Who killed Police Officer Ralph Dols?
The feds say the cop's 1997 murder in front of his Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn was a mob hit, one that was ordered and orchestrated by a jealous high-level mobster who was outraged that the young, muscular housing cop had married the wiseguy's ex-wife.
But could Russian organized crime figures have done it?
In the days after Dols' slaying, that's what scores of witnesses and tipsters - including confidential police and FBI informers - were telling detectives investigating the execution slaying.
Time and again, for one seemingly valid reason or another, numerous Russian gangsters were fingered for the slaying and investigated by police, according to court papers filed in the pending murder case against imprisoned Colombo consigliere Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace and two mob underlings.
Within hours of Dols' death, for example, police were told by a confidential informant that a Russian hoodlum had killed Dols because the cop was putting pressure on his "drug dealing operation," according to a 10-page-long summary of suspects and possible motives that have been filed in the case.
The tip quickly gained credence with police. First, detectives established that Dols had caused the Russian hoodlum's arrest a few weeks earlier when he spotted him waving a gun at the Cozy Tavern, a bar across the street from the cop's home. Then, Dols' widow reported that her husband had become "very upset one night" soon after when he spotted the gunman in the neighborhood.
Like the Cozy Tavern tip, many of the 12-year-old leads - which authorities now say were wrong - portrayed the housing cop's murder as retaliation for stellar police work. But several investigative leads, which officials also state were erroneous, had Dols being killed over disputes with various unsavory characters involving "narcotics and steroids allegations."
Even while police were investigating allegations involving Russian organized crime figures, "Cacace was always in the mix as a suspect," said one law enforcement source, who noted that the 10-page letter dealt only with information that did not link Joe Waverly to the murder.
The newly released reports were compiled by prosecutors Elizabeth Geddes, James Gatta and Christina Posa. But they are a treasure trove for defense lawyers, who are sure to try to make use of any negative reports about Dols and other viable suspects in his murder in an effort to help their clients at trial. They also plan to use that same information later this month to undercut the effort by Brooklyn prosecutors who are asking approval from Department of Justice officials in Washington to seek the death penalty against Joe Waverly and his accused cohorts.
"A key factor in whether you look to execute someone should be the strength of the government's case," said Cacace's lawyer Susan Kellman, who told Gang Land: "There is no forensic evidence at all linking my client to the murder."
In court papers, and when Cacace and Colombo capo Dino (Big Dino) Calabro and soldier Dino (Little Dino) Saracino were charged with Dols's murder last December, authorities stated that "Cacace ordered Dols' murder," but have not reported where that evidence comes from.
Dols, who was shot five times at 11:28 pm on Aug. 25, 1997 and died in surgery early the next morning, also gave police details about the assault and his assassins that differ from some aspects of the current theory of the prosecution, wrote prosecutors Geddes, Gatta and Posa.
Before he died at Coney Island Hospital, the prosecutors wrote, Dols "stated that he was shot by three white males" who confronted him when he arrived at the apartment he shared with his wife Kim and their two-year-old daughter following a 3-to-11 pm shift at a housing project in Coney Island.
Shortly after the murder, officials reported that Dols had told police that he did not recognize his three assailants, but could identify them if he saw them again.
But sources say the government's key snitch in the case, turncoat wiseguy Joseph (Joey Caves) Competiello, says that only two gunmen - Big Dino Calabro and Little Dino Saracino - took part in the slaying. Joey Caves admits being on the scene, but says he drove a "crash car" away from the murder scene in order to intercept any fast arriving police cars that may have responded to the shooting.
"When push comes to shove at trial, the government will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Joe Waverly ordered the murder and that Little Dino and Big Dino did it," said one law enforcement official who was asked about the recently filed documents.
In her papers, Kellman asked the prosecutors to turn over the "original documents" upon which their summary letter was based and all internal NYPD documents "related to drug- related activities by officer Dols and the decision by the NYPD to deny death benefits "commensurate with the entitlement of a fallen officer" to his widow.
"From the beginning," Kellman told Gang Land, "it's been pretty clear that the government has withheld mountains of information that they possessed that would lead reasonable people to believe that this homicide was committed by people other than my client. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the killing, but they haven't let those facts get in their way."
Prosecutors are slated to respond to Kellman's motion papers at a status conference in the case that is scheduled for today (Monday, September 14) before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more