“It Was So Fascinating! Here They Were, in My Little House in the Suburbs, Trying to Plan a Murder!”

Mob wife Brenda Colletti, still yakking after all these years

What prompted all this commotion was that Philip and Veasey had finally sniffed out their prey. They had driven by Merlino’s clubhouse and seen him walking with a colleague named Michael Ciancaglini, whereupon they’d started shooting. Philip’s bullet killed Ciancaglini; Veasey wounded Merlino. Even this deadly caper, of course, would be the cause of much public hilarity later on, owing to the location of Skinny Joey’s injury (his butt) and the fact that Philip had used a car leased in his own name to commit a drive-by murder. Once police investigated the burning car and traced it to the dealership in New Jersey where it had been leased, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots, despite Brenda’s heroic attempt at a cover  up. "You should hear the acting job I did!" she says of the recording later played in court of her phone call to police reporting the leased car stolen. "I was crying hysterically — ‘Oh my God! They stole my car!’ And the dispatcher was, like, ‘Ma’am, please, try and stay calm.”’     

Still, for a few weeks, Brenda got to enjoy the life of the wife of a successful mob hit man. "Philip was like a war hero — suddenly, everywhere we went, we were treated like royalty. It was like GoodFellas — we’d go to a restaurant, and strangers would I send us drinks, and we’d get escorted right by the lines of people waiting to get in. The chef would come running out of the kitchen with something special he had made.

"Next time we saw John Stanfa, he was kissing me, holding my hand, asking about our son. It was a riot — we’d go places with little Paulie, and guys would be stuffing $20 bills into his pockets. We’d be in a restaurant, and next thing you know, there’s our three-year-old son playing video poker! Some days he was walking around with more cash than I had!

"But you were living in constant fear, too. Our lives were total paranoia. Philip  knew a guy at Fox news who gave him the whole footage of Mikey Chang’s funeral, and we played it over and over while he pointed people out to me. We had the list of what cars they drove, too, and their license numbers.

"And we each started sleeping with a gun under our side of the mattress. He’d hear a noise at night, and he’d grab his gun and start to sneak downstairs. And I’d be right behind him, carrying my gun. In fact, I’d be trying to elbow my way ahead of him, so I could go down and check the noise and protect him. And he’d be pushing me out of the way so he could go first. Finally he was like, ‘Hon, we can’t be knocking each other out of the way like this while we’re carrying guns.’ So we agreed to take turns."

Then, one night, Sal Brunerti came up with an idea: Since none of them would be safe until Joey Merlino was dead and they were having so much trouble offing him, maybe they should let Brenda try. She could get all dolled up, walk into Merlino’s favorite club, get him to buy her a drink and then slip cyanide into his glass.

"When Sal said it, I was, like, ‘Yeah! I’ll I do it!’ Not that I really wanted to be a murderer. But these guys wanted to kill my husband. In fact, if they had to, they would kill me and our son, too. So whacking Joey Merlino would be an act of self-defense.