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Willie Cammisano pleaded guilty, but Joseph Cammisano demanded a trial, which started in August 1979. By then, Bonadonna had closed his own club and entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. That freed him to talk about the pressure he felt from both Cammisanos over their interest in bringing more bars to the River Quay. Though it wasn't a murder trial, Bonadonna described a disturbing exchange with his father, who predicted his own murder in Willie Cammisano's garage.
"My father told me: 'They are going to corner me in that garage and shoot me,'" Fred Bonadonna testified. After David Bonadonna's body was discovered, federal investigators did visit Willie Cammisano's garage. They found that it had been recently cleaned.
The jury deliberated for a scant 20 minutes before finding Joseph Cammisano guilty. Judge William R. Collinson sentenced him to 18 months in prison.
Joseph Cammisano appealed, but he would not live to argue it. In August 1980 he had a major heart attack. He died on September 26, 1980. Six weeks later, a federal appeals court dismissed his conviction.
His grandson, Phil Corbin, was 5 years old then.
Pat Wells, Corbin's mother, says she isn't sure what her son thought about the mobster reputations of his grandfather and great-uncle. "I'm not saying he thought it was true," Wells says. "I think it affected him somehow. I wouldn't say it didn't."
Blond and sad-eyed, Wells works for the city's water department. She is not the image of a Mafia princess.
She and her sister, Anita Cammisano, talk about a life with their father that sounds more like a Hallmark movie special than like scenes from The Godfather. They paint an idyllic picture of growing up: During the week, their mother, Doris, would tend bar at her husband's joint. But on Sunday, she'd spend the day over bubbling pots, serving spaghetti and meatballs to Joseph, her seven children and whatever cousins and friends had shown up. She'd lay a pasta-covered board down the middle of the table and encourage her guests to dig in.
Their tales of Phil Corbin and his two older brothers are equally heartwarming. His death was devastating for Wells. It's been hell living in the house where, three years ago, she heard the shots outside that killed her son.
But the more Wells seems determined to convince a Pitch reporter that the public has her family all wrong -- that her dad was no mobster, that her son was a good kid with no interest in following in the footsteps of his famous great-uncle, Willie the Rat -- the more it becomes clear that plenty of people wanted Wells' angelic son dead.
Wells is convinced that Corbin's death resulted from an argument over a business deal gone bad involving a liquor store. But it's Wells who shows a Pitch reporter the remarkable letter that Corbin sent to humiliate Ambrozi in St. Joseph. And there were other people who may have expected to benefit from Corbin's removal.
Phil Corbin was a busy young man. Corbin and his two older brothers were born within three years of one another, but Phil was by far the most outgoing of the three.
"Phil was the party," eldest brother Vince Corbin says.
Even as a young boy, Corbin always had a story to tell, could always muster a joke or recall a crazy experience that could have happened only to him.