1981-mchenry-murder.jpgI am as guilty as most when it comes to reporting stories, we report the facts, but often fail to look beyond the case itself. The now solved 28 year old double homicide of Ronald Scharff and Patricia Freeman is a case in point. Yes there is some closure now for the families that lost loved ones in 1982. Having talked with son Paul Scarff the announcement that McHenry County law enforcement  has finally admitted that the killer was Larry Neumann, a Vegas mobster, has brought a sense of relief and frustration at the same time.

Neumann cannot be prosecuted, he died in jail while serving a sentence for another homicide. Paul is frustrated because the police had the necessary evidence to prosecute Neumann in 1982. The information that Frank Cullotta revealed in his biography, which caused the case to be reopened, was not new information. Cullotta had indeed revealed it to the FBI when he turned states witness in the early 80’s.

Neumann it transpires was a wealthy man, back in 1982 it is calculated that he was worth over $2 million, a substantial sum at that time. Of course no amount of money can replace a father, but money certainly could have helped the Scharff family a great deal. The loss of Ronald, the family bread winner created economic chaos for the family. Ronald’s wife was forced to utilize the only asset that the family possessed, the tavern. She somehow had to run it, the very place where her husband was executed.

Paul was only 10 years old, but remembers this period of time vividly. Money was so short there was little for even the basics of life, like food. New clothes were a luxury that they could not afford. Had law enforcement acted in 1982 there is a good chance that the Scharff and Freeman family could have gone after Neumann’s assets. Too late now, the estate is long gone, but in 1982 it was ripe for the picking.

Yes Ronald Scharff and Patricia Freeman were victims, but so were the families involved. One wonders what went wrong in 1982? One also wonders if it could happen today? In 1982 there was not the 24/7 national news channels, neither did the internet exist as we know it today, as I recall in 1982 the internet consisted of 213 computers! Both the cable channels and the online world means that many more cases can be focused on, and interest generated from across the country, indeed even from across the world. that can be seen in cases such as Haleigh Cummings, our coverage has caused interest from as far away as Australia.

Today it is much harder to make a case disappear. We likely will never know the real reason for the failure to prosecute Larry Neumann. I can certainly think of a few interesting theories. Larry Neumann was a Vegas mobster, part of the infamous ‘Hole in the wall gang’, so named because of their penchant of not bothering with doors when performing robberies, but rather just blowing a hole in the wall to gain access.  Although Vegas based, the Vegas mob was in fact part of the Chicago Outfit, and McHenry is a scant 40 miles from Chicago. The heyday of the mob was not the 40’s and 50’s as is so often portrayed on the silver screen, it was the 70’s and 80’s. The mob had become a sophisticated business, and had huge influence. Could it have been that someone from the Chicago Outfit had some influence in McHenry?

Simon Barrett

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