November 22, 1995
GUNRUNNER FOUND DEAD SHOT ON
TOP OF MOTHER’S GRAVE
A retired longshoreman who confessed to being one of the Mafia’s biggest gun suppliers was found shot to death yesterday atop his mother’s grave in Queens.
“My name is Frank O’Hehir,” read a note found on his body, police sources told the Daily News. “Please call my attorney, Roger Bernstein. This is an FBI case. Thank you.”
O’Hehir, 65, who recently pleaded guilty to gunrunning for the Colombo crime family, was wearing an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet when his body was found in a remote corner of St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village, police sources said.
A gun was found near O’Hehir’s body, the sources said, but it was not clear last night whether he shot himself.
“I’m not sure it’s a suicide,” said Bernstein.
Once it was established that the dead man was a cog in a major mob case developed by Waterfront Commission detectives and the FBI, police clamped down on details about O’Hehir, who was supposed to appear today for a pre-sentencing hearing.
Last month, O’Hehir explained to The News why he rejected a plea-bargain deal of three years in prison in exchange for spilling the beans about being quartermaster to the mob. He said he didn’t think he’d live that long anyway. “I might as well roll the dice on a trial,” O’Hehir said at the time as he fussed over his cat, Buford, in his tidy Ridgewood, Queens, apartment.
Police had raided the apartment at dawn on May 10, looking for guns. O’Hehir had a secret closet hidden behind a sliding American eagle plaque built into the kitchen. Inside FBI agents found a few empty holsters and an ammunition magazine.
Asked last month what he would say at trial, O’Hehir said: “My story? My story is that I’m an innocent man.”
But last week O’Hehir pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to supplying the firepower for the Colombo crime family war.
In recent weeks, said one stunned neighbor, Virginia Hart, O’Hehir had been behaving oddly. At one point, she said, he announced that he had married a long-time sweetheart. But Hart never saw a woman around.
Some days, Hart said, O’Hehir would sit in the apartment complex’ parking lot in a lawn chair and stare at passing traffic.
Hart said she saw him again yesterday morning. “He said, ‘I’m going to the lawyer this morning, and then I’m going to pick up a newspaper in the afternoon,’ ” Hart said. “He had promised to be at my baby twins’ birthday party on Thursday.”
Another neighbor, Jean Fellacher, said the normally outgoing O’Hehir “seemed depressed lately” and tried to cheer himself up by providing food and shelter for numerous stray cats. “He was not his usual self,” she said. “The last time I saw him he was staring straight ahead.”
But, said Bernstein, “we spoke a week ago, we had a pleasant lunch. . . . He seemed fine.”
“It’s a total shock to me,” said Bernstein’s investigator, Mike Kessler. “Frank had this cat he was devoted to. For him to walk away from the cat just doesn’t make sense.”