Out of the Cold
File #7: Volpe Case – Peel’s Oldest Unsolved Homicide
May 4, 2021 By Stephen Metelsky
During the U.S. Senate’s 1963 McClellan Commission on organized crime, the star witness was the first prominent mobster to break the code of Omerta. Joseph Valachi, a soldier in New York’s Genovese family, revealed the two dominant figures in Canada’s mafia with links to Buffalo’s Magaddino clan: John Papalia from Hamilton and Paul Volpe from Toronto.
“Papalia and Volpe did not get along at all. They were like two guys vying for one job,” said Peter Edwards, an organized crime writer with the Toronto Star who described Volpe as an “arrogant” guy with a short list of friends.
Almost 20 years to the day from the 1963 senate hearings, Volpe’s tumultuous tenure in the mafia came to a violent end. On Nov.14, 1983, police found the mobster’s fetal-positioned body stuffed in the trunk of his wife’s leased BMW. It had been abandoned in the terminal parking at Toronto’s Pearson airport.
Peel Regional Police have not revealed the official cause of death in the region’s oldest cold case murder. Although Volpe is believed to have been shot in the head, the “holdback information” contains details only the killer or killers would have knowledge of.
He was last seen alive on Nov. 13, 1983 in the company of his driver and bodyguard, Pietro Scarcella, who was classified as a “person of interest because he was one of the last people with Volpe prior to the homicide,” Supt. Marty Ottaway of Peel’s homicide bureau confirmed.
The list of motives leading up to the hit are endless. He had lots of enemies and had often overstepped boundaries. Some of these indiscretions included real estate investments in Atlantic City in an area heavily controlled by the Philadelphia mob. Volpe also appeared in a CBC documentary and purchased a home from a judge, a move which made the mobster “look like he’s friendly with the wrong people” and made him “look kind of weak,” as Edwards put it.
Mafia murders are steeped in symbolism. Volpe’s murder and the location his body was found may be fraught with underworld significance.
“I think the symbolism of dumping the body at the airport was the mafia’s way of saying this is a foreign one,” said Edwards, when asked about the possibility the American mob may have orchestrated the hit—another viable theory. The other barrier was that it was a high-profile mafia murder.
“Right off the bat—witnesses. The cooperation from anybody is going to be very difficult, so you are going to rely on what is out there now,” said Peel homicide Insp. Todd Leach.
The cold case is still being actively investigated, particularly with the advancements of forensic science and DNA “to see if there was any evidence seized back then that would be worthwhile putting forward again.” However, science alone may not solve this cold case. Investigators believe someone may have information about the underworld hit.
“Maybe there were some people scared to talk before but are out of that life now and want to come forward,” added Supt. Ottaway.
As for Scarcella: “There is a lot of stuff he could tell that he won’t tell,” concluded
Anyone with information about this case can contact Insp. Todd Leach of the Peel Police Homicide Bureau at 905-453-2121 ext. 3200 or anonymously at Crime Stoppers: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Stephen Metelsky, M.A., is a writer, (ret.) police sergeant and professor at Mohawk College. Find him on LinkedIn, follow him @StephenMetelsky or email Stephen.Metelsky@mohawkcollege.ca.
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