Scuderi recalls a day in the early ’90s when he accompanied the Veasey brothers to a golf driving range on Passyunk Avenue. “John was hitting a million balls,” he says. “All John-John wants to do is hit it past his brother.” As it got dark and the other golfers left, the brothers argued about the local Mob war like it was a sporting event. Billy told John-John that the Merlino faction would win, and he called John Stanfa a faggot.
Billy’s message was: Hey, little brother, not only are you a dummy for joining the Mob, but you’re so stupid, you picked the wrong side. And the Stanfa crew is just jerking you off. They’re not making you somebody, they’re just using you. And when they get done using you, they’re going to kill you.
THREE MONTHS AFTER he shot Frank Baldino to death in the parking lot of the Melrose, John Veasey returned to the diner, this time for the creamed chipped beef. On a frigid December 30, 1993, John Veasey had a breakfast sit-down with brother Billy and Pete Scuderi.
“It was brutally cold,” Scuderi recalls. Scuderi had been planning on staying in until Billy called and begged him to meet him and John at the Melrose. “Things aren’t good with John-John,” Billy said.
They ate at the counter of the venerable diner, with the regulars. By this time, John-John had figured out that Billy was right: Stanfa was using him. Stanfa had given him a fancy jeweled ring as a Christmas present, for his recent work as a hit man. Billy told John to get the ring appraised because it was probably fake. John’s wife, Lorraine, tried to hock the ring and discovered it was.
At the Melrose, Billy told John his only chance was to “flip”—turn himself in to the feds and become a cooperating witness. Otherwise, Stanfa would kill him.
But John-John was too angry to listen. “Fuck Stanfa,” he erupted. “Fuck the Mafia. And fuck the feds, too.” John then loudly outlined his own plan of action: snort some meth, get “Rambo-ed up,” and go out and kill Stanfa and as many henchmen as he could. He slapped a nickel-plated .357 on the counter. “This is how I roll,” he said. The gun was just one weapon from an arsenal he had at home, including a bunch of shotguns and an Uzi. “I’ve got enough ammunition to kill ’em all,” John said.
Old ladies at the counter had stopped eating and stared at the Veasey brothers. They kept arguing.
“You’re a fucking asshole,” Billy yelled at John-John. “You can’t go kill anybody. That’s not the way to solve the problem.” Then Billy did something he hadn’t done since their mother died: The tough guy started crying. Right at the counter of the Melrose.
“You’re gonna get killed,” Billy told John. “You’re my brother. I don’t want to see you die. Or you’ll get caught, and they’re gonna put you in jail forever. Or they’re gonna put you in the electric chair on TV, and I’m gonna have to watch it.
“If you do the right thing, turn yourself in, you’ll go to jail, but someday you’re gonna come out,” Billy pleaded. “And we’re gonna have Christmas dinner together and be a family again.”
“If I do what you’re telling me to do, I’ll never be able to come back,” John protested. A rat wouldn’t be welcome in South Philly.
“You’re only going to nail Stanfa,” Billy told him. John wouldn’t touch the Merlino gang. So what was the big deal? And, “Who’s gonna stop you from coming home?” Billy said. “These are our streets. Nobody’s gonna keep my little brother from coming home.”