Don Bolles Murder

Carl Verive

Starting to attract too much attention from Chicago law enforcement officials, Mafia enforcer and killer Carl Verive opted to move west by 1970 — if not a bit sooner — to Phoenix, a growing town rapidly becoming a desert colony of the Windy City mob. But also noticed here by Phoenix PD intelligence officers, he began to be the subject of what he felt were hassling “traffic stops.” As recourse, he then recruited a local “wannabe” to serve on a regular basis as his driver. The latter’s name was John Harvey Adamson.

Charles “Carl” Anthony Verive

In September 1974 a Phoenix PD intelligence detective managed a meeting with Adamson in which Adamson readily acknowledged having become a “companion” of Verive. According to the ensuing intelligence report, “Adamson says he drives Carl daily and is normally with him from early morning to late evening.” Recognizing an opportunity, the officer even noted a future possibility of going through Adamson to try to arrange a similar sit-down by Verive with police.

In those early years, Adamson quickly became Verive’s criminal accomplice, not just his chauffeur. During an internal mob feud in Colorado, for example, a gunshot was fired into the house of Denver’s Mafia boss Clarence “Checkers” Smaldone in July 1973 wounding his wife Pauline. And in January 1974 someone tossed a lit stick of dynamite onto Smaldone’s front porch, damaging the house.

According to eyewitness descriptions, the culprits were two men in a car with Arizona plates. One of them subsequently was identified as Verive, but the witnesses in question refused to testify. Adamson in turn matched the looks of the second man. When his Phoenix apartment later was searched by cops after the June 1976 murder of Don Bolles, a court document was found with notations on the back in Adamson’s handwriting citing “two trips to Denver. One — shot Checker Smaldone’s wife. Two — Checker’s house blown up.” In a 1986 phone interview, Capt. Doug Matthews of Lakewood PD, the Denver suburb in which the Smaldone residence was located, told me that Phoenix PD Homicide Detective Jon Sellers, working on the Bolles case, came up to Colorado in 1977 to review their files on those 1973-74 incidents, seemingly aware of possible common perpetrators.

By 1974 Adamson also had become a sort of business agent for Verive. If someone was interested in retaining Verive for his muscle or murder services, the best approach was via Adamson to arrange a meeting. In a 1978 law enforcement interview, local gambler/burglar Hank Landry, a friend of both Adamson and Verive, made precisely that point. According to Landry, back in 1974 Adamson indeed played that role in setting up such a get-together between Arizona land fraud figure Ned Warren and Verive. Warren, Landry said, wanted Verive “to do something to (Ed) Lazar and to Jack West and to Fred Talley.” Landry noted “I sat at the bar while Carl went over and talked to Ned.”

Suffice it to say that Talley, a corrupt Arizona Land Commissioner and recipient of Warren’s bribes, soon thereafter in November 1974 was discovered dead in his home of a supposed “heart attack.” Lazar, Warren’s chief accountant, next was shot to death in a parking garage stairwell in February 1975, shortly before his scheduled grand jury appearance. And businessman West simply disappeared along the way, never to be seen again. Word much later reaching me was that Verive strangled West, disposing of the body where it wouldn’t be found. Back in 1975, per information in AzAG files, experienced Phoenix PD Intelligence Detective Andy Watzek immediately and accurately suspected Verive’s hand in Lazar’s murder.

By the end of 1975, Verive temporarily had relocated his residence from the Phoenix area to the small town of Idyllwild in southern California. But he still was returning quite regularly to Phoenix for visits to old friends and occasional “jobs” here. Aware of that reality, when Phoenix PD Intelligence Det. Watzek heard that Adamson’s name immediately had come up after Bolles was car-bombed, his instant and logical response reportedly was to suspect Verive as well. Watzek is then said to have quickly arranged for a telephone query to Idyllwild PD to see if Verive somehow could be alibied by being there at the time. But Idyllwild PD soon called back to inform Phoenix PD that Verive was nowhere to be found at that end.

Any remaining doubts about those implications for the Bolles case should have been dismissed when Adamson’s attorneys negotiated his Bolles-related plea deal in the fall of 1976. His defense lawyers sought and gained sweeping and unclarified immunities on behalf of Adamson for his acknowledged accomplice roles in the deaths of Talley, Lazar, and West. They significantly included Talley — “out of an abundance of caution” as one of those lawyers later told me — even though the compromised Arizona Land Commissioner ostensibly had suffered a fatal “heart attack.” Appended from the AzAG’s office is a copy of Adamson’s resultant immunity list, the so-called “Activity List” of crimes for which he thereafter would be officially exempted from prosecution. The glaring absence of Verive’s name in those plea deal discussions only serves to make it all the more conspicuous. But Adamson certainly knew that he couldn’t implicate a mob figure of Verive’s stature and hope to survive anywhere in the prison system given the considerable reach of the Mafia. As he explained to a friend at the time, “my people don’t give immunity.”

Adamson’s “Activity List”
(click for full size)

There also is a later AzAG document concerning Verive, a report written in October 1990. It’s based on an interview of his ex-wife Susan which included some further relevant information:

(1) When Phoenix newspapers began to publish articles about the Bolles homicide investigation being re-activated in the late 1980s, Verive expressed a desire to leave the region entirely because of “something about the case that may get him into trouble.”

(2) Verive also indicated concern for “two brothers” who had been involved in that crime, an obvious reference to his Mafia brethren Rocky D’Ambrosio and Frank Mossuto, accomplices in the plot who had supplied him with dynamite for the car-bomb.

(3) Verive additionally was keeping a newspaper clipping file on the Bolles case, “the only records she’s aware that he kept.”

As concluding Verive-related commentary, it must be noted that the mobsters presence in the Phoenix area also had come to the attention of Bolles himself by the early 1970s. Appended as located among a larger archive of same maintained by the Arizona Historical Foundation is Bolles own organized crime index card for Verive.

Bolles’ index card for Verive
(click for full size)

More importantly, as pointedly leaked to me by a sympathetic colleague at the ARIZONA REPUBLIC is an appended copy of Bolles’ handwritten observations from his beginning awareness in the early 1970s of a large-scale “gold smuggling” operation in the Phoenix area. As indicated, Verive personally was involved in it as well. Bolles’ subsequent investigative files on that subject seem to have been deliberately destroyed after his murder.  But had he lived, the “big story” which he was planning to publish later in 1976, in fact, about an extensive Mafia diversion of gold from Motorola with front monies for the scam provided by organized crime “skim” from Arizona’s Funk/Emprise greyhound racing industry.

Bolles’ handwritten notes on Verive
(click for full size)

Apart from the motives of others to wish Bolles dead, Verive, the hired killer, also may have had a reason of his own.


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.

3 thoughts on “Carl Verive

  1. Great article. I’m having a problem wrapping my head around this: “two trips to Denver. One — shot Checker Smaldone’s wife. Two — Checker’s house blown up.” Written in diary fashion and already concluded that his wife got hit from the shot into the house. Why would Adamson write that, and in that peculiar fashion? Perhaps as a “note to self”? Just seems very strange.

    • It is “strange,” but John Adamson for whatever reason did have a curious habit of keeping written records –– even self-implicating ones –– concerning some of his exploits. His reference to Smaldone’s wife Pauline being “hit” must have been written after that information became public.

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