It was a warm, balmy evening on Halloween, 1978, as Antonio ‘Tony’ Valentino had just completed the night shift at the Ford Assembly Plant on Twenty-Three Mile Road and Mound. He punched out his timecard at eleven o’clock and walked toward his red and white Ford pickup truck parked outside of the plant parking lot. As he walked toward his vehicle, his girlfriend, Joni, was patiently waiting for him. She immediately flicked her cigarette as Tony approached her, standing next to his truck.
Joni kisses him as they warmly greet each other.
“How did your day go?” she eagerly asked.
“Not bad. I didn’t see you on break,” Tony replied.
Joni Williams worked in the sewing and upholstery department of the Ford Plant in the department adjacent to his. Tony Valentino was a forklift operator on the assembly line of the night shift at the Ford Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, about twenty-three miles north of Detroit.
“I was outside, having a cigarette with my girlfriend, Gina. She wanted to talk.”
Tony unlocked his pickup truck, and Joni got in from the passenger side. She put her lunchbox on the floor of his vehicle and gave Tony a hot passionate kiss.
Joni was a pretty, platinum blonde with big blue eyes and a sensual figure. She was very voluptuous, close to five feet, five inches tall, and carried herself as though she was walking onto the movie set of a Marilyn Monroe movie. Joni was in her late twenties but had been married for almost ten years, with eight-year-old twin boys at home.
“Are we going back to your place tonight?”
“Yes,” as Tony was getting excited. “Does your husband know you’re working late?”
“No, but he said he would be out tonight bowling with his friends and won’t be home until very late. Don’t worry, Tony. I’ve got a hall-pass,” she smiled. Tony smiled to himself as Joni opened his three-button blue Polo shirt and ran her fingers up and down his chest.
‘Going back to his place’ meant going to his house in Sterling Heights just off of Schoenherr Road. Tony had just closed on it about six months ago, which was still vacant and was in the process of renovating. He hadn’t moved his wife, Isabella, and their three children into the house yet, as their home in Warren, Michigan, was on the real estate market and had been for sale for a few months. Tony’s wife knew that he regularly visited the house after his late shift at the Ford Plant, but of course, she had no idea that he was using their second home as a meeting place for him and his married girlfriend after work.
“I’ll meet you at the house,” Tony quickly said, hoping that he would still be anxious and excited to amorously hook up with Joni at their usual, discrete location.
Joni quickly got out of his pickup truck and climbed into her 1972 blue Mustang. As they began to exit the Ford Plant parking lot, another vehicle, a white 1970 Oldsmobile, which was parked two rows away, started its ignition. As the rear brake lights of the car turned on, the car filled with three men immediately began to follow the red and white Ford pickup truck.
Howard Williams had been stalking his wife at her place of work for the last two weeks and became well aware of the torrid affair his wife was having with Valentino. He had carefully planned this evening with his two friends, Jack Hansen, and George Johnson. Williams, who was a pipefitter by trade, was small in stature, but very quick-tempered. He was an abrasive, vicious alcoholic with a checkered past, and police record the length of his arm. He had done time for armed robbery, counterfeiting, extortion, and assault and battery. Howard Williams was an ex-convict who seemed to have something to prove to everyone and anyone who challenged him. He also ran one of the bookmaking operations on the East Side for the Licavoli Family, and Jack and George were into him for over a ‘G-note’ a piece.
When he finally saw his wife, Joni, making out with Valentino in the parking lot two weeks ago, he decided on an evening where he would violently do something about it. And that evening would be on Halloween.
Howard brought two of his former prison friends along with him. His friend Jack brought along a .25 caliber pistol he had borrowed from a friend.
