Metro

Former stripper testifies about Mafia murder plot, a hidden grave, and a victim’s gold bracelet

This 1995 file photo of Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.
FBI/Associated Press/File
A 1995 file photo of Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.

A former stripper testified Tuesday that her ex-boyfriend was involved in the 1993 slaying of a South Boston nightclub owner, then later gave her the victim’s gold bracelet and suggested that he had been buried on a sandy lot by the water’s edge.

Now a 45-year-old mother and nurse who works with Alzheimer’s patients, Lara Eldridge fought back tears as she testified for prosecutors at the murder trial of former New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and Paul Weadick, a 62-year-old Burlington plumber.

Eldridge said she was “very much” in love with Weadick in 1993, when they lived together after meeting at the Channel nightclub in South Boston. At the time, she said, Weadick’s best friend was Salemme’s son, Frank Jr., who also worked at the club, which featured semi-nude dancing.

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She told jurors that Salemme Jr. and Weadick complained that the club’s owner, Steven DiSarro, “had a big mouth and was talking about things he shouldn’t be.” Weadick was “pretty furious” because DiSarro refused to meet with him and Salemme Jr., Eldridge testified.

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“He was afraid to meet with them,” said Eldridge, adding that Weadick and Salemme Jr. implied that DiSarro was afraid someone would kill him. She said she overheard Weadick and Salemme say they believed DiSarro might agree to a meeting at Salemme Jr.’s house in Sharon because he would view it as a “safe place.”

The Marie Avenue house was owned by Salemme and under frequent surveillance by the FBI and State Police. Salemme Jr. also lived there while under house arrest, awaiting trial on federal extortion charges.

Soon after Weadick and Salemme Jr. discussed luring DiSarro to the house, he disappeared, Eldridge said. His remains were discovered two years ago, buried behind an old mill in Providence.

Former gangster Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi testified at the trial that he dropped by the Sharon home on May 10, 1993, and saw Salemme Jr. strangling DiSarro, while Weadick held his legs. Flemmi said Salemme Sr., who was present, orchestrated the slaying because he feared DiSarro would cooperate in an ongoing federal investigation targeting him and his son.

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Eldridge said Tuesday that Weadick gave her a men’s gold bracelet and suggested it belonged to DiSarro. Eldridge said Weadick told her she “wouldn’t have to worry about seeing Steven again” and suggested he was probably scared and left town.

Eldridge said Weadick later took her on a long drive, stopped at an area by the water that she wasn’t familiar with, and said “basically this was a good place to bury somebody.”

During questioning by Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak, Eldridge said she believed Weadick had pointed out DiSarro’s hidden gravesite, but she was unable to pinpoint it for investigators because she wasn’t sure if the location was on Cape Cod or in Rhode Island.

Eldridge said she split with Weadick in 1994 because he had become “more paranoid” and that “things had gotten really crazy and unsafe.” The following year, she called the FBI and provided some information about the Salemmes after seeing an episode of “America’s Most Wanted” that featured Frank Salemme Sr., then a fugitive on federal racketeering charges.

Afterward, Eldridge said, she returned to Boston for a meeting with Weadick and Salemme Jr. and told them she had called the FBI. She said she was afraid because “they acted like they knew” everything she had told federal investigators.

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When Wyshak asked her if she was concerned, Eldridge said, “As much as I think Paul loved me and as much as I loved him, I understood what I was dealing with at that time . . . what these people were capable of . . . yes I was concerned.”

In 2005, Eldridge met with FBI agents again and tried to help them locate DiSarro’s grave.

Weadick’s lawyer, William Crowe, grilled Eldridge on cross-examination about why she couldn’t remember the location of the gravesite, noting that she initially suggested it was in Provincetown. He also noted that when she testified before a grand jury two years ago, she provided different dates of her relationship with Weadick.

Eldridge replied that she was “scared out of my mind” when called before the grand jury and later corrected her testimony.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.