Phil Corbin thought of himself as a bad dude.
In fact, he seemed anything but a badass. He had a reputation for doting on his mother, for being an affectionate boyfriend and for being a gregarious fixture in Kansas City's night life. At 26, he still lived with his parents and hit up his brother for cash. To his Italian friends, he came off as the nice one, the good kid who was always sharply dressed. He'd been arrested only once -- in a beer-can-throwing altercation with a liquor store customer.
But in his mind, Corbin was the kind of guy you didn't mess with.
It was that sense of himself -- as an Italian of the old-school type, the kind you'd better not fuck with -- that apparently motivated him to write a letter to a St. Joseph man named Fritz Ambrozi Jr.
Corbin may have worn neatly pressed slacks and loved his mom, but the note shows that he was also a vindictive son of a bitch.
I AM A REAL NICE GUY BUT I CAN BE A REAL MOTHER FUCKER TOO. I LOVE TO FUCK WITH PEOPLE, ASK [BECKY] ... I TOLD HER NOT TO FUCK WITH ME AND SHE DID. THIS IS WHAT I CALL -- BACK AT YOU.
The letter was an all-caps personal assault on Ambrozi, telling him that he soon would receive photos Corbin had made of himself having sex with his former (and Ambrozi's current) girlfriend, Rebecca (not her real name). Corbin wrote that he would distribute the video to Ambrozi's friends and co-workers. It was nothing personal, Corbin explained. He had just picked Ambrozi to fuck with as a way to get at Rebecca.
So maybe, considering Corbin's predilection for conflict, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that early on the morning of July 8, 2001, as Corbin was coming home from work at about 2 a.m., someone hiding in his neighbor's bushes stepped out and executed him with multiple gunshots.
Three years later, the murder is still unsolved. But maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, either.
Ambrozi wasn't the only person with reason to be unhappy with Phil Corbin.
Perhaps a violent death was only inevitable for a young man who was trying so hard to live up to an image of himself as a motherfucker among men -- and as the heir to his grandfather's legacy. Twenty-eight years ago, in the bicentennial month of July 1976, David Bonadonna's corpse was found stuffed in the trunk of a Ford Mustang on the corner of Ninth and Olive streets. A nightclub owner in what was then known as the River Quay -- today's River Market -- Bonadonna had been shot five times in the head in what looked like a mob hit. His death touched off a wave of retaliation in the entertainment district, resulting in shootings, fires and explosions that echoed across the area's historic brick buildings.
Naturally, suspicion fell on the Cammisano brothers.
Joseph Cammisano and his brother, William, had long been rumored to be part of Kansas City's Italian Mafia and had become rivals to the Bonadonna family. According to FBI testimony at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in 1986, "Willie the Rat," as the press dubbed him, had risen to the top spot in the local mob.