Crime

Wolf Rimann, politically connected country club owner, shot dead in broad daylight

Wolf Rimann was shot dead in the street, but his killers were never identified — not to the police, at least.

Rimann, 43 years old when he was killed, was a former professional golfer, manager and owner of the Hillcrest Country Club and politically connected. He was also on the bad side of two men in a ’48 Ford sedan.

Sometime around 2:45 p.m., March 24, 1949, Rimann was leaving a meeting with a shuffleboard salesman on Chestnut Avenue just north of Fourteenth Street in Kansas City when he was accosted by two men who had been waiting for him in the black Ford.

The men struggled, investigators said at the time. Rimann escaped and reached into his car — reaching, perhaps, for the pistol he was known to keep hidden inside. Six bullets found their way into Rimann’s body, and four .38 casings landed on the ground.

At least 15 people saw Rimann’s shooters. The men stood in the street, looking up at the factory workers who had seen the shooting. The two suited men watched their watchers for a moment, leaped back into the Ford and sped away.

Marshall Rimann, Wolf Rimann’s 72-year-old nephew, has seen firsthand the city’s preoccupation with his uncle’s murder.

Marshall Rimann said he learned about his uncle’s death four years after the fact, when his parents saw a Star article referencing Wolf Rimann. If not for his parents’ intervention, he would have learned about the nature of his uncle’s death from the newspaper, Marshall Rimann said.

When he was in his 20s, Marshall Rimann was often approached and asked about the uncle he barely knew, he said.

In recent years, he has gotten inquiries at the liquor store he co-owns from customers interested in the slaying.

Marshall Rimann has been on the receiving end of opinions about his dead uncle, and most fell into one of two camps. “It’s kind of like any charismatic man of success,” he said of his uncle. “People either liked him or disliked him.”

Wolf Rimann died on the striped front seat of his car, next to a copy of The Kansas City Star. His gun, normally hidden within the paper, was nowhere to be found.

The ’48 Ford was found 10 blocks north of the shooting. It featured a siren with a disguised starter and hidden gun compartments. Police tried to trace the car and got as far as St. Louis. The car’s salesman said it had been bought by a man with an Italian accent who said he was from Denver. The buyer had paid cash, never picked up the title and asked to borrow license plates, the salesman said. The buyer was never found.

Days after Rimann was shot, a business associate said Rimann had been receiving threatening phone calls in the week leading up to his death. An unidentified man had called Rimann at least three times, each time threatening his life. Rimann arranged a meeting with the caller on the morning of his slaying but the business associate went in Rimann’s place, looking for a man in a gray plaid suit. The gray-suited man didn’t show.

Following Rimann’s death, the extent of his business dealings became more clear. Not all of them were legitimate. The IRS filed a lien against his estate, saying he had dodged more than $158,000 in federal income taxes during the Second World War. During those years, Rimann sold “scarce items” like whiskey, tires and meat on the black market.

In the days following his slaying, The Kansas City Star reported Rimann had gone outside the typical company channels to become a Kansas distributor of Schenley whiskey. Instead of contacting the Kansas City-area office, as would be typical, Rimann went to New York to broker a deal at the whiskey company’s headquarters.

Rimann’s attorney thought the killing of his client was related to the liquor deal, then-Kansas City Police Lt. Charles Welch told The Star at the time.

During a hearing of a special congressional crime committee about 18 months after Rimann’s death, Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee questioned Joseph “Scarface” DiGiovanni about the dead man.

The senator said DiGiovanni’s brother, Vincent DiGiovanni, had competed with Rimann for the liquor distributorship. Joseph DiGiovanni claimed no knowledge of such competition. Following the questioning, Kefauver said he would recommend Joseph DiGiovanni be indicted for perjury.

He was not indicted, according to the committee’s final report.

Rimann was dead before he could start distributing Schenley whiskey.

Case file

Name: Wolf Rimann of Kansas City

Age: 43

Circumstances of the crime: Shot in broad daylight on Chestnut Avenue near Fourteenth Street on March 24, 1949.

Suspect information: Two unidentified men in dark suits driving a 1948 Ford.

Anyone with information is asked to call: Kansas City Police Department’s Cold Case Squad at 816-234-5136.

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