John Adamson’s numerous acquaintances in the Valley of the Sun with penchants for criminal activities included William Rocco “Rocky” D’Ambrosio and Frank Mossuto. They were Chicago mob guys who back in the 1970s had acquired a lounge in Scottsdale called La Versailles. They were the ones who also procured the dynamite used in the car-bomb which fatally injured Don Bolles in June 1976. And they did so not for reasons of their own but as a favor to another associate of Adamson, a mob killer-for-hire, who had been retained to carry out the murder.
In Adamson’s plea deal confession and follow-up trial testimony, afraid of implicating mafia folks, he claimed that the dynamite employed in the Bolles homicide came from a stash of such explosives which he had stolen in late 1975 from a dynamite bunker belonging to westside rancher Stan Tanner. As already indicated, that was yet another lie.
In reality, 40-plus sticks of the dynamite previously ripped-off from Tanner were used by Adamson in a failed January 1976 attempt to blow-up a building in Phoenix — an intended insurance scam — in which Neal Roberts had a financial interest. The dynamite accidentally was discovered scattered along an interior hallway with a clock timer by a married employee who worked in one of the building’s offices. He had been having an affair, unexpectedly returning to the building late at night to wash-off his girlfriend’s scent before going home to his wife.
One of Adamson’s other buddies later admitted to me that, when law enforcement authorities were called in to disarm that effort, confiscating the explosives, Adamson didn’t want to be caught anywhere near the remainder of the matching dynamite taken from Tanner’s bunker. Accordingly, Adamson asked the same buddy who subsequently talked to me to gather up what was left of Tanner’s dynamite and to get rid of it, about a dozen sticks in all. That source acknowledged to me that he promptly did so by crumpling them up and dumping them in a nearby Phoenix irrigation canal.
Consequently, when the mob hit-man recruited for the plot to murder Bolles needed dynamite for a car-bomb, a new supply had to be found. At the request of that imposing killer, a fellow Chicagoan, D’Ambrosio and Mossuto passed along $500 from him to then occasional bartender, a fellow named Billy May, for him to purchase an out-of-state case of off-the-books dynamite.
Along about April 1976 May then turned to a Gallup, New Mexico, junk dealer and fence named Elmore Perry to accomplish the task. Knowing what it was for, however, and not wanting to make it a federal offense by carrying the dynamite across state lines, May left the case of dynamite in Gallup for his employers to pick-up. D’Ambrosio and Mossuto made the necessary trip, accompanied on the mission by D’Ambrosio’s cousin Sammy Faulisi aka Sam Prima.
While mobsters D’Ambrosio and Mossuto hadn’t yet come to Bolles’ attention for his 1970 series in the ARIZONA REPUBLIC on organized crime, Faulisi, another Chicagoan, already was known to the reporter at that time. For those articles Bolles tagged Faulisi as a “Mafia enforcer” with prior convictions for “fatally stabbing a man” in Illinois and for “armed robbery” in Arizona. Had they been noticed by Bolles in 1970, D’Ambrosio’s criminal background already included a conviction for murder, while Mossuto’s prior convictions included theft and forgery.
After Bolles became the victim of a dynamite bomb on June 2, 1976, and after Adamson duly was arrested just days later, May went into a panic fearing that he eventually could be charged as an accomplice as well. Over the years he had managed to stay out of legal trouble himself by being a periodic informant to Lt. Ron Dean of Scottsdale PD and to an FBI agent at the bureau’s Phoenix field office.
In keeping with what had worked for him in the past, May again got in touch with Lt. Dean who immediately arranged a meeting between May, Dean, and Phoenix PD Detective Terry Rhiel on June 19, 1976, less than a week after Bolles finally died from blast injuries. In the process, Dean vouched for May as a “reliable and confidential” source and for May’s “knowledge of the people involved” whom he was about to implicate.
