CHICAGO (WLS) — It is Chicago’s forgotten hit: 35 years ago, gasoline executive Charles Merriam was locked in a bitter battle to streamline Amoco gas station operations. He may have paid for it with his life.
The Amoco executive was wearing pajama bottoms when authorities say he was greeted by a pair of men who have been described to the I-Team as wearing Chicago police uniforms. They promptly killed him.
His son said police told him years ago that the hitmen were each paid $6,000 to murder his dad.
When Merriam was murdered on November 4, 1987, he was just 52 years old.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Chuck Goudie’s original reporting on the Merriam murder from 1987
A few days earlier, Merriam had asked his Amoco bosses for personal security protection, according to his family, because he was feeling threatened by one of Chicago’s most successful gas dealers: Frank Milito, who held lucrative city contacts to service Chicago police vehicles. Merriam was implementing a business model change. Midwest Amoco stations were being pushed from full-service gas and repair stations to self-serve mini marts.
Merriam’s son, Ken, said his father wanted some level of protection when he went to visit stations because he was concerned about being physically harmed.
“There was only one person that ever came up, and it was Frank Milito,” Merriam told the I-Team during a recent interview.
Milito was tight with Chicago police officials and had connections to top Chicago Outfit figures, according federal prosecutors, who had enlisted Amoco and Merriam to help put Milito in prison in 1986 in a tax and mail fraud case.
It was against that crime and business backdrop 35 years ago that Merriam was murdered in a professional, gangland-style hit.
The case, and public interest, soon went cold.
Ken Merriam was 25 at the time. Now 60, Ken Merriam alleges that what actually happened to his father has been covered up for decades.
“Because of the fact that two Chicago policemen, you know, they were in Chicago police officer uniforms, actually made the shots. They weren’t going to try to solve the case because it would just be embarrassing for the police department. So, I actually felt that at that point, it would never be solved,” he said.
And it hasn’t been. Although still an open case, where new information might be helpful, officials with the FBI, local police and Amoco would not agree to be interviewed.
Frank Milito was among several mob-linked individuals questioned about the Merriam murder, according to FBI records, but was “not very cooperative” and “refused to take polygraph” lie detector tests. Merriam’s son said not long after the hit, officers told him they had an idea who was responsible, but not to expect charges.
“They basically said that this crime will never be solved,” said Merriam.
FBI records from 1990, obtained by the I-Team, list several subjects and suspects in the Merriam murder case including Milito, convicted career Outfit member Mario Rainone, and Renato “Ray” DiSilvestro, a retired Chicago policeman.
The I-Team traced DiSilvestro to his home in Las Vegas, where he moved after leaving the department in 1993 following CPD misconduct cases and allegations by the states attorney that he was connected to organized crime. Other than a month-long suspension from CPD for bringing discredit to the department, most charges were either not pursued or dropped.
Despite the FBI listing DiSilvestro as a possible suspect in the past, during a recent conversation with the I-Team on his driveway, he vigorously denied a role in Merriam’s murder.
Disilvestro has previously fended off questions about crimes, telling the Tribune in 2000, “You asking me to talk about a murder? You gotta be soft, pal…I’m from the old school… I’m not a rat.”
The CPD pensioner now tells the I-Team he was contacted several times, years ago, by FBI agents.
“They wanted to start talking about the mob, mafia, and I said, listen, I’ve got nothing to say. I said if you want to arrest me, arrest me, but leave me the (expletive) alone, ’cause as you know, I’m carrying a piece and it’s the wrong time,” said DiSilvestro. “And they never bothered me after that.”
When the I-Team called Frank Milito’s cell phone, his son answered and said they have “no interest in setting the record straight.”
In statements to the I-Team, Amoco executives said the case is too old for comment; the FBI said it’s committed to identifying fresh leads, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said they will actively pursue any new tips. If you have information about the murder, Cook County urges you to submit it using this form.
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