A Tough Jew in Our Generation - Chris Rosenberg
Christopher Rosenberg grew up in Canarsie on a block dominated by Italian-Americans, and considered his Italian friends his brothers. He too wanted to be Italian and despised his heritage because of it. Rosenberg's criminal career began relatively early, when he began dealing in narcotics at age 13. His first arrest was in 1970 for car theft, which started out as a felony case, but was reduced to a misdemeanor. He walked away with a fine as his only punishment. He was arrested again in 1971 for possession of the drug hashish, then again in 1972 for the attempted stealing of a snowplow. Both cases were dismissed.
Rosenberg was dealing in small amounts of marijuana and hashish when he first met Roy DeMeo at a Canarsie gas station in 1966. DeMeo admired Rosenberg's fearless attitude and immediately took a liking to the teenager, loaning him money so Chris could deal in larger amounts. Roy also recruited Chris to steal cars, which would then be sold off through connections DeMeo had within Canarsie junkyards. Rosenberg was also the first crew member to interact with Roy socially at family barbecues and get-togethers at Roy's house. Between his adept car abilities as well as his fledgling drug business, Chris became successful and opened his own car shop named Car Phobia Repairs, which soon became a hotspot for stolen vehicles. Chris moved into an upscale apartment and had a large amount of disposable income, which he spent on a variety of clothes, cars and other flashy 'toys'. By now Chris had his friends stealing cars for him. Two of these friends were the infamous (in the Canarsie area) Gemini Twins, Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter, who would become two more integral members of Roy DeMeo's crew.
By 1974, then 23 year-old Chris Rosenberg began selling cocaine and quaaludes, again backed by Roy DeMeo. He acquired the quaaludes through a pharmacist connection, as well as the cocaine, which at the time could be prescribed for medical purposes. Through this pharmacist, Chris Rosenberg and the rest of the early DeMeo crew met 22 year-old Andrei Katz, a man who became what was most likely the crew's first murder.
Like Rosenberg, Andrei Katz was of Jewish descent, both of his parents being concentration camp survivors. Despite such a humble background, Katz was flashy and arrogant, dabbling heavily in drugs and women. Chris and Andrei began a business relationship, with Chris providing stolen spare parts for Andrei's car service shop. From this a friendship blossomed between Katz and the early DeMeo crew and the group were often found at Andrei's apartment snorting cocaine. The business relationship strengthened as well, when in the next few months Andrei purchased cocaine, car parts and tag jobs (stolen vehicles), as well as a .38 revolver from the crew. With the early DeMeo crew as his backing Andrei himself also began dealing in cocaine. Things soon became complicated when a friend of Katz was stopped while driving one of the stolen vehicles Andrei had acquired from Rosenberg. The police were led to Andrei, and they arrested him in October of 1974. The police offered him a deal if he cooperated, but he refused and was released on bail. However, Andrei was angry at Chris and blamed him for his arrest. Andrei soon found himself in a confrontation with the crew, who stopped by his shop to make sure he was going to keep his mouth shut. Words became heated and an argument broke out. The following day Chris confronted Andrei again and punched him in the mouth. A few days later Andrie was yanked out of his vehicle and badly beaten by two masked men. He was in the hospital for a few days with horrible injuries from being pistol-whipped and beaten with a blackjack. Once healed, Andrei began carrying a handgun with him and planning revenge.
The revenge came on November 13, 1974, when Chris Rosenberg opened his garage door and was struck with 3 bullets fired from an automatic rifle. Chris survived through sheer luck, one bullet hitting him in the lower jaw, another his right arm and a third that was aimed for his chest merely glancing the target. Despite the fact that he survived what should have been a very fatal shooting, Chris was reportedly furious. The bullet that tore into his jaw had disfigured his face, and reconstructive surgery did little to alleviate this anger. For the rest of his short life Rosenberg wore a beard to mask the scars that resulted from this attack.
The man who had shot Chris that morning was never seen but it was correctly assumed that the shooter had to be Andrei Katz. After this incident, and while Rosenberg was still in the hospital recovering from his gunshot wounds, the rest of the Canarsie men who made up the still-formative DeMeo crew made sure to travel together and always armed. During this time, the Gemini Twins Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter were arrested for carrying loaded handguns, but were soon released. Around this time, another core crew member emerged onto the scene, Henry Borelli. Once the Gemini Twins were released and Chris was out of the hospital following the shooting, a meeting was called with Roy DeMeo to figure out what to do about the situation. Having since murdered for his superior, Anthony Gaggi, Roy wasted no time coming up with a solution: kill Andrei Katz.
