Chicago, IL

The story behind the infamous photograph of Nick Kuesis and gangster James Morelli

Cristoval Victorial
Nick Kuesis points to his brother's killer James MorelliPhoto byChicago Tribune

In the later months of the year of 1947, a gruesome crime took place that has forever been pressed into our history.

Thomas Daley an alleged leader of a small gang in Chicago and his associates James Morelli and Lowell Fentress who were also known to be part of the gang, decided one night to drive up to a garage owned by a man named Nick Kuesis. The reason behind this was that in the earlier months leading to the murders, Morelli and Fentress committed a heist in which they were able to leave away with $800 U.S dollars (equivalent to roughly $10,500). However although they were both acquitted of the robbery charge, they still held a grudge on Nick's brother John Kuesis for allegedly tipping off Chicago police of their crime.
Morelli (left), Fentress (Middle)Photo byChicago Tribune of 1947

On the night of December 12, 1947, the trio forced their way into the garage and beat up John Kuesis for being a documented informant, and held the other four people present by pointing a hand gun into their faces. Although John Kuesis was said to have been holding his ground, it is said that Daley got fed up with his resistance and shot him dead. The other four where held hostage and forced into a vehicle for 8 hours while the trio drove around shooting them and dumping their bodies out the car, leaving them for dead. Out of the 5 people in the garage who were victims of the trios actions, 2 managed to survive the ordeal, one being Nick Kuesis (brother of John). In this infamous photograph, a critically injured Nick Kuesis without hesitation points out James Morelli as one of the men responsable for the horrific murders. As a result, all 3 criminals were consequently killed for their actions. Daley, died by gunshot wounds, while Fentress and Morelli died by electric chair.
Historical picture of the execution of James MorelliPhoto byPhotographic Historical Society of Canada

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