The Man Who Wouldn’t Die: New York’s Most Fantastic Murder
The plot was conceived over a round of drinks. One afternoon in July 1932, Francis Pasqua, Daniel Kriesberg and Tony Marino sat in Marino’s eponymous speakeasy and raised their glasses, sealing their complicity, figuring the job was already half-finished. How difficult could it be to push Michael Malloy to drink himself to death? Every morning the old man showed up at Marino’s place in the Bronx and requested “Another mornin’s morning, if ya don’t mind” in his muddled brogue; hours later he would pass out on the floor. For a while Marino had let Malloy drink on credit, but he no longer paid his tabs. “Business,” the saloonkeeper confided to Pasqua and Kriesberg, “is bad.”
Pasqua, 24, an undertaker by trade, eyed Malloy’s sloping figure, the glass of whiskey hoisted to his slack mouth. No one knew much about him—not even, it seemed, Malloy himself—other than that he had come from Ireland. He had no friends or family, no definitive date of birth (most guessed him to be about 60), no apparent trade or vocation beyond the occasional odd job sweeping alleys or collecting garbage, happy to be paid in alcohol instead of money. He was, wrote the Daily Mirror, 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.’ “
“Why don’t you take out insurance on Malloy?” Pasqua asked Marino that day, according to another contemporary newspaper report. “I can take care of the rest.”
Marino paused. Pasqua knew he’d pulled off such a scheme once before. The prior year, Marino, 27, had befriended a homeless woman named Mabelle Carson and convinced her to take out a $2,000 life insurance policy, naming him as the beneficiary. One frigid night he force-fed her alcohol, stripped off her clothing, doused the sheets and mattress with ice water, and pushed the bed beneath an open window. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as bronchial pneumonia, and Marino collected the money without incident.
Marino nodded and motioned to Malloy. “He looks all in. He ain’t got much longer to go anyhow. The stuff is gettin’ him.” He and Pasqua glanced over at Daniel Kriesberg. The 29-year-old grocer and father of three would later say he participated for the sake of his family. He nodded, and the gang set into motion a macabre chain of events that would earn Michael Malloy cult immortality by proving him nearly immortal.