The white Oldsmobile quickly followed the red and white pickup truck that Valentino was driving, going southbound on Mound Road. The three men must have been following Valentino too closely, as he had immediately taken notice of them while sitting at the traffic light on Fourteen Mile and Mound Roads. When the light turned green, Tony accelerated his truck and began dodging the late-night traffic going southbound. Because it was Halloween and was close to midnight on a weeknight, the traffic on Mound Road was almost empty. He sprinted his truck, quickly changing lanes and trying to lose the three men.
At some point, Joni must have noticed the ensuing chase between her boyfriend’s truck and her husband’s white Oldsmobile. She turned off of Twelve Mile Road, making a left-hand turn on a red light and going eastbound, hoping that her husband didn’t see her.
The chase continued down Mound until Tony approached Eight Mile Road. As the light turned yellow, he quickly accelerated his truck and went eastbound down Eight Mile, hoping that the white Oldsmobile would get held up at the traffic light. Since Howard Williams was driving and had no respect for traffic laws, he stepped on the gas and made the left-hand turn onto Eight Mile, again following Tony’s truck closely. This chase continued for another fifteen more minutes until Tony turned his vehicle into a side street off the main, four-lane highway. He tried to lose the three men, turning off of different side streets, trying in vain to lose the white Oldsmobile. Finally, Valentino turned off of a side street that he didn’t realize was a dead end…a street called El Camino Drive.
When Tony recognized that he was on a dead-end street, he decided to foolishly park his truck and confront the three men that were following him. He suddenly remembered that his young six-year-old son, Johnny, had left his green water gun in the glove box of his truck when he was playing in it over the weekend. Valentino grabbed the toy squirt gun and put it in his right jacket pocket. With his truck still running, he opened his door.
The white Oldsmobile parked adjacent to the pickup truck, and the three men got out.
“What the hell do you guys want?”
“You know goddamn well what we want. You’re fucking my wife, you asshole!” Howard Williams immediately replied, with his two men were backing him up and standing behind him.
Although Howard was only 5’ 4” tall and significantly smaller than Valentino’s almost six-foot frame, he had brought along his more enormous ‘gorillas’ with him, both over six feet, four inches tall. Jack Hansen grabbed the .25 caliber pistol that he had hidden underneath the seat, wrapped in a white towel. When he saw Valentino come out of his truck with his hand in his right jacket pocket pointed at the three of them, he immediately believed that Tony Valentino had a gun in his jacket.
“Stay away from my wife, you fucking dago-greaseball,” Howard said, getting within several inches of Tony.
“I’m not with your wife,” he lied.
At that point, the three men together shoved Valentino up against his truck. Tony, still pointing the squirt gun in his jacket pocket at the three men, continued to maneuver his hand to look as though he was about to shoot at Williams.
Hansen, holding the unwrapped pistol in his pocket, immediately pointed the gun at Tony’s head. As the scuffle continued to ensue, Hansen pulled the trigger, firing the weapon three times.
Two of the bullets pierced the left side of Valentino’s head. As his body began to slump down against his truck, the third bullet hit his shoulder. The three men stood still as they watched Tony Valentino slump down from the side of his vehicle and fall onto the hard, concrete pavement of El Camino Drive. As he laid face up under the opened truck door of his truck, his right hand fell out of his pocket, along with his son’s green toy squirt gun onto the middle of the street.
The three men stood there, watching Valentino lay dead in a pool of blood under his red and white Ford pickup truck.
“You were only supposed to scare him with that gun, you asshole!” Williams immediately blamed Hansen for firing the pistol.
“I thought he had a gun in his jacket, and he was pointing it at you!” he immediately responded. Because the street was surrounded by residential houses, they immediately climbed back into the Oldsmobile and backed up, then quickly drove off onto Eight Mile Road. It was still dark, past midnight, and no one on the street seemed to hear or see what had just happened. In the middle of the road, laid Tony’s body, his head face up in a pool of blood. The lights of the truck were still on, and the motor was still running.
Located less than a foot away, was little Johnny’s green toy squirt gun, laying in the middle of El Camino Drive.
It was soaked in his father’s blood.