BONUS EPISODE: THE ARREST OF RALPH DEMASI
RALPH DEMASI: Am I a pack rat, or what?
ZAC STUART-PONTIER: FBI arrest five at Port Plaza.
RALPH: This is when they got us, huh? [laughter]
MARC SMERLING: Ralph DeMasi lives in a rented room in a single-story house on a cul-de-sac in Northern Massachusetts. The room is small and cramped, a lot like a prison cell. Ralph’s memories cover the walls—photos of wiseguys, his wife, his three kids. And there are file boxes everywhere—under the bed, stacked in the closet; full of letters and court documents and newspaper clippings — from Ralph’s long life of crime.
ZAC: “DeMasi is a career criminal, probably one of the most dangerous professional and career criminals in New England,” Rhode Island state captain Brian Andrews said.
RALPH: No, he didn’t say that. Did he say that? That son of a bitch. That’s that cop from Rhode Island said that, right?
ZAC: That’s right, he sure did.
MARC: Ralph is a legend in New England’s criminal underworld—one of the most dangerous members of the Patriarca crime family. And he was unique… half black, half Italian… He started out as a boxer. He had no problem committing acts of violence. But, at night when other wiseguys went out drinking...he went home to his family.
RALPH: Yeah there’s pretty good pictures huh? It’s my wife sue and I and all three of the kids. Little Susie, she’s 40 years old now, that was fuckin’ 39 years ago.
MARC: Back then, when it came to crime, Ralph had a specialty... robbing armored trucks. He loved it.
RALPH: You want honest answers, right?
MARC: I really do.
RALPH: I’m 79 now, and I’ve gone through the whole rigamarole of criminal activities, and... if I could rob an armored truck today or tomorrow I’d do it.
There were two objectives, I think, is to get the money and don’t get caught getting the money.
ZAC: Ralph, it was a real pleasure spending time with you today. We’ll see you again… we’ll see you again…
MARC: All right…I’ll see you later. Thank you!
RALPH: Alright, be careful driving…
ZAC: All right…Take care.
ZAC: Today, Ralph’s an old man. He’s short and withered. His memory is slipping. You’d never think he’s the kind of guy law enforcement says he is. A guy accused of armed robberies, home invasions… even murders. But then...a few months after our visit...this happens.
ARCHIVAL: Ralph Demasi, now eighty years old, was arrested this afternoon… Charged with armed robbery and murder… Demasi will be in court Wednesday to face the new charges against him...
MARC: This week... Ralph DeMasi’s past catches up to him.
I’m Marc Smerling…
ZAC: And I’m Zac Stuart-Pontier…Welcome to Crimetown.
RALPH: Hello… anybody there…. Hi Sue. Sue? We’re on our way back to my place.
MARC: On one of our first visits with Ralph DeMasi, he called the most important person in his life: his ex-wife Sue…
RALPH: All right hon. Right. Bye now...
SUE: I still stick to my word today, that nobody will ever love, or has ever loved, the way we loved.
RALPH: They’ve accused me of killing people and doing a lot of criminal acts throughout the years but I always treated Sue like a queen. The best I could, you know.
SUE: He was just so gentle and kind like, you know? Like he patted me on the head one day and I think I did lash out and say what am I a dog? I wanted him to like me, like, and notice me you know? And uh the first time I went over to his house I brought—he had never drank. I brought over I think a 6-pack, Ralph, and a half a pint of Seagram’s 7, right, cause I wanted to get drunk to have the nerve you know to be with him alone. And he was like why do you drink? And that was it, I quit drinking after that.
SUE: When I met him we moved in right away, probably within two weeks, we got married within 4 months. And then he just started going to jail. He had been in jail when he came home. You came home from the cactus fur robbery thing and I met you at my mother’s.
RALPH: What’d they give me, 12 years for that?
SUE: No, you did 8 and a half years, you had just gotten out of Walpole, you did 8 and a half years. Next thing you know, they were kicking my door in again, that was for a home invasion.
MARC: That night, Sue was waiting for Ralph to come home. She was pregnant with their first son, Ralph Jr.
SUE: I can remember one time sitting... knowing that he was out doing a score, and it was so quiet that I could hear my own heart beating.
I'm pregnant with Ralph, I'm in this flimsy nightgown with a slit up to here right. Thinking he's going to come home and we'd have a nice dinner, and...
I hadn't heard from him and he always always called home no matter what happened. I thought sure he was dead and I could hear my own heartbeat. I was listening so intently at the door. It seemed like an eternity.
MARC: Sue finally heard Ralph’s car pull into the driveway.
