Montreal: An 86-year-old alleged Mafia patriarch was gunned down as he sat gazing out of the solarium of his Montreal home, authorities said, the latest blow to a once-formidable Canadian criminal organization.
Nicolo Rizzuto was shot at least once at around 5:40 p.m. EST on Wednesday, according to police, and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived. The family and its associates have been targeted in a series of slayings that observers say is an attempt to end its hold on power. Nick Rizzuto Jr., Nicolo's grandson, was shot to death outside his Montreal home last Dec. 28.
Montreal police spokesman Raphael Bergeron told The Associated Press on Thursday that Rizzuto was shot by a lone gunman who was hiding in the woods outside Rizzuto's residence.
Bergeron said Rizzuto was in his solarium — adorned with a statue of the Virgin Mary, her arms outstretched — looking out to a view of the backyard bushes when the bullet shot through a window.
Bergeron said two women were at the residence at the time, who were treated for shock. He said he believed it was Rizzuto's wife and daughter but could not immediately confirm that.
Montreal police Cmdr. Denis Mainville said it was difficult to say just how much clout the elder Rizzuto still had within the family, but he was a symbolic and revered figure.
"We know that Mr. Rizzuto was an important member of the Italian Mafia, but new players have surfaced in recent months," Mainville said.
Nicolo Rizzuto's son, Vito, is in prison in Colorado for racketeering related to three Mafia murders. Police said late Wednesday that they would be open to meeting with Vito Rizzuto about a series of attacks against his family.
The Rizzutos came to prominence in Montreal with a violent coup against the Cotroni family, their Calabrian rivals, in the 1970s. They had tentacles reaching into untold businesses considered legitimate, including bars, restaurants and construction companies.
The clan was brought to its knees in a massive 2006 police dragnet in which scores of alleged mobsters were arrested. It appears to have received its coup de grace over the last year with a series of slayings that crime analysts consider an attempt to end its hold on power.
Nick Rizzuto Jr., Vito's son and Nicolo's grandson and namesake, was shot to death outside his Montreal home last Dec. 28.
Paolo Renda, 70, a top lieutenant and a member of the Rizzuto family by marriage, mysteriously vanished close to his Montreal home in May. Renda was considered the No. 3 in the operation, the "consigliere" or councilor, and is married to Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.'s daughter, Maria.
Another high-ranking member, Agostino Cuntrera, was gunned down in June.
One Canadian Mafia expert said the motives behind the slaying couldn't be clearer.
"I don't know who killed Nicolo Rizzuto, but whoever did it wants to remove the Rizzuto crime family from the Canadian underworld map," Antonio Nicaso, an author and journalist, said from Toronto.
"I think with his murder, it's like an end of an era in the Canadian underworld."
First Published: Friday, November 12, 2010, 13:07