Nobody Walks: Bringing My Brother's Killers to Justice

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Macmillan, Feb 12, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 294 pages
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In the vein of The Boondock Saints and Chinatown comes this true crime memoir of brotherly love and vengeance

In 2003, Christopher Walsh was found stuffed in a trash barrel in a storage locker in Van Nuys, California. After the dilatory murder investigation took seven months to file charges, and years to go to trial, Dennis Walsh knew it was up to him to keep his little brother's murder from becoming a cold case.

The only son of a large Irish-American family to stay on the straight and narrow, Dennis found his family's dubious background paired with his law degree placed him in the unique position to finish the job the cops couldn't. Fencing with the police and the DA's office, Dennis spent years slinking between his life as a stand-up lawyer and hitting the streets to try and convince the dopers, thieves, prostitutes, porn stars, and jail birds that populated Christopher's world to come forward and cooperate with the police. Yet he walked a fine line with his harsh tactics; prosecutors continuously told him he was jeopardizing not only the case, but his life.

Staying on the right side of the law to hunt down these murderers put every part of Dennis to the test and it wasn't long before the brother who went clean knew he'd have to get his hands dirty. But 100 arrests later, the murderers are in jail for life. With the gravity of a Scorsese film, this classic yet gritty tale transcends the true crime genre. Nobody Walks is the harrowing story of a family, brothers, and the true meaning of justice.


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NOBODY WALKS: Bringing My Brother's Killers to Justice

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Pulpy, engrossing account of losing a family member to a senseless murder and retribution delivered through the criminal justice system.Attorney Walsh was the only one among his four brothers to ... Read full review

