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Part 10: Toledo gambling boss shot dead in Detroit

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    The body of Hayes was found badly beaten and shot in the head. His rings, watch, wallet, and money were left untouched. Dice were thought to have been inserted in his trouser pocket.

    The Blade
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  • Part-10-Toledo-gambling-boss-shot-dead-in-Detroit

    Jimmy Hayes was found dead in a Detroit alley off Palmer Street near the public library. His murder was considered a message not to aid in prosecuting the Licavoli interests.

    The Blade
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Part ten of 14

All of the Toledo and Detroit papers had the same headline on October 4, 1934, and it wasn't about the opening game of the World Series - HAYES SLAIN IN DETROIT.

Toledoans who didn't gamble or hang around the numerous cigar stores downtown wondered who Gerald Jimmy Hayes was.

They knew the Fretti Brothers, and the two Bennys - Aronoff and Harris - but very few remembered Jimmy Hayes' rise from cab driver, to owner of Point Place's ill-fated Willow Beach, to the Midwest's sovereign of gambling.

Much like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz, Hayes' anonymity in his numerous gambling interests and other sources of income were in a large part due to his friend and attorney, John McMahon.

The Toledo Blade wasn't deceived when it referred to Jimmy Hayes as "... Boss of Toledo gamblers."


The body of Hayes was found badly beaten and shot in the head. His rings, watch, wallet, and money were left untouched. Dice were thought to have been inserted in his trouser pocket.

The Blade
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Jimmy Hayes was an extremely powerful figure who preferred to cultivate friendships and extend favors, rather than bribe those who were in a position to protect his interests. Hayes was an honest gambler who recognized that financial incentives were only for the short term while friendships lasted forever.

"Yonnie Licavoli decided to take on my friend Jimmy Hayes and the two Bennys and to take control of gambling, liquor, and of course protection in Northwestern Ohio," wrote Dan McCullough, a Toledo lawyer and partner of John McMahon, in his memoirs. "Jimmy prospered in the gambling business and the police soon learned that he could be trusted. Most racket guys are always claiming that they have everybody bought up. Jimmy on the other hand, when told to close would close."

Clues accumulated from reliable sources, suggested that Hayes was last seen alive with close friends of the Licavolis in Detroit.

Yonnie Licavoli also probably knew that Hayes had met with Lucas County Prosecutor Frazier Reams' assistant, Arnold Bunge, in Reams' private office in the Toledo Board of Trade Building and in Columbus's Deshler Hotel.

Licavoli, even though he was going on trial for murder in less than a month, had always thought that Hayes was going to appear as a secret witness against him.

Edward Young was one of the last persons to see Hayes alive in the lobby of Detroit's Book-Cadillac Hotel at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. Young was a partner in the Toledo stock brokerage firm of Collin-Norton that invested Hayes' money.

In financial circles it was known that Hayes lost a considerable amount of money in the stock market crash of October 1929, and also in the second downturn that followed. Given time, Hayes made good on every account that he held with the brokers, and was well respected in their circles.

"In the Fall of 1934 Jimmy Hayes stopped in the Collin-Norton Brokerage Office where I was visiting with Edward 'Cy' Young. He asked us to go to the World Series as his guests. Cy made the trip to Detroit but returned to his apartment in the Toledo Club with some friends whom he met at the game," wrote Dan McCullough. "After the game Jimmy went out on the town. This was a serious mistake. Jimmy, when sober, always denied that he had anything to do with the Licavoli cases. When drunk, he always boasted about bringing Egan's Rats [a St. Louis gang rival of the Licavolis] to Toledo."

Jimmy told his wife Eleanor that he was going to the opening day 1934 World Series game in Detroit. Thinking that he wouldn't come home after the game, Jimmy booked a room, No. 2840, in the Book-Cadillac Hotel.

According to Maxie Silk, owner of the Club Maxine, Hayes came to her club after the ball game to hear Ruby's Orchestra. Several members of the club's orchestra had previously played at Hayes' Club Ramona in Harbor Springs, and Jimmy wanted to renew the friendships. Maxie, recalling the events of the evening, said that the friend that Hayes came to her club with became so intoxicated that Hayes put him in a cab and sent him home.

Hayes then walked back into the club to talk with Joe Massei, Charles Bracco, and Joe Bommarito.

Hayes was in a heated argument with the three men, and the police theorized it was over Licavoli's moneyed interest in Hayes' Toledo gambling operation. The word on the street was that the three men tried to convince Hayes to contribute, or to permit others with gambling interests to operate in Toledo.

About 2:30 a.m., Hayes left the Club Maxine in the company of Massei, Bracco, and Bommarito to visit a gambling place in McComb County run by Lefty Clark, and was never seen alive again.

Jimmy Hayes was found dead in a Detroit alley off Palmer Street near the downtown Detroit Public Library early Thursday morning, October 4, 1934.

Jimmy had been badly beaten before being shot in the head with a twelve gauge shotgun. His rings, watch, wallet, and money had all been left untouched. Found in Hayes' trouser pocket were four dice, and according to Ed Warnke, "Hayes was not known to carry dice in his pockets."

The word from the street was that Hayes' murder was a message in capital letters to those left in Toledo's gambling community that Licavoli was going to have a percentage of all Hayes' interests. Further, you don't cooperate with Frazier Reams' prosecution of Licavoli.

The Licavoli Gang had been hit hard financially and needed new and reliable sources of income. Hayes had plenty of money and friends, both socially and politically, that the Licavoli Gang thought they could tap into. When Hayes refused to share his gambling operation with the Licavolis, he was killed.

Yonnie Licavoli had mistakenly thought that once he got Hayes' money, Hayes' friends would also be his friends. However, Yonnie had badly miscalculated the depth of Toledo's hatred toward him. Even though Licavoli had a tenuous hold on Hayes' gambling funds, Hayes' friends turned against Licavoli with a ferocity he had never experienced.

Licavoli and his associates in the short term achieved their desired inroads into the financial world of Jimmy Hayes, but they didn't get his friends or contacts. What they did get was the animosity and hatred of his friends which would only hasten the Licavolis' downfall.

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