WiseGuys Busted! A Shocking True Crime Story
Anthony Villani, said to be a Luchese Crime Family soldier, and five other men were indicted Sept. 14, 2022, on charges of overseeing and operating a large-scale online gambling operation under the protection of the Luchese mob.
Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said Villani and the others, associates of the Luchese organized crime family, ran an illegal online gambling business called Rhino Sports from at least 2004 through December 2020.
Records obtained from the Gambling Business’s website indicated that Villani’s illegal gambling operation regularly took bets from between 400 and 1,300 bettors each week, most of whom were based in New York City and the metropolitan area.
As alleged, Villani’s bookmakers regularly included members and associates of the Luchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families. As part of the scheme, Villani employed co-conspirators Louis Tucci, Jr. and Dennis Filizzola, as runners to assist in operating the business.
Villani is alleged to have received more than $1 million annually from the business.
During law enforcement searches related to this matter in December 2020, agents recovered over $407,000 in cash from one of Villani’s residences, as well as brass knuckles and gambling ledgers.
“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Luchese crime family,” stated United States Attorney Peace.
“These charges,” Peace added, “illustrate this Office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York.”
The Murder of Ronda Mechelle Blaylock
The thermometer out in front of the local bank shows the temperature is 87 degrees. The farm show on the radio says the dew point is a little over 60; just another steamy, late August afternoon in North Carolina.
This is the first week of public school for the 1980-81 scholastic year. With a bright smile on her face and pigtails in her hair, Ronda Mechelle Blaylock is walking home from classes at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a friend.
Both girls are 14-years old. While walking near Rural Hall Bowling Lanes, a blue Chevy pickup pulls up alongside the girls. The driver offers Ronda and her friend a lift home.
It’s not unusually hot and sticky for August in North Carolina. But even for two kids who grew up in this heat, it’s uncomfortable. So it’s no surprise they accept.
Ronda’s friend is dropped off along some railroad tracks near Tuttle Road and Priddy road. She continues on her way home, walking alone, with no hint of what lays ahead for her friend, Ronda.
A few hours later, Rebecca and Charles Blaylock call Ronda’s friend, asking if she’s heard from Ronda. Shortly after that, Rebecca and Charles file a missing persons report. They would never see Ronda, alive, again.
August 29, 1980: Ronda is discovered dead, only partially clothed, her body left in a wooded area, near Sechrist Loop Road In Surrey County, about 18 miles from the spot where Ronda and her friend got into that blue pickup truck.
A medical examination shows that not only was this child murdered, but she was also raped.
There’s no doubt about the friend’s story. There are plenty of people who saw the two girls get into that Chevy truck and drive away.
But who was behind the wheel? No one knows. Ronda’s friend tells detectives he had straight brown hair, feathered on the sides and a light beard. He was wearing a black T-shirt, white tennis shoes, faded jeans, aviator-style sunglasses, and a baseball cap.
However, the teenager can’t give detectives his name, and no one had noticed the truck’s license number.
Two years later, the case goes cold. But in 2015, Surrey County Sheriff Graham Atkinson forms an unusual, multi-agency task force with one purpose: find the killer of Ronda Mechelle Blaylock.
Those on the task force have an advantage over their fellow officers who worked this case in 1980. Now they’re backed by new crime-solving methods and something law enforcement couldn’t even dream of four decades ago, DNA technology.
Detectives begin collecting evidence and looking through forensic material from the crime scene.
They start to focus on a guy by the name of Robert James Adkins. He’s been married with an adult son. Adkins has lived in the area where Ronda and her friend were walking in 1980.
On August 2, 2019, with his brown hair and beard gone white and stringy, wearing a grey t-shirt and blue coveralls, Robert James Adkins stood for a mug shot. Looking at least ten years older than his age of 64, he was arrested and charged with killing and raping young Ronda.
Adkins, who most recently lived in Dobson, North Carolina, would plead guilty to reduced charges in December 2020 of second-degree murder and second-degree rape.
Chances are, Adkins will never go home again. At least that’s what Ronda’s family hopes. Thanks to a plea deal, Adkins was sentenced to 21 to 25 years in prison on each rape and murder charges. The sentences will run concurrently.
