Last weekend we ran a special radio segment about the 1981 double murder of Ronald Scharff and Patricia Freeman. They were found gunned down in the rear of the small tavern in Lakemoor, Illinois owned by Ronald Scharff. This senseless and seemingly motiveless case had police baffled, eventually the police file was relegated to the status of cold case. It sat gathering dust for 27 years, and looked as if a resolution would never occur.
That changed last year when ex ‘Chicago Outfit’ member Frank Cullotta and author Denny Griffin collaborated on a book about Frank’s life. A keen eyed family friend of the Scharffs, Holly Hager happened to read the book, and although the names and places had been changed, the circumstances led her to believe that she knew who had committed the crime.
On last Sundays special I had the opportunity to talk with Denny Griffin, Holly Hager, and Ronald’s son Paul Scharff. They certainly put together a convincing argument. I for one felt they had indeed solved the mystery, but was wondering if there might be more to the story. Using all the investigative tools at my disposal, Google, and my free long distance telephone, I went to work.
Denny kindly shipped copies of the two books he has authored the mention Frank Cullotta, Battle For Las Vegas, which does an excellent job of chronicling the history of organized crime in the city, and the co-authored biography Cullotta. (Reviews coming very soon).
Although Frank Cullotta is no longer part of the Witness Protection Program, he does have a new identity, and his whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, Denny revealed that he had a meeting with Frank Cullotta and Frank’s (now Ex) FBI handler Dennis Arnoldy scheduled for later in the week. Denny Griffin was kind enough to put in a good word with Dennis Arnoldy and he agreed to talk with me ‘off the record’. Although he has been retired for the past 12 years he is still very cognizant of the need for discretion. Having spent the best part of an hour on the phone with him, I came away with the impression that I much prefer him as a friend than an enemy! This guy is sharp!
For obvious reasons he was unable to go into details of the Cullotta case, but he did paint the Witness Protection Program in a light I had never seen before. Hollywood, and authors like John Grisham leave us with the impression that those in the system fly off into the sunset, usually with a suitcase full of money and are set for life! Reality is a lot more prosaic, there is no suitcase of money, there is a poverty level stipend, and even that may have time limits. Again Dennis was unable to go into details, but, he alluded to the fact that even creating a new identity is a huge challenge, it is certainly way more complicated than merely issuing a new drivers license, what about SSI, the IRS, and what do you put on your resume when it comes to work history and references?
I thought at this stage that I had run out of ideas for advancing this story. How wrong I was, Denny Griffin videotaped his meeting with Frank Cullotta and Dennis Arnoldy. Without doubt this video does solve the murder case in Lakemoor, Illinois.
You can watch the video below: