Carmelo "Charlie" Fresina (born Oct. 4, 1892- died May 7, 1931) was an early organized crime boss in St. Louis, Missouri. Fresina was, in his own fashion, the most colorful mafioso in St. Louis, heading up what was certainly the most colorfully named criminal group known as The Pillow Gang.
He was born in Abruzzo, Italy and immigrated to St. Louis in his late teens. In 1922, Fresina joined a gang headed by Pasquale Santino, which began operating in the city around 1910. Fresina and his wife Louise Cinardi lived at 2716 Semple Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1922, Fresina was charged with the murder of Joe Bucceri who dying accused Fresina of his murder. Fresina was also a suspect in the murder of his former saloon partner Clarence Schnelle in 1927 and Angelo Corella in 1928. After Pasquale Santino was murdered in 1927, Fresina took over his gang, which specialized in extortion and bootlegging and became allied with a splinter group of the Green Ones led by Tony Russo. Together they waged a battle with the Green Ones.
In January 1928, after the Giannola's (a rival gang) had been eliminated, Fresina and two members of his gang attended a meeting at the home of a Russo faction member. It was rumored that Fresina had made peace with remaining members of the Green Ones and the Russo faction felt they had been betrayed. In a wild shooting Fresina was wounded in the buttocks and his two associates killed. Thereafter, because of his wounds, Fresina would arrive at a meeting of the gang, put on his chair the pillow he always carried, and then ease himself down to discuss such criminal activities as extortion and murder, leading sarcastic police to dub his mob "The Pillow Gang". The Russo Gang, already depleted due to the deportation of three Russo brothers in 1928, continued to do battle with Fresina and the Green Ones until their faction "disintegrated" around 1932. On January 17, 1930, Ray Weaver was shot and killed by his boss Carmelo Fresina (who pleaded self defense) at Fresina's home. Weaver was a former partner of Fresina's in a garage business.
Carmelo Fresina remained a force in the St. Louis underworld until May 1931, when he was found shot to death across the river near Edwardsville, Illinois. His gang was taken over by St. Louis mob boss and future government witness Thomas Buffa.
Years later Senator Estes Kefauver summed up Fresina's career saying; "Eventually Fresina, an extortionist and bootlegger, was dispatched with two bullets in the head and no longer needed his pillow."