Interesting Solved Crimes
William "Billy Batts" Bentvena (January 19, 1921 – June 12, 1970) also known as William Devino, was a New York mobster with the Gambino crime family who was a longtime friend of John Gotti in the 1960s. After spending six years in prison, Bentvena was murdered by the mobster Tommy DeSimone, with the help of his associates Jimmy Burke and Henry Hill.
Born in Brooklyn, little is known about Bentvena's early life other than that he grew up in the same area as DeSimone and Hill. In 1959, Bentvena became an associate with the Gambino crime family and in 1961 became a full member, or made man. Bentvena was a protegé street soldier for Carmine Fatico and later John Gotti.
In 1964, Bentvena went to Bridgeport, Connecticut to complete a drug deal for Joseph "Joe The Crow" DelVecchio and Oreste "Ernie Boy" Abbamonte. When he arrived in Bridgeport, undercover police arrested Bentvena and charged him with possession and exchange of narcotics. Bentvena was later convicted and sentenced to 6 years in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Bentvena was released from prison on June 9, 1970.
In the book Wiseguy, Henry Hill said they threw a "welcome home" party at Robert's Lounge, which was owned by Jimmy Burke, Hill stated that Bentvena saw Tommy DeSimone and jokingly asked him if he still shined shoes and Tommy perceived it as an insult. Hill also said that Bentvena provoked DeSimone because he wanted to impress some mobsters from another crime family. Several minutes later, when the issue was all but forgotten, Tommy leaned over to Henry and Jimmy and said "I'm gonna kill that fuck." and Henry saw that he was serious about it. Two days later, on June 11, 1970, Bentvena went over to "The Suite" a nightclub owned by Hill in Jamaica, Queens to have a drink with Henry, Tommy, and Jimmy and several other mobsters. Later that night, Tommy took his girlfriend home and Jimmy started to get Bentvena comfortable. Twenty minutes later Tommy arrived with a thirty-eight handgun and a plastic mattress cover.
The 1990 movie Goodfellas, portrayed Bentvena as being murdered by DeSimone for insulting him at "The Suite" by telling him "to shine his shoes". This version was corroborated in an FBI document dated August 8, 1980. However, according to Hill in the book Wiseguy, another reason may involve Burke taking over Bentvena's loanshark business while Bentvena was in prison. Bentvena had been complaining to Joe Gallo about getting back this racket. Not wanting to return the business to Bentvena, Burke decided to eliminate him instead. Before Bentvena was attacked, Jimmy tightened his arms around Bentvena and he was pistol-whipped by Tommy and was so inebriated that he was unable to defend himself. Hill said that before DeSimone started to beat Batts, DeSimone yelled, "Shine these fucking shoes!". At the time of the murder in 1970, Bentvena was 49 years old and was a respected and a feared made man in John Gotti's crew and in the Gambino crime family.
After Bentvena was attacked and presumed killed, DeSimone, Burke, and Hill placed his body in the trunk of Hill's Pontiac Grand Prix and drove away from the bar. While they were driving, the car had a minor collision with a van on the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens. Soon after the collision, the men started hearing thudding sounds from the trunk and realized that Bentvena was still alive. They then stopped at DeSimone's mother's house to collect a knife, some lime, and a shovel. She made them drink coffee, chat and have some breakfast while the critically wounded Bentvena was still clinging to life in the trunk. Upon arriving at a forested plot of land just across the New York/Connecticut border, owned by a friend of Burke's, the three men opened the trunk of the car and Tommy and Jimmy murdered Bentvena, while Hill looked on. Once Bentvena was dead, the men buried him under a dog kennel. Hill later said that Burke and DeSimone "didn't actually shoot him, they just stabbed him, thirty or forty fucking times, it was fucking horrible."
Six months after Bentvena's murder, Burke found out that his friend sold the Connecticut property in order for condominiums to be built. Burke ordered Hill and DeSimone to exhume Bentvena's half-decomposed corpse and dispose of it elsewhere. In Wiseguy, Hill said the body was eventually crushed in a mechanical compactor at a New Jersey junkyard, which was owned by Clyde Brooks. However, on the commentary for the film Goodfellas, he states that Bentvena's body was buried in the basement of Robert's Lounge, a bar and restaurant owned by Burke, and only later was put into the car crusher.
On or about January 14, 1979, DeSimone was murdered. It was speculated that the Gambino family ordered the death of DeSimone, a mob associate with the Lucchese crime family, for his role in the murder of Bentvena and Ronald "Foxy" Jerothe. Since both were made men, he could not have been killed without permission from the Gambino leadership. Unlike Bentvena, DeSimone was not a made man and was vulnerable. Paul Vario told the Gambinos who murdered the two men. This was done out of revenge for DeSimone attempting to rape Henry Hill's then-wife, Karen, who was having an affair with Vario while her husband was imprisoned. An alternative theory is that the Gambino family did not know about the Bentvena murder and that Gambino captain John Gotti may have just wanted revenge for DeSimone's murder of Ronald Jerothe, another Gambino associate and good friend of Gotti's.
When Henry Hill was facing a heavy sentence for cocaine trafficking, he turned state's evidence and testified at the trials of James Burke and Paul Vario. Charges were attempted to be prepared against Burke for the murder of Bentvena. However, they did not stand on account of Hill being the sole surviving witness to the murder, with DeSimone having died several years before.