33 Photos Of Lepke’s Murder Inc., The Mob’s Most Brutal Hit Squad

Published October 16, 2017
Updated July 30, 2019

In 1930s gangland New York, murder was big business — and the hitmen of Louis "Lepke" Buchalter's Murder Inc. were the best in the industry.

Louis Lepke Murder Inc.
Irving Feinstein Body
Murder Inc Lineup
Joseph Rosen In Candy Store
33 Photos Of Lepke’s Murder Inc., The Mob’s Most Brutal Hit Squad
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In the New York City of the 1930s, murder was big business. And the best killers in the industry were Murder Inc., a ring of murderers-for-hire working as mob enforcers who, in less than 10 years, killed an estimated 1,000 people.

Murder Inc. was formed by notorious Jewish-American gangsters Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and run by Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, a New York racketeer who figured out that he could make even more money contracting out killers to Sicilian mobsters. He set up shop inside of Rosie Gold’s Candy Store, a Brooklyn shop that catered to children through the front door and killers through the back.

A killer working for Lepke could count on $1,000 to $5,000 per job (as much as $70,000 today), depending on the target. Some made a small fortune off it. The hit squad's most prolific killer, Harry Strauss, signed on for at least 100 jobs on his own, making enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life and single-handedly putting a minor dent in the population of New York City.

From Strauss on down, these killers were brutal. They didn’t just shoot their targets — they aimed to leave a message. They hacked up the bodies of their victims with meat cleavers and ice picks. One man was set on fire and left in a lot. Another was strapped to a slot machine and left in public view.

Murder Inc.'s reign of terror ran on like this throughout New York City until 1940. By then, they were so bold that they’d pull off their killings in broad daylight, sure that no one would even try to stop them.

Things came to an end, however, when one of their contract killers ratted them out to the police. Abraham “Kid Twist” Reles, a former Murder Inc. assassin, found himself in a police interrogation box, charged with multiple murders and realized the only way out was to tell the officers everything that they wanted to know about Lepke and his organization.

Working off of Reles’ tip, New York police arrested Lepke and some of his most prolific killers. The mob hitmen who’d terrorized the city were taken off the streets, most to face the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison in upstate New York.

After 10 years of tyranny and 1,000 body bags, Murder Inc. had come to an end.

But they didn’t go down without one last job. On November 12, 1941, the first day of the trial, Reles' dead body was found outside his hotel room, crushed from a six-story fall out his hotel window. It was one last message from Murder Inc. — any canary who wanted to sing had better learn to fly.

After this look at "Lepke" and Murder Inc., check out these brutal photos of the Sicilian Mafia by Letizia Battaglia. Then, see inside the violent, flamoyant world of the 1980s Mafia.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.