"Carmine Persico was born in August 1933 and killed his first human being in 1951, before his 18th birthday," prosecutors once said. That violent life story ended Thursday when Persico, who was serving a 139-year prison sentence, died in hospice care, the New York Post reports. He was 85. The immediate cause was complications from diabetes prompted by a leg infection, but his lawyer blamed the partial government shutdown. "There was an interruption in antibiotic treatment, and we believe that accelerated his demise," he said. Persico was locked up more than 30 years ago but reportedly ruled New York's Colombo crime family from behind bars. That would make him the longest-ruling crime boss in US history, per the Post. Persico was recruited by organized crime after his first killing, the beating of a youth in a Brooklyn park, per the AP.
He first was assigned to bookmaking and loan-sharking, and by his mid-20s, Persico was a "made man" in Joe Colombo's organization. In 1973, after Colombo was paralyzed in a shooting, Persico took over. His conviction for racketeering and murder came in the 1986 ‘‘Commission Trial"; seven others were convicted in the biggest prosecution to that time of mob bosses. He wasn't charged in the cases, but prosecutors said Persico was involved in the famed assassinations of Albert Anastasia, the Murder Inc. boss killed in a barber's chair in Manhattan in 1957, and Joseph Gallo, who was shot at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy in 1972. In sentencing Persico, the judge suggested his life could have taken a different turn. "Mr. Persico, you're a tragedy," the judge told him. "You are one of the most intelligent people I have ever seen." (Read more organized crime stories.)