A Set-Up for Murder

Oct 15, 2009 - by Ronald J. Lawrence - 0 Comments

Jesse Stoneking

Jesse Stoneking

All Jesse Stoneking had to do was be himself -- look tough and menacing -- to earn the easiest $25,000 that had ever come his way. For the right-hand man to St. Louis mobster Art Berne, the job seemed too good to be true. And it was.

by Ronald J. Lawrence


It was an improbable criminal coalition. There was Bob Neal Carson, the sultan of sin whose efforts in the early 1970s to become a feared, ruthless rackets boss in the Fort Leonard Wood area ended in disaster that brought down the entire lucrative prostitution and gambling business. His hapless collection of hit men and enforcers became the laughing stock of the Missouri underworld, the proverbial gang that couldn't shoot or bomb straight who were their own worst enemy.

On the other side was Jesse Stoneking, the deadly efficient, stone-cold killer who was second in command of Art Berne's powerful mob on St. Louis' East Side and who spoke with the authority of the Chicago Outfit. Not only did he possess the reputation of being a ferocious enforcer of prodigious strength who feared no man and had the agility and cunning of a mountain lion, he was an adept thief and burglar who plotted his scores with the patience and precision of a an architect. He was everything the impulsive, bungling Carson was not.

Thus it was early in 1978, four years after Carson had been acquitted of federal conspiracy charges and four years before Stoneking would become the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most devastating undercover informant in the Midwest, that they joined forces.

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