A direct hit was reportedly considered by the crew to be risky given all that had happened, so a woman friend of Henry Borelli's was used to successfully bait Katz to a location where he could be directly confronted, under the pretenses that Borelli and crew wanted only to discuss an outstanding loan with him. Arriving at the woman's apartment complex, Andrei was forcefully abducted by Chris, Henry Borelli, Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter and taken to the meat department of a grocery store, where Roy DeMeo was waiting. It was this night, Friday, June 13, 1975, that the DeMeo crew is first known to have been involved with murder and dismemberment. While first-hand accounts of the incident are unavailable, the remains of Andrei Katz held clues that were used by law enforcement and reporter/author Jerry Capeci to reconstruct the events. First, Andrei was stabbed multiple times in the heart with a butcher knife, presumably by Chris Rosenberg in revenge for the shooting that had put Chris into the hospital and ruined his face. Andrei's body was then stripped of its clothes and dismembered by Roy DeMeo and Joseph Testa, both former butcher's apprentices, while Chris and Anthony Senter bagged the body parts.
The crew then left the plastic bags filled with the dismembered remains in the grocery store's dumpster, failing to realize that the garbage wasn't picked up on weekends at that particular location. Because of this oversight, the remains sat there until that Sunday, when a pedestrian walking his dog near the store discovered a human leg lying near the curb. Presumably it was initially taken out of the dumpster by a homeless man who mistook the package to be spoiled meat and then fled when he realized the truth. The police reported to the press that a grisly, brutal killing had occurred, but that was the extent of the information given. The body was identified as that of Andrei Katz two days later through the use of dental records. Almost immediately after learning of the murder, the woman friend of Henry Borelli, who acted as bait left New York for a vacation, disposing of the clothes she wore on the day she was seen with Katz. While out of town, she was informed by a friend that she was linked to Andrei Katz and his final day seen alive, and that law enforcement officials were seeking her for questioning. This led to her returning to New York in early July 1975 and immediately confessing her role in the murder, leading police to Henry Borelli and Joseph Testa, who were both arrested. The day after Testa and Borelli's arrest, police told the press that "two or three" other men were being sought for the crime. However, the woman was unable to identify Rosenberg or Anthony Senter so no charges were brought against them.
At Testa and Borelli's trial, the defense lawyers succeeded in making the woman's testimony seem inaccurate and unreliable. This, coupled with the lack of physical evidence linking either of the men to the crime scene, secured an acquittal for both crew members. No retaliation was brought towards the woman who turned them in, and she went on to testify a second time against them, for the very same crime, in the late 1980s when the FBI had finally built up a solid case against the DeMeo crew. By this time, however, Rosenberg would not be around to worry about it.
As the 1970s continued, Chris Rosenberg along with the rest of the DeMeo crew would allegedly contribute to many more killings in the next couple of years which included suspected informants and other mobsters Roy DeMeo and his followers were contracted to kill. Rosenberg would also deal more and more heavily in narcotics, particularly in cocaine and the Colombian marijuana trade. At one point during this time, an associate of Rosenberg claimed he had many contacts to whom he could sell cocaine. After Rosenberg fronted the man an amount to sell off, the man claimed his house was broken into and the drugs stolen. Chris allegedly shot the man dead on the spot.
The majority of murders committed by the crew however followed what came to be known as the "Gemini Method", named so because the main location where the victims were killed and then dismembered was the Gemini Lounge, the headquarters of the DeMeo crew through much of the late 1970s. The Gemini Method usually consisted of the victim entering the apartment in back of the Lounge, dubbed 'The Clubhouse' by crew members. At this point, a crew member (almost always Roy DeMeo according to crew member turned government witness Frederick DiNome) would approach them with a silenced pistol and shoot them in the head, then wrapping a towel around the victim's head wound like a turban in order to staunch the sudden flow of blood. Immediately after, another member of the crew would stab the victim in the heart in order to prevent any more blood from pumping out of the gunshot wound. By then the victim would usually be dead, at which point other crew members would assist with the dismemberment after a short period of time spent waiting for the victim to bleed out or for the blood to congeal in order to make the process of taking apart the corpse as clean as possible. The body parts would be put into bags, boxed and then sent off to the Fountain Avenue Dump among other places. Crew members who became witnesses all contend that during the time period that Rosenberg was alive, he was always the crew member chosen to stab the victim after they had been shot in the head. These same witnesses also claim that Rosenberg usually did the stabbings (and subsequent dismemberment) in his boxer shorts or underwear in order to avoid staining the often expensive clothes he wore.
