son's death until a few months after Bobo Marrapese's indictment, when she read a newspaper account of courtroom testimony. "I believe the attorney general's department deliberately concealed information about the involvement of William Ferle in the brutal killing of my son, and I demand that Ferle now be indicted and brought to justice," she said. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.


When it was time for me to talk, I was ready. I’m like, you motherfuckers are going to hear the truth.
— Bobby Walason
In Ronald McElroy's murder trial, Bobby Walason acted as a defense witness for Bobo Marrapese. Courtesy of Bobby Walason. 

In Ronald McElroy's murder trial, Bobby Walason acted as a defense witness for Bobo Marrapese. Courtesy of Bobby Walason


Anthony Pesare, pictured above in 1994, was a state police investigator who offered Billy Ferle protection in exchange for information about various mob murder cases, including the McElroy murder. Courtesy of the Providence Journal. 

Anthony Pesare, pictured above in 1994, was a state police investigator who offered Billy Ferle protection in exchange for information about various mob murder cases, including the McElroy murder. Courtesy of the Providence Journal

It’s a deal with the devil. But the only way to get a devil is with another devil.
— Anthony Pesare
Richard Egbert, Bobo Marrapese's lawyer, was a well-known criminal defense attorney. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Richard Egbert, Bobo Marrapese's lawyer, was a well-known criminal defense attorney. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


Anthony Pesare at the Rhode Island state police academy in 1981, a year before the McElroy murder. Courtesy of Anthony Pesare. 

Anthony Pesare at the Rhode Island state police academy in 1981, a year before the McElroy murder. Courtesy of Anthony Pesare

"Gino concluded that there was not much difference between cops and mobsters, other than the side of the law they chose. They were remarkably similar. Each had a strong allegiance to an organization; they were ambitious and constantly evaluating and measuring up the competition. 

Success for police officers was defined by rising through the ranks. For a mobster, it was the same type of progression. Instead of a corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain, it was made man, capo, underboss, and boss. Each step brought more responsibility and more chance of failure, but everyone was driven by prestige and power."

from Anthony Pesare's novel "They Always Win," inspired by the real-life investigation of Bobo Marrapese



Bobo Marrapese listens during opening statements in Superior Court, Providence, where he faces murder charges in the 1975 slaying of Richard "Dickie" Callei. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Frieda Squires.

Bobo Marrapese listens during opening statements in Superior Court, Providence, where he faces murder charges in the 1975 slaying of Richard "Dickie" Callei. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Frieda Squires.

Bobo Marrapese, center, confers with lawyer Richard Egbert, left, while another of his lawyers listens in. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Lawrence S. Millard. 

Bobo Marrapese, center, confers with lawyer Richard Egbert, left, while another of his lawyers listens in. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Lawrence S. Millard


Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Michael Burns, right, gestures over a hole in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1986, where Dickie Callei was allegedly buried by Bobo Marrapese. Bobo was found guilty of that murder and sentenced to life in prison. At 74, Bobo is still serving time today. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Michael Burns, right, gestures over a hole in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1986, where Dickie Callei was allegedly buried by Bobo Marrapese. Bobo was found guilty of that murder and sentenced to life in prison. At 74, Bobo is still serving time today. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.


After leaving the mob, Bobby Walason tried out many careers, including modeling. Courtesy of Bobby Walason. 

After leaving the mob, Bobby Walason tried out many careers, including modeling. Courtesy of Bobby Walason

I had to change everything. I couldn’t keep it up.
— Bobby Walason

Bobby promotes the EZ Jump, which is similar to a jump rope, on the Home Shopping Network. Courtesy of Bobby Walason.


Episode Credits

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Martin Peralta, Enoch Kim and Kenny Kuziak. 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, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Lisa Newby, Mary Murphy and everyone who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place, and we're honored to tell a part of its story.

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell, Kaitlin Roberts and Mike Plunkett, with additional production by Laura Sim. The show 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. Additional sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound. Our title track is "Run to Your Mama" by Goat. Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. 

Ale LariuEpisode Nine