Medical examiner staff arrives at FBI search for murder victim

(Photo: Justin White/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While federal investigators continue their search for the remains of a Boston businessman who prosecutors said was murdered in a gangland slaying 23 years ago, a road near the search site could be closed to traffic Thursday.

Wednesday night, officials at the scene told Eyewitness News the closure was expected to begin around 7 a.m. However, as of 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the road remained open.

It’s not clear why Woodward Road may be closing, but it is likely related to the investigation underway behind an old factory building located on Branch Avenue. Multiple sources told Target 12 that agents from the FBI are digging for Steven Disarro’s remains.

Staff from the state Medical Examiner’s office were at the scene for a short time Wednesday night and returned on Thursday. Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health, was unable to provide details about their presence, saying in a statement, “The state Medical Examiner’s Office was asked to assist in an investigation that the FBI is leading in Providence. Given that they are taking the lead on this investigation, there is no additional information that I can make available at this time.”

The property where the dig is happening, at 725 Branch Ave. in Providence, is owned by William Ricci, 69, who has agreed to plead guilty in a federal drug case. Ricci was accused of growing marijuana in an old mill building on the property.

providence fbi dig collage
Photos: FBI Dig Operation »

In court filings, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office has identified Ricci as a mob associate with ties to former La Cosa Nostra capo regime Robert “Bobby” DeLuca.

Ricci’s case has not been connected to the search for DiSarro.

Target 12 first broke the story about the dig Tuesday and has since learned investigators discovered something at the dig site Wednesday afternoon, which forensic experts are now going to examine for a possible link to the case. It’s unclear if they removed the object from the dig site.

For those that live in the area, or plan to travel through the Branch Avenue area Thursday, Woodward Road is often used as a cut-through to Mineral Spring Avenue in neighboring North Providence. Motorists should plan on using Douglas Avenue or Route 146 instead.

No one has ever been charged with DiSarro’s murder, though former New England mob boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’ Office in Boston on two counts of obstruction of justice in 2004 for making false statements about what he knew about the murder.

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment if any remains were found on the site. She said investigators would be back Thursday to continue working.

Target 12 Investigator Tim White contributed to this report.

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