Crime

Bit mob player’s clothes were found, but Sal Manzo never was

The clothes Salvatore Benjamin Manzo was last seen in were found soon after his September 1987 disappearance, but his body was never located.
The clothes Salvatore Benjamin Manzo was last seen in were found soon after his September 1987 disappearance, but his body was never located.

In the disappearance of alleged mob man Salvatore Benjamin Manzo, one of several questions that have not been answered in three decades: Why strip him?

Why remove the clothes he was last seen in and deposit them in a dumpster? Why take off his shoes and toss them around Cliff Drive in northeast Kansas City?

And where is Manzo’s body? Where?

He was a handsome, wavy-haired associate of Carl Civella’s crime family. Twice convicted on felony charges related to gambling or stolen goods. And he was 60 when he vanished.

The Kansas City Times reported on Sept. 10, 1987:

“The pants, and possibly the shoes, of Salvatore Manzo ... were found by a family friend Wednesday afternoon. But Manzo, who was reported missing by his family on Saturday, was not in them.”

Manzo owned a place called the Sound Track nightclub on Independence Avenue. In 1978, he was indicted by a federal grand jury for possessing 189 stolen wristwatches that had traveled from Little Rock, Ark., to Lenexa and Wichita.

Still, “he was a nice guy,” one acquaintance told The Kansas City Star shortly after Manzo disappeared. “Why would anyone want to do anything like (kill) him? Everyone liked Sal.”

He was last seen at a friend’s wake at Passantino Funeral Home. The next morning, his car was found parked near an Independence Avenue grocery, and then appeared his trousers in a trash can on Cliff Drive. The pockets were turned inside-out.

Soon, a shirt and some of Manzo’s pills for a heart condition were found in the area.

“I would call him an organized crime associate who participated in organized crime with the Civellas and others, but not an influential member,” retired FBI agent William N. Ouseley would later say. “He was a worker, a drone, not a prime player.

“He was never known for violent activity.”

What might be forgotten from the 1980s roster of Kansas City newsmakers is the Mafia’s prominence: Well known to federal agents were names such as Carl “Corky” Civella, William “Willie the Rat” Cammisano and Anthony “Tony Ripe” Civella — along with Las Vegas connections swooped up in a sting operation that exposed illegal bookmaking.

But Sal Manzo struck most law enforcers as a guy who knew a little but didn’t control a lot.

“For me to say it was a gangland hit ... is ridiculous,” said Kansas City Police Sgt. Tom Moss in the weeks after Manzo’s disappearance.

Did he vanish of his own volition?

On probation for his guilty plea in gambling operations, Manzo was not one to miss a meeting with corrections officers or purposely drop out of sight, his acquaintances said.

Former agent Ouseley told The Star in 1987:

“If it was a hit, why remove the clothing? ... If someone wanted the clothing found, it may have been to send a message that the body — if there was a murder — would not be found.”

Rick Montgomery: 816-234-4410, @rmontgomery_r

Case file

Name: Salvatore B. Manzo

Age: 60

Circumstances of the crime: A minor associate of a local crime syndicate, Manzo vanished after attending a Sept. 4, 1987, wake at the Passantino Funeral Home. His clothing was found near Cliff Drive and the Paseo, but no body has turned up.

Suspect information: None. Some reports have Manzo involved in a traffic-related dispute while leaving the wake.

Anyone with information is asked to call: 816-234-5136 or email missingperson@kcpd.org.

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