Photos: Bombings in Tucson in 1968 | Retro Tucson

Andrew M. Santos

Tucson was rocked by a series of bombings in 1968 at the Tucson homes of organized crime figures and a beauty salon. On July 21, dynamite exploded in the bed of a pick-up at Grace Ranch on Wrightstown Road, the Tucson home of Detroit mobster Pete Licavoli. On July 22, the patio at the home of Mafia kingpin Joe Bonanno, Sr. was bombed. On Aug. 16, two explosions – so loud they were heard heard 20 blocks away – damaged the home of Peter Notaro, a close associate of Bonanno. On Sept. 16, the Wig Beauty Salon at 2739 E. Speedway was bombed. Seventeen minutes later, the front room at the home of Robert Thomas Smith was destroyed in an explosion. Smith was a close associate of Salvatore Spinelli, another reputed mob figure in Tucson. Nobody was hurt in any of the bombings.

“This is obviously a case of retaliation involving Mafia warfare between Bonanno family members and those who oppose him in Tucson,” said one “highly-placed” law enforcement officer in Tucson. “The bombings were done for intimidation, as a way of saying they can go further,” he added.

The Wig Beauty Salon was bombed again in 1969. The receptionist at the time of the bombing in 1968 was Joyce Battaglia, former wife of reputed Mafia figure Charles Battaglia. The owner of the salon was indicted in 1968 in connection with the bombing, but charges were dropped. The salon was acquired by Spinelli and was frequently linked to organized crime.

The Bonanno bombing was allegedly a scheme by a rogue FBI agent. In court testimony a source said the agent wanted “the two heads of the Mafia to fight so there’d only be one head.” The agent resigned but was never charged.

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