Dental records may be quickest route to identifying remains from behind Providence mill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – On Friday, FBI agents took pictures and chained off the area behind a Providence mill building, shutting down what was an active scene all week.

The human remains that were recovered Thursday are still in the custody of the Rhode Island Office of the Medical Examiner (OME), according to an FBI spokesperson.

It is expected to take at least two weeks – and possibly more – to learn if authorities have recovered the remains of Steven DiSarro, who federal prosecutors in Boston have said was the victim of a gangland slaying in 1993.

Joseph Wendelken, the public information officer at the state OME, declined to talk specifically about its assistance in the FBI case, but said in general dental records are the fastest way to come to identify a victim.

“Sometimes the process involves getting DNA from bones that are recovered and then finding a DNA match (from a living sibling, parent, or child),” Wendelken said in an email. “Other methods of forensic anthropology (forensic dentistry, for example) can also be used to identify skeletal remains.”

He added the DNA testing can sometimes take up to a year.

As Target 12 first reported, agents from the FBI’s Evidence Response Team began their search on Tuesday.

Sources tell Eyewitness News they was searching for DiSarro, who was the manager of South Boston nightclub “The Channel” when he vanished.

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

According to a press release issued when Salemme was indicted, prosecutors said DiSarro disappeared after the nightclub became the focus of a criminal probe by the FBI.

“The indictment alleges that Salemme and his son [Frank Salemme] had a hidden interest in The Channel, and that on or about May 10, 1993, the defendant Francis P. Salemme was present at the scene of Stephen DiSarro’s murder,” the 2004 press release said. “Salemme also assisted in burying DiSarro’s body to prevent its discovery.”

Salemme reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2008 and pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charges, but never admitted a role in the homicide. He was sentenced to five years, but had already been in custody for roughly four when he was sentenced, so he had one year left to serve.

The property where the dig happened, at 715 Branch Ave. in Providence, is owned by William Ricci, 69, who recently reached a plea deal with prosecutors in a separate federal drug case.

In exchange for pleading guilty last month, the government dropped two of three charges Ricci was facing. He will be sentenced in May.

Ricci was accused of growing marijuana in an old mill building that stands in front of where the dig is happening.

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.

Longtime FBI information Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi claimed DeLuca was also present at DiSarro’s burial.

Ricci’s case has not officially been connected to the search for DiSarro. A spokesperson at the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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