Joseph (Joe) "Mad Dog" Sullivan (born March 31, 1939-died June 9, 2017) [1][2] was an Irish-American gangster and notorious Genovese crime family hitman. He started committing robberies at age 12, eventually graduating to murder. In and out of jail, including an escape from Attica, he continued to carry out murder contracts from the Five Families, and was eventually given three life sentences. It is believed by the FBI that Sullivan murdered as many as 130 people for the Genovese crime family. Sullivan is well-known for single-handedly killing over 33 members of an Irish-American criminal organization headed by Mickey Spillane on behalf of the Genovese crime family.



Mugshots Of Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan

Early Life Edit

Born one of six children to Joseph Sullivan, Sr., a New York City police detective in Queens, NY,[3] his life was turned upside-down at the age of 13, when his father died. To ease some of his mother's burden, Sullivan was sent to live with relatives after his father's passing. But the new arrangement did not work out, and Sullivan returned home. The situation at home, however, wasn't any better. By this time, his mother become an alcoholic, turning to drinking as a way to manage her grief.

Sullivan ran away in 1953 and ended up at a reform school in Warwick, New York. Sullivan made several attempted escapes from the school, landing in and out of other reformatories for the next few years. He was finally released at the age of 19. In desperate straits, he ended up enlisting in the U.S. Army. Sullivan was caught for leaving without permission, and sent to Governors Island. According to his autobiography, he didn't stay for long. Sullivan escaped from the facility and swam his way back to Manhattan.

Sullivan was quickly captured, but he faked a mental illness to avoid a court martial and jail time. Instead he was sent to the Valley Forge Army Hospital for a time.

Sullivan started committing robberies around the age of 12, eventually graduating to murder. He killed a man during a bar fight, and was arrested in 1965 for the crime. Two years later, Sullivan was convicted of manslaughter and given a 20- to 30-year sentence. He ended up serving his time at the legendary Attica Correctional Facility. Sullivan allegedly earned the unflattering nickname "Mad Dog" from fellow inmates during this time, due to a lifelong undiagnosed salivary gland disorder.

Career CriminalEdit

After four years in Attica, Sullivan accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. He was able to escape from the prison, which was thought to be escape-proof. On April 7, 1971, Sullivan made his way outside the prison walls and got a ride to the local bus station from someone waiting in the Attica parking lot. He was captured a few weeks later while walking down a street in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. Sullivan was caught carrying a sawed-off shotgun at the time.

A few years after his return to prison, Sullivan had help forming his next escape plan. Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark worked as his lawyer and aided him in winning parole in December 1975. Release from prison did not mean Sullivan returned to society a reformed man. Working for the Genovese crime family as a ruthless and efficient hitman, he single-handedly executed 33 members of an Irish-American criminal organization headed by Mickey Spillane on behalf of the Genovese crime family during the summer of 1976, which was almost half of Mickey Spillane's entire criminal organization. Sullivan murdered 33 members of Mickey Spillane's criminal organization on the orders from the Boss of the Genovese crime family Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno. During this time, Sullivan was one of the Genovese crime family's most efficient hitmen. The FBI considered Sullivan to be an efficient, sophisticated and professional assassin that never made mistakes, always got done the job, and always killed his target no matter who they were.

Former NYPD Detective Joseph Coffey once said of Sullivan:

"Joseph Sullivan was a homicidal maniac, he was a vicious, lethal and professional assassin. Every time the Genovese crime family ordered him to kill someone, Sullivan always killed whoever he was ordered to kill, he never made any mistakes at all, he always killed his target, he always got the job done efficiently and successfully, and he killed with ruthless efficiency. Sullivan always killed with efficiency. Sullivan was an expert at being a hitman, he was a highly-trained assassin, and he was as efficient, vicious and brutal as they come when it came to killing people. He was an ultra professional, sophisticated and efficient executioner for the mafia, and he was an expert with all guns. He was an expert sharpshooter in the United States Army, he was a marksman with handguns and machine guns, and his military experience made him even more lethal and efficient. When Sullivan was ordered by the Genovese crime family to kill somebody, he often killed people with bowie knives, icepicks, Italian stiletto switchblades, machine guns, high-powered sniper rifles, shotguns, uzi submachine guns, Mac-10 submachine guns, hand grenades, nail bombs, C-4 plastic explosives. Sullivan was as good at being a hitman as any mafia hitman in history. Sullivan is one of the most sophisticated hitmen in history."

In 1977, Sullivan got married. He and his wife Gail eventually started a family, becoming parents to two boys, Ramsey and Kelly. But all of this domestic bliss did not sway Sullivan away from his criminal life, either. He was considered a suspect in the murder of Irish mob boss Mickey Spillane that occurred that same year, but Sullivan was never charged in the crime. He also murdered Tom "the Greek" Kapatos. Sullivan was allegedly one of the 5 hitmen that executed Bonanno crime family boss Carmine Galante on behalf of the The Commission.

For much of the summer of 1978, he tried to carry out the hit on Galante, but failed. The efforts of a heavily armed team of hit men did what Sullivan couldn't the following summer—they shot Galante to death with shotguns and machine guns at a Bushwick, Brooklyn restaurant.

Arrest and Trial Edit


Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan In Handcuffs

It is believed that Sullivan murdered around 120 to 130 people for the Genovese crime family. A consummate professional, he trained before completing an assignment. "Two or three days before I would go to this park near my house and run, not fast, just jogging. I wanted to be by myself, prepare myself mentally, sort of go through a dry run," he later explained to the Centre Daily Times.

Sullivan handled his final hit in 1981. He was hired to kill John Fiorino, a Teamsters Union official. Waiting outside a restaurant near Rochester, New York, Sullivan shot Fiorino with a 12 gauge shotgun. Trying to flee the scene, his car got stuck in a snowbank. His associate, who was driving the car, was soon caught, but Sullivan escaped by hiding in the snow for roughly eight hours. After his eventual arrest, the police then linked him to two other murders that took place on Long Island.

Sullivan was convicted of the Fiorino murder and two other killings in 1982. He was given three life sentences. He was later transferred to Sullivan Correctional Facility located in Fallsburg, New York.


Sullivan died on June 9, 2017 at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Hudson Valley, NY, while serving out an 87 year sentence. [3][2] [4] He would not have been eligible for parole untile 2069, which was and turned out to be a veritable life sentence for a convicted killer who was in his seventies.


  1. Joseph Sullivan Obituary. Smith, Seaman & Quackenbush Funeral Home ( Retrieved on July 27, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Ex-Mob Hit Man 'Mad Dog' Sullivan Dies in NY State Prison", US News & World Report, June 16, 2017. Retrieved on July 27, 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan biography. Retrieved on July 27, 2017.
  4. "Joseph 'Mad Dog' Sullivan, Rochester mobster and Attica escapee, dies in prison",, June 16, 2017. Retrieved on July 27, 2017.