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Like Vince, Cusimano wonders if the suspects in the federal investigation might have had reason to come after Corbin.
"They were afraid Phil was getting ready to tell on them," Cusimano says. The calls from jail were becoming a nuisance. Corbin finally told Cusimano not to take the calls. "They had been calling him at the store. They were calling there damn near every day."
Some of Corbin's friends had lengthy criminal records. Moretina, in particular, had participated in the violent ambush of a witness who cooperated in another case. The beating at a rave near 31st Street and Gillham Road involved a metal rod and left the victim's ankle broken in several places.
There was reason to worry, says Danny, who explains that the Vacas were not to be messed with, particularly Caesar. "He was just crazy," Danny says. "He didn't give a fuck. They were just wild." An angry business partner. A humiliated boyfriend. Irate drug dealers. Phil Corbin had stirred up a shitstorm as he went to work on his last night on Earth.
It had been a routine night at P&G Liquor. Some of Corbin's buddies had stopped by to keep him company. Anita Cammisano swung by, too, with her friend Denise. They teased Phil about the barbecue chicken his mother was cooking as a midnight snack. It would all be eaten by the time Corbin got off at 1:30 a.m., they assured him.
Corbin actually got away long enough to snag a piece of chicken around midnight, but after a few minutes he was off again.
As Corbin was closing the store, Anita and Denise were settling down to sleep on Pat Wells' living room couches with the television on. The two were staying at the Wells' house on Gladstone Boulevard to help take care of the ailing Doris Cammisano, Joseph's widow. Anita remembers Denise saying something about a noise outside her window, but they didn't investigate.
Corbin made at least one stop on the way home, swinging through the parking lot of the Shady Lady on 12th Street to talk to a friend who was a dancer there. They didn't talk long, and Corbin arrived at the family house at 2 a.m.
Anita was just starting to doze off when she heard the shots.
They came too fast to count, but Anita had spent enough time at the target range with her own pistol to know the rhythm of a six-shooter. "They sounded like they were right there," Anita says, pointing to the southeast corner of the room, outside of which grow the neighbor's bushes.
"I grabbed the phone and ran back to see if Mom was OK," Anita says. "By the time I got back, Carl [Wells, Corbin's stepfather] had opened the front door."
While Anita talked to the 911 dispatcher, Carl and the three women hustled outside. "Where's Phillip? Where's Phillip?" Pat Wells kept asking.
"He's not here," they told her.
"Yes, he is. There's his truck."
Corbin's Chevrolet Suburban was parked at the curb across the street. Still clutching the phone, Anita ran up and down the street. She saw a dark car with a pinstripe backing slowly out of a neighbor's driveway. She was trying to get a look at the occupants when the car drove off.
Six more shots rang out from behind the house.
Anita remembers thinking that they were shooting at the car. She ran down the driveway and found Corbin sprawled facedown along the concrete steps that bisect the steep back yard. She rolled him over on his back and began CPR. She kept it up until emergency workers arrived. But it was clear that he was dead.