By Peter Lance for Gangsters Inc.
On the last full day of his life -- October 6th, 1966 -- Eduardo Tirella flew into Newport, RI, the storied summer colony of America’s wealthiest families. Doris Duke, the third richest woman in the world picked him up at the airport and they drove to Rough Point, her English-manor estate on Bellevue Avenue, known to Newporters as “Millionaire’s Row.” Tirella, whose close friends called him “Eddie,” was about to declare that he was leaving Doris after seven years as her constant companion, artistic curator and designer at her estates in New Jersey, Bel Air, Honolulu, and Newport. It was now time to let his patron know, face to face, that he was severing his professional ties with her, for good.
Top photo shows Eduardo Tirella and Doris Duke in the mid-1960’s (Providence Journal)
The handsome Tirella, a war hero and Renaissance man with movie star looks, had just finished the set design for Don’t Make Waves, a new film starring Tony Curtis and his close friend Sharon Tate. With his Hollywood career amping up, he was anxious to get back to the West Coast, so he’d asked Doris to rent a station wagon. At 42 he was on the edge of an important new career. But nobody left Doris Duke without consequences. A notoriously jealous Scorpio, she was known for her violent temper. A few years back, in a drunken rage, she’d stabbed her common-law husband with a butcher knife when he’d angered her, and Eduardo, who was gay, had been warned by his partner and friends not to test her. He assured them that he could handle Doris and agreed to come back to Newport for one last curating job.
Still, by late the next afternoon, October 7th, servants at Rough Point remember them getting into a heated argument. Doris, then 53, had rented the Dodge Polara wagon from the local AVIS dealership and they were about to head out to pick up an artifact Eddie had deemed worthy. Moments later, as they exited the estate with Tirella behind the wheel, he got out to open the massive wrought iron gates.
Suddenly, Duke slid into the driver’s seat and seemed to snap. She released the parking brake, shifted into drive and slammed down on the accelerator. The rear tires of the two-ton wagon spun, leaving gouges in the gravel driveway. From a dead stop the wagon roared forward and hit Tirella. To save himself Tirella he up on the hood of the wagon, staring through the windshield at Doris terrified. Then, as determined by Sgt. Fred Newton, chief accident investigator for the Newport, PD, Doris Duke hesitated and tapped the brakes. The wagon stopped and Eduardo rolled off onto Bellevue Avenue. He’d broken his right hip but he was still alive.
Seconds went by and they the billionairess decided to commit. She roared forward dragging Tirella under the wheels of the wagon, across Bellevue and up onto a curb, knocking down 20 feet of post and rail fence before smashing into a tree. As Doris sat cold bloodedly behind the wheel, Eduardo’s body lay beneath. With massive injuries to his lungs, spinal cord and brain, his death was instantaneous.
Photo: The crash scene showing the Dodge Polara station wagon crashed against a tree across from Rough Point. Sgt. Fred Newton, who proved Doris Duke committed intent-to-kill murder, can be seen at lower right, working the scene. (Ed Quigley Photo courtesy John Quigley)
Ninety-six hours later, with no inquest – basing the brief probe of Tirella’s homicide entirely on the word of Miss Duke – the Mafia-related police chief Joseph A. Radice closed the case. Duke escaped without any criminal charges, but not before her lawyers had conspired with Radice to fabricate a “transcript” of an “interrogation” that never took place. It was little more than a three page “script” of a fictional Q&A. But that document furnished the legal “proof” Radice needed to declare to the worldwide media that Eduardo Tirella had died in “an unfortunate accident.”
Seven months after that, the corrupt Chief retired and later bought the first of two condominium units in Hollywood, Florida. Unbeknownst to the public, he’d brokered a murderous quid-pro-quo.
Eight days after the homicide, following years of haranguing with Newport after she blocked off Cliff Walk, the pedestrian path surrounding her estate, Doris donated $25,000 to restore it. It was the equivalent of $199,000 today. Next, she gave $10,000 ($80,000 in 2022 dollars) to Newport Hospital, where she’d been hidden away from authorities on the night of the crash while her lawyers traveled from New York to create a cover story. That deal was cut by the corrupt County Medical Examiner, Dr. Phillip C. McAllister who hired on as Doris’s private doctor minutes after he pronounced Tirella dead. In the months that followed, Duke began to set up a foundation that renovated 70 original colonial buildings, turning Newport into a tourist Mecca. All of it was sanctioned by Chief Radice who, years earlier, had literally had “married into the mob.
THE CHIEF, THE CONDOS & COSA NOSTRA
Seven months after summarily covering up Eduardo Tirella’s murder, Chief Radice retired after 42 years on the job. The rumors of how he may have profited by allowing Doris Duke to walk, still rebound on a Newport Facebook Group: “We all know she did it,” wrote one Newporter, “The chief retired to Key Biscayne right next to Bebe Rebozo, Nixon’s buddy.” Another speculated that he “bought an island off the Florida keys.” None of that is how it happened. But like so many aspects of the story I uncovered, the many half-truths may contain the full truth.