SUE: They were in an old Rambler. When Ralph pulled up, they pulled in and blocked him in and then cars came from everywhere and they had these big spotlights. It looked like it was daytime out. Like a movie scene, right?
I ran down the stairs and it just happened so fast. I went out, they had a gun to Ralph's head. And I jumped on the cop's back, I'm saying let him go that's my husband!
The place is surrounded. And then it dawned on me: oh, the guns are out
They said to me we’re coming in, I said you aren't coming in my house unless you have a warrant.
So we’re on the third floor. I go up, I get the box, this heavy box of guns in it and everything, and there's a window in between each landing and I'm trying to walk normal like, you know?
MARC: Sue struggled under the weight of all those guns… and made her way downstairs to a neighbor’s door.
SUE: And I said to Sharon, I got to put these away. She goes "no Sue!" So I didn't give her an option. I said listen just open, just shut up, I'm putting them in here, don't worry, if anything happens you'll be bailed out tonight.
See those stories were funny to me, it don’t sound normal, does it?
SUE: Out of the 13 years we were married, he was in prison 11 of those. And the longest period of time he was home one time was for 7 months. It was usually 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks.
MARC: What was his reputation in Southie, and in Providence? What was Ralph known for?
SUE: Oh in Providence? Connected to the mob. Was his thing. You know. Tough guy.
RALPH: Raymond was a good friend of mine. Patriarca.
SUE: Raymond Patriarca, I was the daughter he never had.
MARC: Raymond L.S. Patriarca, boss of the New England mob.
SUE: When you ended up at the ACI and met Raymond, Raymond... because I treated his wife with so much respect and everything, and Ralph's connections with him. You know what I mean?
RALPH: I'm still, uh, friends with his son. You know?
SUE: But he used to, I used to go to his office on Federal Hill every week and he'd have a little yellow envelope for me with $200 in it.
MARC: That helps.
SUE: You ain't kidding, it was huge back then you know? And plus, Christmas, he'd have a tree delivered to my house.
MARC: As a member of the Patriarca crime family, Ralph occasionally had to deal with rival gang leaders. Including one of America's most famous mob bosses...
RALPH: Whitey Bulger. What about him?
ZAC: You had a confrontation with him.
RALPH: Well, I never did, no. He had a confrontation with me.
RALPH: Whitey’s in that category where his whole focus was what I want, I’m going to get, and I’m going to get it the way I want to get it. And he used the violence to achieve his end.
MARC: On March 23rd, 1973, Ralph had a sit-down in South Boston with Whitey and some of his associates. According to Ralph, they were there to settle a dispute. When Ralph left, he jumped in a black Cadillac with a friend named Billy O’Brien behind the wheel.
RALPH: Now when I left it was getting dark, so I look back before I got in the car, Billy O’Brien was driving. I said to Billy O'Brien, I said, Billy keep your eye on the rearview mirror, side mirror, if a car comes up fast, I said, hit the gas. He started laughing, 'Oh Ralph, you’re being paranoid.' So he fluffed me off, he laughed about it and joked.
But then... another car pulled up alongside and opened fire.
RALPH: It threw me forward ‘cause I got hit. I think in the shoulder, in the back. And Billy said what the fuck? And he hit the brakes and we started fishtailing. And then I went down on the floorboard ‘cause the bullets just kept coming. And then we crashed into a fence.
Everything goes blank except to try to get the person that’s trying to do you harm.
I had a stiletto, I didn’t have a gun, I had a stiletto. I got the stiletto out. That car stopped and the two shooters got out. That was Bulger and Tommy King. I reached up, opened the door. And I wasn’t running the other way, I was running right at ‘em to try to disarm em and stab em. Kill em. [laughter]
I heard, “Here he comes!” and they panicked and jumped back All they had to do is start shooting and I was dead as a doornail. They jumped back in the car. I ran after them for a minute and then I got my head together and went back to the car. And Billy O’Brien, I could see his whole side of his head was...gone.
So I started walking... trying to get off Morrissey Boulevard, and a police car pulled up.
Hey, hey, where you coming from? And I might have been staggering a little. And I kept walking. He jumped out of his police car, and, “Holy shit!” Blood was all over me and he grabbed a hold of me, got me in the police car and took me to the hospital.
MARC: The driver, Billy O'Brien, died. Ralph DeMasi had been shot seven times...but he survived.
SUE: I remember when you were in the hospital, Ralph, and you got a phone call and they were begging for forgiveness and saying they didn’t know you were in the car…
RALPH: That’s because Raymond and all the wiseguys got involved and they said… hey... he’s with us you cocksuckers…you know.
