CHICAGO — Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese Sr., a hit man who strangled victims and then slashed their throats to be sure they were dead, has died in a federal prison in North Carolina, authorities said. He was 75.
Mr. Calabrese died Tuesday at the Butner Federal Medical Center, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He had no information on the cause of death, though Mr. Calabrese claimed at his 2009 sentencing that he suffered from a host of ailments, including an enlarged heart.
‘‘It’s very emotional right now because there were two sides to my dad, and I miss the good side,’’ Mr. Calabrese’s son Frank Jr. told the Chicago Sun-Times. He had helped put his father behind bars by secretly recording him boasting about mob killings.
Mr. Calabrese was among five men convicted in September 2007 at the Family Secrets trial, which resulted from a major multiyear effort by the federal government to weaken the Chicago Outfit, as the city’s organized crime family calls itself.
The investigation was also aimed at clearing 18 unsolved mob murders dating to the early 1970s. Mr. Calabrese was blamed for many of them and sentenced to life in prison.
It was Chicago’s biggest underworld trial in decades, and it produced sensational testimony, including a description from his brother of how Mr. Calabrese preferred to strangle victims with a rope and then slash their throats.
None of the defendants in the Family Secrets trial was charged with murder. They were convicted of racketeering, but the jury held Mr. Calabrese and two others responsible for various killings designed to silence witnesses and mete out mob vengeance.
Mr. Calabrese laughed during some of the trial’s most grisly testimony.
Family members say Mr. Calabrese inflicted violence on them as well, with one son, Kurt, recalling during Mr. Calabrese’s sentencing that his ‘‘father was never a father — he acted as an enforcer to me,’’ threatening to ‘‘bite your nose off’’ and make him ‘‘disappear.’’
Frank Calabrese Jr. told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that that violent history made his father’s death especially emotional.
‘‘I believe he was taken on Christmas Day for a reason,’’ he said. ‘‘I hope he made peace. I hope he’s up above looking down on us. . . . He’s not suffering anymore. The people on the street aren’t suffering anymore.’’