Joseph Augustus Radice was a complicated figure. Born in 1899, with only an 8th grade education, he put on a badge in 1925. By 1938 when he made Sergeant, he was already well schooled in the upstairs-downstairs rules that protected the wealthy and supported the working-class officials in Newport who catered to them
Ever since her father’s deathbed warning to “Trust no one,” Doris Duke had been famously paranoid, allowing vicious German Shepherds and Akitas to roam the grounds of her estates in Newport, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and Hawaii, causing repeated passersby to get attacked and bitten. In May of 1964 after two tourists on Cliff Walk were victimized in a single week, Radice ordered “the destruction or removal” of two of her dogs. Counter-puncher that she was, Doris made front page news a month later, after she cut off the Cliff Walk with chain link fences.
But all of that ended eight days after Tirella’s death when The Duke Foundation made what was described as “the first substantial pledge” to The Cliff Walk Foundation then trying to raise $493,000 toward a goal of $1.2 million for the pathway’s restoration. It was a clear message to the City. “Newport was reminded,” wrote her godson Pony Duke,” that “Doris was its only hope for refurbishment.”
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At the time he left the Newport PD in 1967, Radice’s annual salary was a mere $7,000. Four years later he bought the first of two units at The Warrenton House, a new condominium complex in Hollywood Florida. In order to get a sense of whether any of the funds in his Florida property buys came from Doris Duke, one has to consider his tangled family connections.
In 1970 Radice married into a Mafia-related family when he exchanged vows in Miami with the former Mary Capochiano Flynn. Her brother Dominic (aka Dom) was a bookie for Raymond Patriarca (photo right), Cosa Nostra boss of New England, based in Providence. That’s according to her grandson, Andrew Flynn who loved Radice and considered him his surrogate grandfather.
MURDER BY TRAIN
“My blood grandfather David Flynn was a real violent guy and a nasty drunk,” he said in an interview for my book. “Somebody told him he needed to get out of town, and he was leaving when he got hit by a train.” The details of the 1955 accident were highly suspicious. At the time of the crash, Flynn’s car was parked on a railroad crossing with gates down and lights flashing on either side of it. After impact with the New Haven Railroad’s Merchant Limited, the vehicle was hurled 150 feet (with Flynn pinned inside).
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Andrew told me that he’s sure it was murder. “He’d been tied to the steering wheel at the time. Word in the family was that the Capochianos killed him.” At that point, Joe Radice had made Captain, but this was one “accident” he didn’t have to investigate, since it took place in Richmond, RI., some 25 miles away from Newport.
Property records in Broward County, Florida show that in 1971, while still maintaining his principal residence in Newport, Radice bought Unit 432 at the Warrenton House, a new four-story complex in Hollywood. The price was $13,900 – the equivalent of $88,588.00 today. He financed it with a down payment of $4,780 which was 68% of his last year’s salary as Chief. In 1976 he bought another apartment, Unit 433, in the same complex for $19,000 and sold the first unit in 1977. Another Warrenton condo, Unit 428 on the same floor, was owned by Mary Radice’s brother Dom (aka Donald) the mob bookie. His widow Betty later sold that apartment to Albert and Mary Paranzino, Al was Dominic Capochiano’s partner in Ann’s Kitchen, a popular local restaurant, and he too, ran numbers for Mafia boss Patriarca.
In fact, the mob ties to the Capochianos date back to 1951 when the Rhode Island State Police raided two variety stores in Newport where bets were being placed. One was co-owned by Dominic whose sister Mary later became Radice’s wife. After the raid she and her then husband David posted bail of $1,500 for two of the arrestees - the equivalent of $14,790.00 today. Since that was an era before credit cards were in wide use, it’s likely that the bond was posted in cash.
David Flynn was the same man who, four years later, was apparently murdered on the railroad tracks by his in-laws in the Capochiano family. Joseph Radice was a Lieutenant at the time of the raids, which State Police conducted in secret without informing the Newport PD.
“That tells you something,” says retired NYPD Detective James Moss, a 20 year veteran of Brooklyn South Homicide, who examined the evidence I uncovered in my investigation. “The violent death of Eduardo Tirella made international headlines at the time. The fact that a local police chief could have ties to Mafia and gambling interests for years gives and continue to run his department, gives you a sense of how confident he was that he could sweep the case under the rug. The power Doris Duke wielded back then made this miscarriage of justice possible.”
Duke herself, died at the age of 80 in 1993 and today, her Newport mansion – the scene of the crime – attracts hundreds of tourists each year as a museum. After I first reported this story in the July/August issue of Vanity Fair and HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT, the book, was published in four editions in 2021, the Newport Police Department reopened the case. In a second VF piece on August 5th, I broke the news that Robert E. “Bob” Walker, Jr., the 13-year-old paperboy for Doris Duke in 1966, had come forward after reading the book and discovering that the details I unearthed, proving Tirella’s murder, synced precisely with his memory of the crash. This is a video of my interviews with Bob, outside Rough Point on July 4th, 2021.
The case was reopened after Det. Jacque Wuest, the Newport PD’s cold case detective, interviewed him for two hours on July 2nd and found him credible. Det. Wuest then spent five tortuous months on the new investigation, but despite overwhelming evidence that Duke had killed Eduardo with intent, on November 18th, she declared that there was “no evidence” and fell back on Chief Radice’s corrupt “accident” theory. All of the details, including a 30-page TIMELINE are available on my website, peterlance.com proof, as underscored by NYPD retired Det. Moss, that Doris Duke still wields power from the grave. This YouTube video says it all.
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