May then identified D’Ambrosio and Mossuto as his bosses at Scottsdale’s La Versailles who had sent him to New Mexico with $500 to purchase some dynamite. According to Rhiel’s hand-written report filed on June 20, 1976, May had heard D’Ambrosio and Mossuto talking about a “reporter” in the context of the dynamite but never heard a name. It was Bolles, however, who explicitly came up in May’s de-briefing by Rhiel. Acknowledging that Adamson and D’Amborsio were “fairly tight,” May even offered an opinion to Rhiel that neither one was “smart enough to do a deal like Bolles” on his own.
On or about the same date that he talked to Phoenix PD, May also reportedly gave a similar statement to his FBI contact which I so far have not been able to review. In return for his cooperation with law enforcement authorities May was never given formal immunity from prosecution, but he must have been given some informal assurances and was never charged. And fearing that his own life could now be endangered, he soon thereafter left the state, making himself hard to find as an itinerant bartender moving around the country.
Faced with information which threatened to discredit Adamson’s emerging claims, the AzAG’s office scrambled to find a way to protect the case then being developed. The solution found by September 1976 was for Phoenix PD Detective Marcus Aurelius (his real name) to file a report insisting that the target of the D’Ambrosio/Mossuto plot actually was not Bolles at all but rather another ARIZONA REPUBLIC reporter named Al Sitter. And since May’s information ostensibly no longer pertained to the Bolles case, this obviously exculpatory information improperly was withheld from Max Dunlap and Jim Robison in the course of their ensuing arrests and convictions for Bolles’ murder.
A copy of the misleading Aurelius report is appended. It obviously makes no sense that such a plan to kill Sitter would have been launched in the spring of 1976 for articles he didn’t write until “July-August 1976.” And tellingly there never was any criminal investigation of the supposed Sitter bomb plot because the cops knew it was total fabrication.
It was not until late 1979, in fact, that May’s assertions about D’Ambrosio and Mossuto acquiring the dynamite “to kill a reporter” back in 1976 finally saw the light of day. It then was reinforced in January 1980 when Vanessa Blake, a female friend and occasional bookkeeper for D’Ambrosio, admitted to Scottsdale PD Lt. Bob Arthur that she also was aware that D’Ambrosio and Mossuto had been involved in procuring dynamite for the Bolles homicide. When relayed by Arthur to Phoenix PD, however, Blake’s information also was suppressed until January 1981 when, as investigative reporter for the SCOTTSDALE PROGRESS, I eventually learned of it myself directly from her.
That wasn’t even the full extent of such information. In July 1976, for example, Phoenix PD Sgt. Glenn Kenner already had filed a report that, shortly before the Bolles car-bombing, D’Ambrosio had been overheard bragging that something big was about to happen.
And in February 1981 when I finally succeeded in tracking down Billy May for an interview, he again made it clear that it was Bolles who was the target of the 1976 D’Ambrosio/Mossuto dynamite acquisition. “It was a long time ago,” he said, “but I understand why you’re still concerned about Bolles. You all are reporters and so was he.” He also noted that he remained on the run because “what I’ve already told the police still could get my fucking head blown off.”
Then there has been the curious saga of Danny 0’Keefe, a business associate of D’Ambrosio and Mossuto at La Versailles in Scottsdale. As an additional available witness against his partners in the Bolles plot, his very existence as someone with critical exculpatory information deliberately was withheld from the Dunlap/Robison defense, seemingly a particularly serious act of prosecutorial misconduct. This soon will be the subject of another article.
Finally, in an an FBI interview a few years before the Bolles murder, D’Ambrosio prophetically mentioned that, among his various Mafia pals, there was one guy especially capable of getting him into bad legal trouble, a friend named Carl Verive. And it undoubtedly was Verive, a notorious mob killer, who a few years later in the spring of 1976 was the one giving D’Ambrosio and Mossuto $500 to get him some dynamite. More on Verive will follow as well.
Copyright © 2022 Don Devereux, All Rights Reserved
Journalists, historians, teachers, and students are free to quote from any of this material in writings of their own, provided that they do so with proper attribution and acknowledgement of applicable copyrights.