SUE: Then they grabbed you at the wake. Remember we went to the wake and I had my... Rhode Island state police were there. And they pounced on Ralph. And Ralph had a gun here. Remember? And it fell down your leg. And I took my coat, you know, I had a long wrap and I tried to cover it. But I knew they saw it. I was trying to get the gun. And the cop, I remember him as a kid, my mother knew him. He said Sue don’t bother, we know he's got a gun… even if it’s on you, we’re charging him... So they took him, I said, I can’t believe you’re gonna take him from a funeral?
RALPH TAPES: Ralph Demasi Sr. speaking. The date is July 23, 1977\. I just thought maybe I’d talk to you tonight, honey.
MARC: With Ralph in prison so often, he and Sue had to find ways to keep each other company. One way was to pass audio cassettes back and forth.
RALPH TAPES: Sometimes I sit in this cell. I wish I could reach out and touch you. I never thought it was possible to love someone like I love you, honey. Sometimes I can’t even express it, it’s so frustrating not to be able to just hold, I dunno, just hold you tight in my arms, kiss you. I loved it when I was with you out there. Every moment of it. Every moment of it.
MARC: In her small apartment, Sue recorded Ralph Jr., so his dad could hear his voice.
SUE & RALPH JR. TAPE: What does Daddy look like? Monkey. Monkey? A monkey. Daddy’s a monkey? A monkey. Yeah… you love Daddy? Kiss. Kiss. You want a kiss? Aw, you kiss Daddy? You miss Daddy? You want Daddy to come home?
A few years after Ralph Jr. was born came child number two: John. The only delivery Ralph was out of prison for… and even then, he cut it close.
SUE: I go up to the jail, it’s in a bad neighborhood. Picture me, 9 months pregnant, they won't let me go inside. I go up with the bondswoman. I post the bail at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. 9 o'clock at night, I'm still waiting, right? They won't let me inside. She says just sit outside. There's no benches. I go into labor.
I say I'm in labor she says there's a sidewalk. I'm like are you serious? I ended up calling her a few names and then finally what I did was I went around the back, I saw a gate, it says personnel only. I thought, I'm getting somebody's attention. So I went through the gate.
All the lights went off, all the sirens. And I went up to the door and I buzzed and I said, listen this is Susan DeMasi. I'm in labor. I posted bail for my husband Ralph Demasi at 1 o'clock. I need him to come out. They had never told him. He was inside wondering where I was so he came and we went to the hospital and had the baby.
MARC: Oh my god that's insane.
RALPH: Johnny was born down there? Yeah.
MARC: The next day, Ralph was re-arrested and sent back to prison.
SUE: I was deprived of a husband and my kids were deprived of a father. You know, because of choices that he made and to end up in prison.
RALPH: I was away so long you know. And uh that'll take a lot out of a woman you know?
SUE: Plus it, you know, driving from Amesbury to Rhode Island three times a week with three kids, you know, one in your arm one holding on to you and the other one, it does take its toll.
What happened was I ended up cheating on him. And then I just couldn’t ever be with him again. He was in prison. I went up and told him. And he was like it don't matter honey glad you came and told me because if somebody else had told him he probably would have killed em, you know? But um and it didn't matter to him but I just couldn't, you know? I felt like I disobeyed my marriage vows and then I ended up meeting somebody, and, you know.
MARC: Even though they were divorced. Sue kept in touch with Ralph. Then, after serving more than twenty years for an armored car robbery, Ralph got out in 2013 and he moved close to Sue, his children and grandchildren.
RALPH: The deterrent in my life now is to be with Sue and the kids and enjoy a few years. You know, Marc, I got to tell you, and I know I get a laugh from some people, but I got 50 more years to go. So I'm not, I’m not, I’m not gonna sweat out anything that happened in the past and I'm just going to live today and tomorrow.
MARC: Ralph doesn’t want to go back to prison. But it’s obvious that he misses his old life.
RALPH: At the time I robbed a bank, I really didn’t mean to do it. At the time I robbed that armored truck, I really didn’t mean to do it, right? [laughter]
MARC: He jokes about it. It all seems so distant, even harmless. We can’t help but laugh with him.
RALPH: When I shot that guy, I didn’t really mean to do it.
SUE: Gotta be careful, the statute of limitations…
RALPH: I know, I know.
MARC: But now, listening to our conversations with Ralph, his violent past doesn’t seem funny at all.
