The Family Debt
Gary Indiana is a city known for its many murders, drug trafficking, and notorious gangs but not to forget the hometown to several famous people. Giacomo Bianco, known to his patrons as "Mr. Jack", owned and operated a liquor store on 16th and Adams. His family owned many businesses in this neighborhood for more than 50 years and this was the last to survive ... but Jack didn't.
As he was about to close the store for the night on August 30, 1970, two unidentified males came in through the side door and executed Mr. Jack. The first born of this Bianco family and the first son to die.
Why did this happen? Was it a random killing? Is there anyone still alive that knows the truth?
Forgotten by the local authorities, but not by his family.
This book is a tribute to my father, Giacomo "Jack" Bianco. He was a man that lived his life with passion for his family, a man that worked hard at everything he did. His unselfish nature exposed year after year, experience after experience. Giacomo was undoubtedly a family man who never let his family down… no matter the cost.
Never asking questions, he simply chose to rise to the occasion time after time to persevere the integrity of his family and to protect his personal and business interests. He didn’t make excuses… he simply delivered what was required when it was required.
Then suddenly, one day the giving stopped… abruptly and unexpectedly… the core of the family was taken forever.... his life extinguished. Over time, more questions surfaced, but unfortunately no answers, no explanations…Did he know how steep the price would be to protect his family?
Distant memories of the past coupled with the lingering question "Why was Daddy killed?"
Did anyone care? A Daughter did… As for the detectives and investigators … they were simply told to "shelf the investigation", this only three days after this horrible murder, a file never to be opened again.
Why? Who did this? Was there a conspiracy? Did a robbery go bad? Was it an act of revenge from a gang member? Was there a contract, a preplanned hit? No one was talking…dead silence.
Almost 40 years later the same questions still pierce the silence once filled by a father’s voice. Now for the first time, a family’s thoughts finally revealed and shared with you. As you read Jack Bianco's story…the ups, the downs… the trails and tribulations, you decide…
The formal training I received during my school years could never prepare me to tell the story of Jack “Giacomo” Bianco. It would be my personal life experiences that would ultimately provide me with the acute emotions, the insight and the tenacity required to write my fathers life story. This has been my hearts desire from early childhood, an unquenchable yearning within me to unveil his short yet impactful life, not to mention his sudden, senseless and unexplained death. A daughter’s perspective on a father’s love, a father’s passion and a father’s early demise is revealed to the entire world.
The original file on the murder of my father, Jack Bianco, stayed at the bottom of a musty, cardboard banker’s box in Gary, Indiana, for almost thirty years. There was no denying that his case was cold—the leads within were as dead as many of the police detectives who had worked the investigation.
The term “cold case” sounds so uninviting and final, and the prospects of reopening Dad’s case seemed equally bleak. But despite all this, in 1993, I called a retired police officer I knew, to help me find my father’s file. He asked for the assistance of his fellow officers to locate the Bianco file.
Every month for six months, I would call Jerry and ask what progress had been made. His answer would always be, “We’re still looking but cannot seem to find it.” Frustration started to build with my constant question:, “Why can’t you find my dad’s file?”
As we were going into the seventh month of searching for the file, I started to believe it did not exist. I made another call to Jerry. After all these months of supposedly searching for it, I was told the file on my father’s murder was lost in a fire the department had some years past. I asked the question that never would be answered: “When did the fire occur and why did it take you seven months to find this out?” Needless to say, I was not convinced his file was burned in a fire!
Then, a call to the offices of the Gary Public Library—where I could order reprints of old newspapers—helped to fill in some of the crucial blanks of that tragic day in August 1970. The librarian was of great assistance. While I was waiting anxiously on the other end of the phone, he was searching for the articles on microfiche. At first he wasn’t able to locate them, thinking they did not exist, but as we went over the dates again, there they were.
I received the articles about four days later in the mail, three consecutive days of the story. The first one, dated Monday, August 31, 1970, was on the front page of the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, the day following his murder. The headline read, “Owner of tavern linked to gambling gunned down here.”
Linked to gambling? What was that about? As far as our family knew, my father was a legitimate businessman with no ties to gambling—we were enraged! We do know that my father’s half brother Tony Penzato—who was regarded by federal investigators as a top man in the Lake County gambling business—was regularly in the media. The only involvement we knew my father had was to help his brother get out of his unlawful practices.
Who would care about the 1970 slaying of a man from Gary, Indiana, with Mafia connections? His daughter for one.
This was the culmination of a lot of sleepless nights and worry-lines. For over twenty years, I had harbored resentment and anger that these killers had escaped punishment, after taking away a father, a husband, and a good man.
I was just fourteen years old—a week shy of beginning high school—when the doorbell rang in the middle of the night, as I waited for my daddy to come home from work, but it wasn’t Dad. He would never come home again.