Late on the evening of Halloween 1971, as the children of Cleveland Heights slept with bellies full of candy, a blast shook the Coventry neighborhood. Police raced to Swan's Auto Service at the southwest corner of Mayfield and Coventry Roads (now the site of the Coventry Food Mart) to find 31 year-old Arthur Sneperger dead under a pile of debris. Michael Frato, owner of both Swan's and a garbage collection business, was the clear target; his Cadillac had been parked at Swan's, and a garbage truck in the backyard of his Cleveland Heights home was destroyed by an arsonist the very same evening. But the bomb went off too early, and Sneperger became the victim. Attention focused immediately on "The Irishman," Danny Greene.
Younger Clevelanders may be familiar with Danny Greene only after seeing the 2011 biopic "Kill the Irishman." But those who lived in the city during the 1970s surely remember him well. A mob war involving the Irish-American Greene and competing factions of the Italian Mafia led to more than 30 bombings in the city, most involving car bombs. The violence became so endemic that a local newspaper referred to Cleveland as "Bomb City, USA."
Frato and Greene had once been friends, but tension between the two rose after Frato pulled his garbage collection firm out of the profitable trash hauler's union that Greene ran. Frato started his own trade group, the Cuyahoga County Refuse Haulers Association, whose offices were located near Swan's Auto Service on Coventry Road. Frato was playing cards in these offices on the night that Sneperger was killed.
Arthur Sneperger had a history with both Greene and Frato. Sneperger and Frato grew up together in Cleveland near the intersection of Woodland Avenue and East 25th Street. Sneperger and Greene, meanwhile, had worked together at the city's docks, and Sneperger eventually became "muscle" for Greene's gang. The month before the bombing at Swan's, Sneperger backed out of an earlier plan of Greene's to bomb Frato's car, going as far as to inform Frato of Greene's intentions. Soon after, Sneperger starting talking to a Cleveland Police officer about Greene's criminal activities. After the Halloween bombing on Coventry, police speculated that Greene had found out about Sneperger's betrayals, and that Sneperger's death had not been unintentional. Greene may have remotely detonated the bomb early on purpose, knocking off a traitor and sending a powerful message to Frato at the same time.
Less than a month after the Swan's bombing, Danny Greene shot and killed Michael Frato at White City Park Beach on Cleveland's lakefront. Frato and an associate drove up to Greene as he walked his dogs at the park. When Frato fired a gun, Greene shot back, killing Frato with a single shot to head. Greene was later acquitted of the murder after claiming he acted in self-defense.
For several years in the 1970s, the Coventry neighborhood was also home to Shondor Birns, once known as "Cleveland's Public Enemy #1." A ruthless Jewish gangster who ran Cleveland's numbers and policy rackets, Birns first hired Danny Greene in the 1960s as an enforcer. As Greene's power grew, his ties to Birns deepened, but conflict over an unpaid debt soured their relationship. On Saturday evening, March 29, 1975, Birns was killed by a car bomb as he left Christy's Lounge, a strip bar located on Detroit Avenue on Cleveland's near west side. Greene was suspected in the murder, but never charged.
Danny Greene died in a car bombing in suburban Lyndhurst in 1977 after becoming ensnared in a fight surrounding competing claims for leadership of Cleveland's Italian mafia.