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MY FATHER ONCE TOLD ME, “Do what you think you’re big enough to do.” Not particularly profound, but certainly practical advice. I don’t recall the particular circumstance that warranted this admonition, only that his father had imparted the same bit of wisdom to him after he had forged his birth certificate and enlisted in the navy during World War II at the tender age of fifteen. When I joined the navy in 1972, he told me his father had driven him to the train station in silence, put him on the train, handed him a five-dollar bill and tersely advised him, “Keep your eyes open, your mouth shut, and your dick in your pants.” He was not inclined toward much heart-to-heart conversation.
My grandfather had been a boyhood friend of Bob Hope in Cleveland and served as Hope’s boxing manager. The famed comedian fought under the name of Packy East, but after getting knocked cold by a fighter out of Cincinnati named Happy Walsh, decided to pursue a career in show business. My grandfather went on to play semi-pro baseball and football in the 1920s and was signed by the Boston Red Sox, but shattered his shoulder playing football in the winter, ending his hopes of playing major league baseball. He returned to Cleveland and became a clerk of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. He proceeded to drown his sorrow in alcohol with such fervor that my grandmother eventually fled, leaving him with four children. She was never to be heard from again.
My father, Robert Emmett Walsh, survived a kamikaze attack on the USS Nashville, returned home after the war, and joined the Cleveland Police Department. Shortly thereafter, he met Kathleen McFaul, a strawberry blonde who was babysitting for her aunt. He and a friend were picking up her cousin and several other girls for an evening at the movies. She had hardly paid him any attention.
As he was leaving, he leaned over and boldly informed her, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to marry you.”
She watched from the porch while the others sped away in a 1942 Packard convertible.
Well, now, isn’t he full of himself? she thought.
They were married in August 1951. I was born on December 18, 1952. My grandfather died three years later. My father worked his way up in the police department from patrolman to detective. He was making about forty-five hundred dollars a year, roughly “eighty-six bucks and change a week,” he would say. Apparently, this was not nearly enough to support a growing family. He left the Cleveland Police Department in early 1957 to pursue what he thought might be a more lucrative venture: a life of crime.
By 1966, our family had grown. I was the oldest of seven children, five boys and two girls. A pretty much typical Irish-Catholic family, or at least we seemed so. As was the custom with second generation Irish-Americans, my parents gave their first six children Irish names: Dennis Michael, Timothy Robert, Kathleen Mary, Daniel Patrick, Laura Kelly, and Robert Emmett, Jr. Then, oddly enough, in September of 1965 they broke tradition and christened the last addition to our family Christopher John, a traditional English name. Being the youngest of five brothers, Christopher came to be called Finnegan, Finny, or Fin—a slang term for “five.” I, on the other hand, always referred to him as Christopher. At his baptism at Saint Paschal Baylon Church in Highland Heights, I stood up as his godfather. I’m not sure whether my parents thought me to be particularly responsible at the age of twelve or whether I was the only family member who had a clean suit at the time.
In the meantime, my father’s criminal endeavors had steadily increased. He and his crew had been hacking through roofs in the dead of night and blowtorching bank vaults for a few years. They always managed to exit in time, thanks to a police radio supplied by a friend of his still on the Cleveland PD, in exchange for a cut of the score.
I got a hint about my father’s line of work at about nine or ten years of age, when I innocently ventured into the garage, where he and his cohorts were busy torching a safe. I’d later learn that they would practice on dummy safes before the real heist, so there’s no telling if this was a hot one or not, but I knew enough to follow orders when my father yanked up his welding mask and sharply ordered me to get the hell out of there.
I scooted back into the house, where my mother was preparing dinner. Supper, as she called it.
“Hey, hey, don’t go out there, your father’s working,” she cautioned.
This was the first time I realized that my old man wasn’t an insurance salesman or anything else of the kind.
Early in 1966, an FBI agent roused one of my father’s confederates, Frank “Skinny” Velotta, out of bed and warned him that J. Edgar Hoover himself had sent word that if one more bank got burglarized in northeastern Ohio, Frank, my father, and Ray Ferritto would go down for it, whether they did it or not. The federal agent’s threat of recrimination did not fall on deaf ears. The next we knew, we were pulling up stakes.
It was the morning of July 5, 1966. My brother Tim and I were ordered to clean out the garage and burn whatever wasn’t going with us in a rusted trash barrel in the backyard. In one box, I fished out my father’s detective journal and flipped to December 18, 1952, the day I was born. In big bold black letters, his notation read, 8:18 A.M. FIRST SON BORN!!! I tried to ask the old man if I could keep the journal, but he cut me short.
“Goddamn it. I told you to burn all that shit. Hurry up, we don’t have all day.”
I tossed the journal into the fire. You didn’t argue with the old man.
As flames leaped from the makeshift incinerator, my parents packed themselves and their seven wide-eyed children into a wood-paneled Ford station wagon, hitting the road for sunny Southern California.
My siblings and I had no idea that we had been run out of town. Instead, the old man had been hyping the wonders of California for weeks.
“You loogans can pick oranges and grapefruits off trees in your own front yard out there,” he crowed.
My father routinely referred to his brood as loogans or loogan heads. Loogan was an Irish slang term for “misfits.”
“You loogan heads can swim in the ocean in the morning and then ski in the mountains in the afternoon.”
We were nothing less than astonished at the thought. Tim and I nearly wore out our two favorite 45 rpm records, “California Dreamin’” and “California Girls.”
The cross-country trip proved to be quite an adventure. Our large family coupled with my father’s line of work hadn’t allowed for many family vacations. With one hand on the wheel and his right arm draped across the back of the front seat, the old man worked us like a carnival barker, whetting our appetite for the upcoming sights.
“Fifty miles to the Big Muddy, the Mississippi River. Wait till you loogans see the Gateway Arch in Saint Looey.
“Now we’re gonna be crossing the Rocky Mountains. You hooligans are gonna see snow in the middle of July.
“Pretty soon we’re gonna cross the Bonneville Salt Flats. Any of you loogan heads ever see a whole desert made of salt? Keep your eyes peeled.”
We hit all the tourist spots as we zoomed westward on Route 66, “the Mother Road” as Steinbeck had dubbed it. We crammed into two motel rooms each night.
Eventually we crossed the California border and made our way to our destination, the San Fernando Valley. It was a warm, balmy July evening. We marveled at the mountains that ringed the Valley, and the stately palm trees that seemed to have popped out of nowhere. As our packed station wagon motored down Ventura Boulevard, we craned our necks, hoping to spot a movie star.
“Don’t worry, they’re all over the place,” the old man had promised.
We turned north onto Sepulveda Boulevard. After a few blocks, my father eased the station wagon into the parking lot of the 777 Motor Inn in Sherman Oaks. We got two rooms as usual and got ready for bed. My father left and came back shortly with two large boxes loaded with cartons of Chinese food. He took great delight by having each kid read the fortune cookie messages out loud. He read for the younger ones, Laura and Bobby, and teased us about our various fortunes. I don’t know that our family was ever as happy together as we were that night.
We had no idea what lay ahead of us in California, but we were all excited to be there.
How were we to know it would all go wrong?
* * *
Fast-forward thirty-seven years, to late June 2003. I’m an attorney, a sole practitioner, living about sixty miles north of Los Angeles in a quiet little rural town in the Angeles National Forest. My youngest brother, Christopher, had been missing for maybe seven or eight days. He, his two children, and I were the only family members still living in California. My brother Tim and sister Kathy are living in Vegas. My brother Dan and his wife and kids live in Phoenix, around the corner from my mother and sister Laura. My father and my brother Bobby are doing a stretch in federal prison due to a major cocaine deal that went south in 2000.
All week long, I’d been telling my other brothers not to worry.
“The kid’ll show up sooner or later. He’s probably

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