ARCHIVAL: Ralph Demasi, now eighty years old, was arrested this afternoon… Charged with armed robbery and murder. Police say back in 1991, DeMasi and 3 other men gunned down 52 year old Edward Morlock of Athol in the foyer of a Shaw's market. Morlock, an armored truck guard, was carrying money bags from the store.
MARC: After the break: Ed Morlock, the man Ralph is accused of killing. And the family he left behind.
JEANNETTE MORLOCK: One night, I couldn’t take it, I just walked out, never went back. He locked me out. No coat on, it was in November. Very cold.
MARC: This is Jeannette Morlock. She’s speaking with Dan Barry, a writer for The New York Times. Back in the sixties, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Jeannette was living with her first husband, and decided she’d had enough.
JEANNETTE: I had no place to go. My mother wouldn't take me in, my dad wouldn't. I had no place to go with the kids. And who took me in? Ed did.
MARC: Ed was Ed Morlock... her neighbor.
JEANNETTE: He lived down the road from me. But he didn't like what my ex-husband was doing to me because he was an alcoholic.
DAN BARRY: Was he abusive?
JEANNETTE: Yup. So he kinda like stepped in. Didn't like the way he was treating me, and he said, that's it. I'm taking you out of here. And I’ve never regretted it.
MARC: Jeannette fell in love with Ed, a simple man who’d grown up on a dairy farm.
JEANNETTE: Nothing he couldn't fix. Jack of all trades. Bailers, hay, the gutters for the cows. There was nothing – they pasteurized milk. Worked in the milk room. Oh yeah, he loved all that stuff.
MARC: In 1968, they got married.
JEANNETTE: We were living on the farm, and in March, late February, March, you have to go out into the woods and cut wood that they sell. Cutting the trees now, and I heard an ambulance go by and I went oh no. No, somebody got hurt. Sure enough, the chainsaw was still running, came down, cut his leg on an angle, cut him down to the bone. Ripped out all his valves and tendons, and…of course he was rushed to the hospital, an emergency operation. He was never right after that...
MARC: After the accident, Ed suffered from chronic pain and walked with a limp. The physical labor of farm work became too much. So, he found a new job — as a guard on an armored truck.
JEANNETTE: That morning he left, he filled in for somebody else. It was not his day to work. And he filled in and he says, we're going to go out to McDonald's. And that was a treat for us because we didn't go out much. And I said OK. Said I got to talk to you, got a lot of things to tell you. I said, OK we'll talk about it later. But he never came home.
Ed and I were married 24 years before he got killed. But now I’d be married 48 years... if he was still living.
MARC: One Saturday, in May of 1991, Ed’s armored truck pulled up to a Shaw’s supermarket in a strip mall. Ed got out and went into the market to pick up the day’s cash.
JEANNETTE: About 10:30 that morning, I was upstairs cleaning the bedroom and the phone rang and I have a phone in the bedroom and I answered it and he said he was from Mass Transport and I said yeah, what is it? And he told me, he said, I don’t know how to say this, but your husband’s been shot.
MARC: Armed men wearing stockings to hide their faces confronted Ed. And they shot him.
JEANNETTE: Did I hear that right? So I said, what? Now stop playing games with me. This is no, I don't believe you. I was going to hang up on him. And he kept saying, no wait wait. And all I know, I dropped the phone and I was screaming. I still remember it like it was yesterday.
MARC: The killers grabbed the cash and escaped in a waiting car with stolen plates.
ED MORLOCK JR: I had the radio playing…And what I remember most was it was a song by, I think it was R.E.M., “Losing my Religion.”
MARC: This is Ed’s and Jeanette’s son, Ed Jr.
ED JR: Because it was playing on the radio station and I changed the radio station and then it would start up on that radio station. I must've heard that song five or six times on six different radio stations.
MARC: Ed Jr. came home to find the police standing with his mother on the front porch.
ED JR: I came back, it was around, probably just before noon time… And there was a police cruiser. So I pulled in the driveway. And I came in the door and...
JEANNETTE: Do you remember me standing with the cop? I was pounding his chest. I said, don't say that to me. He kept tellin’ me he was dead, I said, no he’s not.
ED JR: There was one officer that was...
JEANNETTE: That was Ron.
ED JR: That was holding you.
ED JR: Another officer was in the dining room. And when I came in he asked who I was and I told him. And he told me that my father was shot and killed.
DAN: He said he was dead?
ED JR: Yeah.
MARC: Ed Morlock’s murder remained unsolved for more than two decades. But then, last year, police got a break in the case.