More murders committed by Chris and members of the DeMeo crew were attributed to the drug business, notorious for its shady participants and nonstop violence resulting from deals gone bad. It was one of these drug scams, committed by the DeMeo crew themselves, as well as Rosenberg's habit of introducing himself as Italian, that ultimately sealed his fate.
The origins of the fateful drug deal actually began in the early 1970s, when one Charles Padnick, owner of a body shop in Flatlands, became one of Roy's loan customers. Padnick soon moved to Florida, only to borrow more money from Roy when his business there floundered. Charles Padnick then entered the cocaine business, like many otherwise legitimate citizens did in the 1970s and 1980s, to continue paying off Roy's loans. It was through the drug business that Charles Padnick, as well as his son Jamie, got closer to Chris Rosenberg who by the late 1970shad become very successful and wealthy through narcotics. The Padnick's sold Chris pounds of cocaine, who in turn sold it for a higher price and reaped a huge profit.
What Chris didn't know at the time was that Padnick's cocaine contact was a Cuban man named William Serrano. Serrano's connection was a man known only as "Pepon", who in turn was connected to man who was a member of a Colombian organized crime family, whose only known alias was "El Negro". Through these contacts, "El Negro" was alerted of the Padnick's wealthy Italian connection that was on the lookout for a huge shipment of cocaine. After a 1-kilo dry run to ensure things would run smoothly, a 12-kilo deal was arranged between the Padnick's contact William Serrano and Christopher Rosenberg. Charles Padnick, William Serrano and two associates of "El Negro" booked a flight to New York and promptly disappeared, murdered in a violent shootout ambush with the DeMeo crew, who ripped off the cocaine in order to gain a multiple hundred thousand dollar profit. The ambush did not go entirely smooth however, as Chris Rosenberg suffered two superficial bullet wounds, one to his head and the other on his hand. Charles Padnick's son, Jamie Padnick, then flew to New York to investigate the disappearance of his father and was killed by the crew as well, most likely ending up alongside many of the other DeMeo crew victims somewhere in the Fountain Avenue Dump in Brooklyn.
This would have been the end of the treacherous dealing, if not for a terrible mistake Rosenberg committed. Knowing he would be killing William Serrano in short time, but not knowing Serrano was only the middle man brokering the cocaine deal, Christopher Rosenberg had introduced himself to Serrano as "Chris DeMeo". Thus, El Negro knew that his associates were ambushed and killed in New York, and by an Italian named DeMeo. Naturally all of this drama led back to Roy DeMeo and subsequently the Gambino crime family and the ultimatum was passed on by the Colombian drug cartel: a violent war could be stopped if Christopher Rosenberg was murdered, and only if the murder was in a newspaper as proof. It took weeks to play out, but after ever-increasing pressure from his superiors, Roy DeMeo got the crew (minus Chris) together for an emergency meeting and explained the situation. Rosenberg never knew about the tumultuous drama going on behind his back, therefore had no reason to suspect anything from his closest friends and crew members. Thus, on May 11, 1979, Christopher Rosenberg went to the regular nightly meeting with his crew. He walked in, greeted his friends and sat down at the table with the rest of them, at which point Roy DeMeo pulled a pistol out of a brown bag sitting on the table and shot Chris in the head, wounding but not killing him. Anthony Senter then stood up and shot Chris four more times in the head. The violent criminal career of Christopher Rosenberg had ended just a few years after it truly began, and as expected in an equally violent way as many of his victims.
Rosenberg's body was then placed in his car, which was driven and left parked on a street near the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. Crew member Frederick DiNome then drove by the vehicle while Henry Borelli raked it with machine gun fire, to ensure the murder was a blatant enough assassination to guarantee it a spot in the local newspaper. The Colombians had their proof of revenge and the crisis was averted, at the cost of Roy DeMeo's closest and most loyal crew member.