Rebecca and Charles Blaylock never learned that their daughter’s murderer was captured. Both died a few years ago.
A cousin of Ronda’s, Kevin Thomas says the family wasn’t happy with the plea deal. They wanted to see Adkins sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder and rape.
The end of this case, he says, leaves the Blaylock family with an empty feeling and without any sense of closure.
“We just hope with all things considered that he dies in prison,” Kevin says. “We didn’t have any say in the matter. All we can do is accept it.”
Serve That Heart with Fried Potatoes
Maybe Leon Pye was worried when he heard a knock at the door of his Chickasha, Oklahoma, home.
"Who's that?" Leon probably said to his wife, Delsei.
She might have shrugged and held their granddaughter, Kaeos Yates, a bit tighter, a little closer.
After all, nobody got many unexpected visitors these days, what, with the pandemic and its lockdowns. Everybody stayed closed to their knitting.
But, still, it would be worse than impolite to just leave whoever was out there, out there. So, Leon slowly opened the door.
And he had to be shocked when he realized who'd come knocking.
It was none other than his forty-two-year-old nephew, Lawrence Paul Anderson.
"Lawrence, how'd you get out of prison?"
Last Leon had heard, Lawrence was doing a twenty-year sentence for a drug conviction and other related crimes. No surprise to anyone who'd taken the time to read Lawrence's rap sheet. And then there were Lawrence's mental health problems.
Leon looked back over his shoulder at Delsei. Both of them just smelled trouble brewing.
After all, how the hell could Lawrence be standing on their porch? Wasn't the system supposed to tell the Pye's when Lawrence got out, so they'd be ready for the trouble that just naturally came with somebody who naturally got into trouble?
Well, nobody had bothered to tell Leon and Delsei anything.
Leon raised his eyebrows, at once asking Delsei what he should do and then inquiring if it would be okay to slam the door and send his nephew away.
The answers to both the former and the latter were obvious.
Still, it wasn't an easy decision to allow Lawrence inside.
Leon had half a mind to close the door in Lawrence's face and leave him out on the porch. But Lawrence was family, and anyone who knew the man's history would know that he wouldn't take that kind of insult very well at all.
So Leon decided to welcome Lawrence inside. He reached out to shake his hand and only then noticed what Lawrence was carrying.
God only knew how he came by it, but it didn't take a doctor to realize that Lawrence was carrying a human heart that was dripping blood, and God knows what else on the porch.
Lawrence pushed by Leon and went right to the kitchen. Dropped the heart in a pot, Lawrence did, then pulled out a pan. He sliced up some potatoes, threw some oil into a skillet, and fried up some potatoes.
Then, he added the human heart.
When it was finished, Lawrence told Leon, Delsei, and four-year-old Kaeos it was time to eat.
"Absolutely not," Leon probably said as forcefully as possible. He would have pointed at the meal, at the country-fried heart, and said, "There's no way we are going to sit down at the table with this."
The child had to be scared out of her mind, clinging to Delsei.
"You will eat this,' Lawrence demanded. "It's the only way to release the demons!"
He'd brought a sharp carving knife with him from the kitchen.
Not long after dinner was served, a 911 dispatcher answered a call for help from the Pye family home. The caller only said someone needed help, then ended the conversation with a click.
Police responded, not knowing exactly what was going on, but figuring it had to be some kind of a domestic violence call.
Standing outside Leon's house, the officers thought they heard someone inside pleading for help. The door was open. They went inside Leon's house. There, the officers found a home bathed in blood.
Leon and little Kaeos were down on the floor. Both would soon die. Delsei was grievously injured. Stabbed in both eyes.
Lawrence was also injured and was taken to a local hospital. There, he confessed to killing Leon and Kaeos and stabbing Delsei.
And there was more. Lawrence told the officers standing alongside his hospital bed about busting into a neighbor's house and ripping out her heart.
Officers were immediately dispatched to the home of Andrea Lynn Blankenship, where they discovered a horrific scene.
Lawrence had bashed his way into her house, using his shoulder as a battering ram on the frightened woman's front door.