ARCHIVAL: Good Afternoon… At about 10:30AM on May 18th 1991, Edward P. Morlock Sr., an armored truck security guard, was shot multiple times in the foyer of Shaw’s supermarket. He was carrying the supermarket’s receipts to the truck when he was approached by gunmen and shot multiple times. The men who killed him escaped in a white Cadillac. That vehicle was located a short distance away. This well organized homicide, and armed robbery, remained unsolved until earlier this year…until new information was discovered by detectives of the Worcester Police, in its unresolved homicide unit. That information led to the arrest of Ralph DeMasi early yesterday at his home in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Any questions...
QUESTION: The new evidence that came forward or the new evidence that was developed by the detectives, is there any light you can shine on that without screwing up your case?
ARCHIVAL: Later…often times in these cases people have different reasons to give information… maybe they didn’t want to talk in the beginning. Maybe they wanted to talk later…That is typical of unresolved cases…
MARC: For his ex-wife, Sue, Ralph’s arrest... came as a surprise…
SUE: Ah.. I don’t know… my daughter called me up hysterical.. She said she saw it on the news. And I guess something happened in Worcester in '91… A Shaw’s supermarket was held up or whatever... and a guard was shot three or four times… I don’t know...several times.
SUE: It’s just not Ralph’s M.O., you know? They’re saying him and three other guys did it… the other three guys are dead. They never gave their names… I don’t know what’s going on, I never heard anything about it… this is the first time. But I just feel bad, because he was just diagnosed with, uh, I forget the term, but it's like, pre-Alzheimer's… you know, and he's got a lot of medical issues, you know? I’m sure he’s feeling all confused right now…
MARC: But for Jeannette Morlock, Ralph DeMasi is nothing more than a criminal who killed her husband.
JEANETTE: He can go to hell and burn in hell. I have no sympathy for him. The prosecutors looked at me and he said, you know what, I don’t blame you. It’s gonna be 26 years in May. He ruined my life…
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: He appeared thin and frail. But 80-year-old Ralph DeMasi answered clearly to the charge of murder…
RALPH: Not guilty.
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: Demasi was a known associate of Whitey Bulger and had already served time for armed robbery. Still, a daughter doesn’t believe her father was capable of murder.
ARCHIVAL DAUGHTER: He’s always been very loving. Good father, good grandfather.
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: So the fact that he’s charged with murder now is beyond your comprehension, I assume.
ARCHIVAL DAUGHTER: I can’t even comprehend it. It’s unbelievable.
MARC: Ralph DeMasi will go on trial next year. Will the jury see what Sue sees... a loving ex-husband trying to make up for lost time with his family?
Or will they see what Jeanette sees... a ruthless criminal accused of gunning down her husband one spring day in 1991?
In the meantime, Ralph sits alone in a Worcester jail… and just maybe... as he lies on his cot in the dark, he hears a voice, his own voice...a warning he left for himself on an old cassette tape some fifty years ago.
RALPH: I know fucking well I can’t never never again do all them crazy running arounds. No way, boy. We just gotta put it all behind us baby and get way away from it. Don’t matter how we do it man we just got to get it together boy and really live now.
[Yawn] Excuse me, I’m yawning and everything. Isn’t that awful… I’ll be dreaming about you tonight, honey. Thanks for everything. Thanks for everything… everything you’ve shared, your heart, your love and your life, with me. And I want to thank you for it. Okay baby... Have a nice sleep honey because I gotta go to sleep now baby. I’ll be dreaming about you tonight, honey. Goodnight baby. I love you honey. Goodnight…
[CLICK OF RECORDER TURNING OFF]
MARC: Crimetown is me, Marc Smerling, and Zac Stuart-Pontier.
This episode was reported in partnership with Dan Barry of The New York Times. To learn more about Ralph DeMasi and the murder of Ed Morlock, read Dan’s recent article, “The Holdup: A Mobster, a Family and the Crime That Won’t Let Them Go.”
Crimetown is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell, Kaitlin Roberts, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.
We are edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.
This episode of Crimetown was mixed by Matthew Boll. Sound designed by Kenny Kusiak and Martin Peralta, and additional mixing by Emma Munger.
Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.
Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.
Our credit music this week is “Daddy’s Dream” by Mitchell Catalanatto, courtesy of Jack Fleischer.
Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.
Our digital editor is Rob Szypko.
Alex Blumberg is The Podfather. He has two objectives: get the money, and don’t get caught getting the money.
This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.
Thanks to The Providence Journal, The New York Times, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Kate Wells, Lisa Newby, Mary Murphy, Meghan Louttit, Christine Kay, Andrew White, Maura Foley, Beth Flynn, and everyone who shared their stories with us.
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