Cement overshoes have long figured in Mafia mythology, but until this week no cop in New York—or seemingly anywhere else in America—had seen them actually used to ensure a victim sleeps with the fishes.
Around 10:20 a.m. Monday, police learned via 911 that a Kingsborough Community College student had spied a body washed up on the Brooklyn shoreline. The body was that of was a 6-foot-1 male wrapped in black plastic contractors bags. His head was entirely covered with grey duct tape. His arms were bound behind him with rope.
And both his feet were embedded in a five-gallon black plastic bucket filled with hardened concrete up to mid-shin.
“I’ve actually never seen cement overshoes before,” a police commander said.
He wondered aloud if this was the work of the Mafia, myth made real.
The mere thought was immediately dismissed by a veteran Brooklyn detective well versed in the mob’s long history in the concrete industry.
“This isn’t the wise guys,” the detective said. “They do concrete better than this. This is a bullshit job!”
The detective’s experienced eye noted that the concrete was honeycombed with air pockets and was generally a less than practiced pour. His immediate appraisal that this was not the work of the Mafia seemed confirmed when the victim was identified.
He was Peter “Petey Crack” Martinez, said by police to be a senior member of the G Stone Crips. Other members of this Brooklyn street gang allegedly include the jailed rap star Bobby Shmurda.
Martinez had been reported missing on Feb. 5 by a lady friend, who told police that she had last seen him as he set off to get his hair braided. Detectives marveled at the perfect condition of Martinez’s braids after almost three months in the water.
“His hair is perfectly braided still,” the commander said. “It’s like he just stepped out of the salon. His fingers fell off, but his hair is beautiful still.”
The commander asked the detectives if there were any bullet wounds.
“Not new ones,” a detective replied.
Martinez had been shot in the leg back in 2008 and his assailant had been arrested. He himself had been arrested 31 times on charges that included burglary and using a forged instrument.
The exact cause of death was to be determined by an autopsy, but it seems that Martinez might very well have been alive when his head was wrapped with the duct tape.
“Like mummy style,” the commander said.
The detectives were not immediately able to determine if Martinez had been alive when his feet were stuck in the bucket. One reason cement overshoes had remained just a bit of gangland lore for so long is the problem of how to keep the victim’s feet immobile in the stuff until it hardens.
The commander noted that a rope tied the bucket to the body.
“But that doesn’t seem necessary,” the commander said.
However it was done, there was no denying that through the months in the water—which apparently included what would have been Martinez’s 28th birthday in March—his feet had remained solidly in the concrete despite the questionable quality of the pour.
“You could actually stand him up like a statue if you wanted,” the commander said. “Not that you would want to.”
The cement overshoes had apparently served their immediate purpose and Martinez had not just popped to the surface when the water warmed, as bodies often do in New York waters. He and his concrete overshoes seemed to have finally been dragged to Manhattan Beach by the strong currents in that particular area.
Back in 2011, a man was found actually wearing cement overshoes at the Antalya waterfalls in Turkey. But numerous other reports and rumors of cement overshoes in various countries over the years appear to have been unsubstantiated.
One might argue that the reason no cases have been confirmed is that cement overshoes have effectively caused bodies to disappear. But the Mafia has been riddled with so many high-level informants in recent years that at least one instance would almost certainly have come to light had there been any. Cement overshoes seemed to have been the stuff of street corner fantasies and tough guy novels.
The police commander theorized that the killers had been acting out something they had seen in some mob flick.
“They wanted to be gangsters,” the commander suggested.
The cinematic effect was heightened by a large tattoo on the victim’s back.
“It is an image of the Virgin Mary with a rose,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a press briefing.
Boyce proved a master of terse summary after he described the black plastic and the duct tape and the feet “submerged in poured concrete.”
“Obviously a homicide,” Boyce said.
Martinez was found wearing a black jacket, gray sweatpants, and blue boxer shorts under the black plastic bags. The rental car he had on the day of his disappearance had been found abandoned. There are several theories as to why he had met his particular end, ranging from gang rivalry to a drug deal gone bad to an unpaid debt to a failed scam.
The commander was able to make one deduction with some confidence about the man who wore New York’s first cement overshoes on record.
“He pissed somebody off,” the commander said.