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Authorities solve 1991 homicide of man whose body was found in trunk of car at Logan Airport

Howard J. Ferrini and his daughter, Kelly. Authorities say they have solved his murder in 1991.
Howard J. Ferrini and his daughter, Kelly. Authorities say they have solved his murder in 1991.Kelly Ferrini

Kelly Ferrini said her father showed her how he cheated at games of chance while working as a professional gambler, a career that violently ended for Howard J. Ferrini on Aug. 14, 1991.

There was a pair of loaded dice he sometimes used — and his ability to pull a card from his hand or a deck and furtively slide it into his shirt, his daughter said. And, she added, he would often go to card games with an ally, each pretending not to know the other.

But what she remembers most was the schedule of the now-closed Raynham greyhound race track, where he essentially lived. “I remember that so clearly. I’d see him on Tuesday and Thursday nights when there was no night session,’' she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He would take me out, go out to eat, or go buy me whatever I wanted. I was spoiled rotten.”

Kelly Ferrini shared memories of her father after authorities notified her they now know the name of one of the men who hit her father in the head with a hammer and then placed a plastic bag around his head, suffocating him to death.

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The gambler’s killers, who attacked him in his home in Berkley, put his body in the trunk of his blue 1988 Cadillac and drove to the Central Parking garage at Logan International Airport where his remains were found on Aug. 21, 1991, seven days after his attack, officials said.

“I know my father was no upstanding citizen at the time, but he was my father,’' Kelly Ferrini said. “Regardless of anything he did, my father didn’t deserve to be murdered the way that he was.”

A fingerprint recovered from the plastic bag tied around the neck of the 53-year-old gambler has now been matched to a man identified as Kevin Hanrahan, whom Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III”s office described as a “freelance enforcer” for the New England Mafia and what was then the Rhode Island-based Patriarca crime family.

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“Hanrahan was a notorious, violent criminal known to be a freelance enforcer for the Patriarca crime family in Providence,” Quinn’s office said in a statement. “Mr. Hanrahan, who was in and out of prison in the 1980s for jury tampering, intimidating witnesses, drug trafficking and counterfeiting, was shot to death in Providence in 1992.”

Former Mafia capo Robert P. DeLuca has admitted playing a role in Hanrahan’s death, the Globe reported in 2018.

Quinn and the Massachusetts State Police Unresolved Crimes Unit said connecting a dead man to the murder of the 53-year-old Ferrini does not close the book on the case. Ferrini weighed some 300 pounds, making it likely that at least one more person was involved in the crime.

And the investigation - launched as part of Quinn’s review of every unsolved major murder case in his jurisdiction dating back to 1974 - is still active.

“It is never too late to do the right thing” Quinn said in a statement. “We hope that anyone with this information will finally decide to break that silence by coming forward.”

“These are some of the worst cases we see, and many families have waited for years hoping for answers and some measure of justice,” Quinn added.

A motive for Ferrini’s murder remains unclear, according to prosecutors.

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Officials released more details about their investigation into Ferrini’s death, including the fact that he had $6,000 in cash and several pieces of gold jewelry on him when his body was found, showing that robbery was not the motive for the murder.

They also said he spoke by telephone with a friend around 5:15 p.m. Aug. 14, 1991, while cooking sausages and told the friend he was heading back to the Raynham track, where he expected some cash winnings from a contest at the dog track.

It was the last time anyone heard from him.

But authorities searched his house and discovered forensic evidence indicating he was killed in the kitchen and that someone made an effort to cover up the violence by cleaning up the crime scene with a mop from the home.

Kelly Ferrini said she was eight months pregnant with her daughter when she learned from a television news report that her father was murdered. At the time, she said, she and her father were not on speaking terms because he was “disgusted” that the father of her unborn child was a Black man.

Kelly Ferrini said she believes the distance between them would have evaporated had they both been given the chance.

“I was extremely close to my father. He spoiled me rotten,’' she said. “He would have turned it around, especially given how he and I were close.”



John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.