Murder of veteran Toronto Mafia chieftain not believed to be a mob hit, police say

Zito’s son-in-law is charged with the murder and lived in the same house as the victim — raising the possibility of it being more of a domestic dispute

Article content

Despite the victim being a veteran Mafia chieftain, Toronto police say underworld intrigue does not appear to be the motive for Rocco Zito’s murder.


“Although I am aware of the alleged underworld overtones portrayed in the media I can advise that as of now the mob connections do not appear to be a motive in this investigation at this time,” said Stephen Henkel, lead homicide detective in the case.

“We are however pursuing all investigative avenues that arise in the investigation.”

Zito, 87, died Friday after being shot in the home he lived in for decades.

Charged with first degree murder is Domenico Scopelliti, 51.

Scopelliti is believed to be Zito’s son-in-law and lived in the same house as the victim.

That raises the possibility of it being more of a domestic dispute than underworld hit.

Article content

Adrian Humphreys archive
Adrian Humphreys archive

Zito was at the centre of underworld intrigue at a time when police in Canada were beginning to realize the presence here of the ’Ndrangheta, the powerful Mafia that formed in the southern Italian region of Calabria.

But Zito loathed the flash of the modern Mafia, with its ostentatious displays of wealth meant to show power; true respect, he believed, came from “honour.”

“In my day, we didn’t have the big houses, drive the big cars and the suits and all the flash,” Zito said. “But all the guys in Woodbridge have the big houses and drive the big, black SUVs and put on airs.”

He had ties with high-ranking members of the American Mafia, including two of the notorious Five Families of the New York City Mafia. When Paolo Gambino — brother of Carlo Gambino, the boss of the Gambino crime family — came to Toronto in 1970 he met for hours with Zito in a Holiday Inn, who entered through a rear service entrance. Zito was also seen meeting members of New York’s Bonanno crime family.

Over the years, however, the police files on Zito grew dusty, as he retired from a leadership role and police moved on to other, more aggressive targets.

“He is retired. He is done. He is away from it all,” said a police investigator in 2008.

Instead of gangland, Zito reveled in his family, especially his five children and at least eight grandchildren, and was well liked in the neighbourhood and community, said a neighbour.

This article was originally posted here