Once inside, he didn't waste a moment. Lawrence grabbed a knife, used it to slice into her chest. Then he ripped her rib cage apart and cut out Andrea's heart.
Police found her body and other evidence, enough to conclude that Lawrence had told the truth when he explained what had happened.
During his video arraignment, Feb. 23, 2021, Lawrence pleaded with Judge Regina Lowe, "Oh God, I don't want no bail, your honor. I don't want no bail."
Well, he got what he wanted. No bail.
Lawrence is awaiting trial now, as this story was written.
However, Andrea Lynn's eighteen-year-old daughter Haylee wants Lawrence to die for his crimes.
“I hope he gets the death penalty,” Haylee told a reporter from her local station, KFOR-TV. “I hope that he spends the rest of his life thinking about it until he gets his life taken, just like he took those people’s lives.”
As for the question of how Lawrence got out of prison, well, it turns out it was a legal escape. A judge commuted his sentence.
Plenty of people in Oklahoma were outraged by that, including Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks.
"We have seen 'criminal justice reform' in the state of Oklahoma now for several years," Hicks told reporters after filing charges against Lawrence.
"We have put politics and releasing inmates in front of public safety. The goal that we have set in Oklahoma is to decrease the prison population with no thought for public safety," Hicks added.
"And that's not fair."
Thanks for spending time reading my newsletter again this week. Before I go, I wanted to let you know about a new book written by friend and fellow true crime author Ryan Green:
Drop Dead Dangerous - The Lethal Attraction of Road Trip Killer, Paul John Knowles
In 1974, the US East Coast was whipped up into a frenzy of fear. Locking their windows and doors, everyone was terrified of becoming the next victim of the strikingly handsome but deadly “Casanova Killer”. And he was on the move.
After being released from jail and promptly abandoned by his fiancée, Paul John Knowles embarked on a spate of gruesome murders on a road trip up the Pacific Coast.
No room for fear, no room for guilt, just the road.
As the man-hunt gathered pace, the cold-blooded killing spree continued to defy detectives. With no visible pattern in the age, race nor gender of the victims, Knowles’s joyride of kidnap, rape and murder tore across multiple state borders. It became a race of tragically high stakes. How many more lives would be lost before the police finally caught up?
Drop Dead Dangerous is a chilling account of Paul John Knowles and one of the most disturbing true crime stories in America’s history. Ryan Green’s riveting narrative draws the reader into the real-live horror experienced by the victims and has all the elements of a classic thriller.
CAUTION: This book contains descriptive accounts of torture, abuse and violence. If you are especially sensitive to this material, it might be advisable not to read any further.
Those of you in the U.S. can click here for more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BGHK4KMP
For international readers, click this link to go to your country’s Amazon page: https://geni.us/dropemail
And of course, I have a new book out:
Eva Dugan needs to get out of Arizona as fast as the Dodge Coupe she’s riding in can take her across the state line.
It’s January 1927. Flappers are everywhere, young women wearing short skirts, knee height, no less, and bobbed hair. At the same time, they listen to jazz music, smoke cigarettes and drink booze in public, have sex at petting parties whenever they want, and even drive automobiles.
These young Gibson Girl wannabes are having the time of their lives.
Eva Dugan thinks about that with a smirk on her face. She did all that before these girls were born when Eva was a saloon singer during the Klondike gold rush.
Those were the days.
But now, she’s old, fat, and her voice is gone.
And Eva is on the run with a boy named Jack, an unlikely pair drawn together not by love but by need.
Cuz A.J. Mathis is dead and buried, that’s why. Other men in Eva’s life have disappeared. Maybe everyone will forget about A.J. Mathis too.
Here’s one guy who won’t — the last of the Cowboy Sheriffs in Arizona — Jim McDonald.
He’s certain Eva killed A.J. and vows to “prove it on her” if it’s the last thing he does.
Kill. Bury. Forget., A Shocking True Crime Story: the death of a chicken rancher, the woman accused of the crime, and the ‘last of the cowboy sheriffs’ who tracked her down.
And you won’t believe what happened the day Eva Dugan died.
( Here’s a hint: Jack Nicholson’s character in “Departed” might say, “she fell funny.”)
As always, thanks for reading.