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Former Mafia don Frank Salemme sentenced to life in prison for 1993 slaying

Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was brought into Boston police headquarters in 1972.
Ed Farrand/File
Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was brought into Boston police headquarters in 1972.

Former New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme seemed eager to get it over with Thursday as a judge asked if he had anything to say before she sentenced him to mandatory life in prison for the 1993 murder of South Boston nightclub owner Steven DiSarro.

“Not really,” 85-year-old Salemme said. “Anything I would have to say would be redundant. Let’s just wrap it up”

US District Judge Allison Burroughs sentenced Salemme and Paul Weadick, a 63-year-old plumber from Burlington, to life in prison and ordered them to pay $9,118 restitution to DiSarro’s family. It was the amount DiSarro’s family paid to give him a proper burial after the FBI discovered his remains two years ago buried behind an old mill in Providence.

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In June, a jury convicted Salemme and Weadick of killing DiSarro, a 43-year-old father of five, to prevent him from cooperating with federal authorities in an investigation targeting Salemme and his son.

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Three of DiSarro’s children and his stepbrother spoke during Thursday’s hearing in US District Court in Boston about the devastating impact it had on their family after he disappeared in 1993, leaving them agonizing over his fate for 23 years.

Nick DiSarro said he spent decades wondering if his father was alive, had left voluntarily, or was killed and had suffered. He thanked the prosecutors, FBI agents, and state trooper who solved the mystery and brought the case to trial, where he finally got answers.

“I get to close this book knowing he didn’t choose to leave us without explanation,” Nick DiSarro said. “He didn’t choose to run away and hide somewhere leaving behind everyone that loved and relied on him.’’

DiSarro was a businessman who bought the Channel nightclub in the early 1990s. Salemme and his son had a hidden interest in the club.

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The government’s star witness during the trial was Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for 10 murders. He testified that he dropped by Salemme’s Sharon home on May 10, 1993, and saw Salemme’s son, Frank, strangling DiSarro while Weadick held his legs and Salemme looked on.

Salemme’s son died in 1995.

Flemmi said Salemme told him that he knew DiSarro had been approached by federal agents and feared he would cooperate in an investigation targeting him and his son.

Salemme became a government witness himself six years after the killing of DiSarro and helped send retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. to prison. Salemme was in the federal witness protection program when DiSarro’s hidden grave was discovered in 2016, leading to his arrest.

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, DiSarro’s son, Michael, said to Salemme, “What makes this ironic is that you killed our father for thinking he was going to rat and become a snitch. When actually Mr. Salemme, you ended up being the snitch and going into protective custody. You are a coward and a murderer, and I am happy to see you will be spending what days you have left in a cell.“

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DiSarro’s daughter, Colby, said she was 15 when her father vanished and she had to care for her brothers and sister while her mother worked to support them.

“I felt so alone” Colby DiSarro said. “I was sad. I was angry. I was confused, and I was scared, so scared. Fear became as normal as my heartbeat.”

She said her brother, Steven DiSarro Jr., who was 10 when their father vanished, took his loss the hardest. He struggled with addiction, and died on March 30, 2016. The following day, the FBI recovered their father’s remains.

“There is no doubt in my mind that as soon as my brother’s soul left his body he went to find my dad and finally bring some semblance of peace or closure to the rest of us so we could move on in life and truly begin to mourn this loss that had been silently eating away at us for 23 years,” Colby DiSarro said.

Salemme told the judge that Flemmi’s testimony was “all BS” and the DiSarros “haven’t been told the truth.”

Weadick said, “I feel sorry for the family,” but as Salemme said, “that ain’t the truth.”

Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak called Salemme “brutal and barbaric” and said he was suspected of involvement in six additional slayings as mob boss in the early 1990s.

“There is only one thing that can make the murder of a loved one any more horrific and that is to bury the body,” Wyshak said

Salemme survived the gang wars of the 1960s — a decade during which he admittedly killed eight people. He spent 16 years in prison for maiming an Everett lawyer by blowing up his car.

Salemme’s attorney, Steven Boozang, said his client had done some good things in his life. He had an honorable discharge from the Army, and while incarcerated during the 1970s he rescued a guard from rioting inmates.

Judge Burroughs told Salemme he “chose evil over good” years ago. She said although Salemme and Weadick appeared to have turned their lives around in recent years, “the past has a way of catching up with us.”

She granted a defense request to return $3,000 of the $28,000 that was seized from Salemme after his arrest, to be used for his own burial expenses.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com.