Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roy DeMeo

Another Perspective

For the Sins of My Father
For the Sins of My

Albert DeMeo grew up with a fairly good idea of what his father was doing, although he was later shocked by photos he saw during a grand jury hearing and by what he read in Mustain's and Capeci's book, Murder Machine. He once told a girlfriend that if she wanted to understand him, she should read about Michael Corleone in The Godfather. While his mother gave him a Bible to read, his father gave him Niccolo Machiavelli's political treatise, The Prince, seemingly the blueprint for the Italian underworld.

Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli

Albert found the book fascinating. After serving fourteen years as the Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Signoria in the Florentine Republic, Machiavelli had fallen out of power in 1512. He wrote that religion and morals have no place in the rise to power. A prince cannot indulge in the virtues of goodness, because to hold power, he must be a "lion" and a "fox," i.e., he must rely on such traits as cruelty, craftiness, mercilessness, and dishonesty. If necessary, he should not hesitate to break promises. He must ally himself with his own kind, choose wise counselors, and do whatever must be done in the name of power. The survival of the fittest was the ultimate game, and even the closest of alliances could be betrayed.

Pulled into this world before he could understand it, Albert found himself torn between utter devotion to his father and disgust over what he was sometimes asked to do. At the age of 13, he was putting a gun in his backpack to go to school. He saw things but never imagined the extent to which his father was fully involved in crimeincluding multiple murder.

In a literate memoir, Albert describes what it was like to grow up in a family where his father made a fortune through criminal ventures and his mother (like many other wives in these "families") allowed herself to be protected from knowing how she and her children were being supported in such a grand lifestyle. This was the way of the Mafiathe men engaged in their "war," but the women were to be protected from knowing anything about it. In the end, this system inevitably broke down, since mobsters often shot those who made them paranoid or whom they felt had betrayed them, and it was difficult for the women to ignore the violence by which their husbands and sons had lived and died.

The men seemed to want their families to exist in this pure arena, wherein they could view themselves as somewhat genteel. At home among family, they could forget their own self-loathing over what they felt they had to do. Their home was the pristine castle, the place where they could exercise the part of themselves they most wanted others to believe they were. For example, they swore freely in their bars and ogled half-naked women, but did not swear at home. They had sex all over the place away from home, but the members of their home life were to be "faithful." They killed, lied and stole without compunction, but this is not an acceptable part of their "family man" identity. While these men had a supreme ability to compartmentalizeto be psychopathic in one venue but caring and "good" in another-their families were also viewed as idealized extensions of a part of themselves. It was another area of control. Family membersespecially wiveswere not allowed to be people in their own right. They were to play a role that suited the mobster's purpose.

Albert felt some of this and was largely protected, but his father ended up bringing him partly into the cosa nostra ("our thing") by introducing him to members of the notorious crime crew and by asking him to learn to use a gun, potentially for criminal purposes. He did not witness a dismemberment and he often underestimated the potential for brutality in someone he met at the Gemini Lounge, so it came as a shock to him to learn more about his father's activities via other reports. According to his reaction, he did not quite believe the full story.

After Roy was found dead in the trunk of his Cadillac, the very thing that he most wanted to prevent happened: His family suffered for his crimes. His wife, finally brought into public awareness through media stories, ultimately sold the dream house into which Roy had moved his family, while Albert spiraled into a deep suicidal depression, which he documents in detail in his revealing memoir. Mafia life had been far from glamorous, he writes, and despite the fine clothing, nice cars, and high standard of living, Roy had inflicted a lot of psychological damage on the people around him.

Albert had realized by the age of ten that his father's occupation was "different," and unlike other kids, he had nothing much to share at school. He knew that his father carried a gun and kept odd hours. As the years passed, tension mounted and his father became increasingly more paranoid. He was away from the family more and he gave the adolescent Albert charge of protecting his mother and sistersand even took him on a few jobs. It was a poor legacy to hand down.

When Albert was only 15, Roy enlisted him in a plan to fake his death, should the need arise. When Roy was killed two years later, Albert had to identify his body and avoid the FBI's intense scrutiny. Seeking revenge, he was nearly killed. Eventually his life fell apart, his wife left, and he was faced with the realization that his father's life of crime had taken a terrible toll. He would not forget the bloody fate to which his father's crimes had consigned himthe body in the morgue, the crime scene photos, the photographs of victims. It was only after he read Murder Machine that he understood how truly brutal the man he adored could be. He also learned from an insider about the intimate betrayal within the family that had brought his father down, just as Roy DeMeo had done to Chris Rosenberg.



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