Parnell Steven "Stacks"
Edwards (January 15, 1947 South
Bronx – December 18, 1978 Morningside
Heights, Manhattan) was an African-American supporter of the Black Panther Party who became
associated with the infamous Jimmy Burke and the Vario crew in 1967.
Marshals' mugshot of Parnell Steven "Stacks" Edwards taken on
November 26, 1974.
portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson
in the film Goodfellas
was born in the South Bronx, to parents from North Carolina and Northern
He was said to have been chubby at 5'8", 285
pounds, but became muscular from his visits to prison. He was a
bodyguard for Muhammad Ali
mobster Tommy DeSimone as a
struggling blues-rock musician, singer
and songwriter on Queens Boulevard sometime during 1967, earning money as a street performer.
At the time
DeSimone was selling stolen Rolex
DeSimone began to think of Edwards as a "brother" and the two
became close friends. Around this time, DeSimone adopted the same
adopted by Colombo crime family
mobster Joe Gallo
and Gallo associates, believing that Italian organized crime should
work with black organized crime to increase power and
Edwards and DeSimone became involved in credit card fraud and
with Henry Hill
. Edwards later moved to
Harlem after becoming an associate of the Vario Crew.
Edwards was a heavy
drug user, smoking marijuana before moving on to heroin
As a child growing up he was a fan of jazz
. Growing up, his interest
in music increased and he learned to play the acoustic guitar
. As Edwards got older his
tastes turned to Fats Domino
, Clarence "Frogman" Henry
, Frankie Ford
, The Neville
and Dr. John
. When rhythm and blues
became outdated he
listened to Ray Charles
, Sam Cooke
and started performing blues-rock
. Edwards worked the nightclub circuit
and was hired on occasion by Burke for performances at Robert's Lounge
from 1967 to 1978, and by
Hill at his night club The Suite
regular performer from 1967 to 1972. Edwards formed a band called
Grand Central Station in the early 1970s. He relied increasingly on
organized crime rackets as a means of making money following his
introduction into the Vario Crew by DeSimone.
An under-the-limit master
Edwards earned a reputation within the Vario Crew as being an
"under the limit" master in credit
. He would go to a shopping center with a panel truck
and purchase merchandise from the stores until he ran out of room
on the truck. He would make $45 purchases on a card with a
$50-expenditure limit every afternoon. His rampant shopping sprees
would consist of blenders, transistor radios, cigarettes, razor
blades and within two hours of steady shopping, call it quits. He
had a girl from South Ozone
who worked for MasterCharge
, delivering cards. She would bring
Edwards official office memos keeping him informed about security
checkups and credit checks
. Among his
contacts Edwards included a female associate who worked at a local
bank. She would give him duplicates of the cards and inform him of
the amount of credit that was attached. Before a card was put in an
envelope for delivery to the cardholder, Edwards would have a
duplicate. If a card had a $500 credit
he would go into stores where he and members of the Vario
Crew were known, or visit places like The Suite, The Bamboo Lounge
and Robert's Lounge
where he would punch out
credit card slips. The associates he knew in the stores would call
the bank and get authorization for whatever merchandise he wanted.
The cardholder waiting for his card would never receive it and
Edwards usually had enough time to make purchases on the certain
card for about a month before it would be reported stolen.
Involvement in Lufthansa heist
In 1978 Hill, working from a tipoff from bookmaker Martin Krugman
, told Burke of vast sums of
cash being held overnight in a safe at the Lufthansa terminal at
JFK airport in New York. Burke analyzed the possibilities and
concluded that six men and two panel trucks would be needed to
successfully steal the cash
was the first stage of the heist.
Burke assembled a crew, his son Frank
, Joe Manri
, Robert McMahon
, Tommy DeSimone
, Paolo LiCastri
, and Edwards. During the robbery, Edwards slugged
Lufthansa employee Kerry Whalen. His job was to take the panel
truck used in the heist and drive it to a junkyard in New Jersey,
where mafia contacts would compact it and the evidence would be
destroyed. The heist worked out better than Burke could have
imagined, but Edwards neglected his duty and used cocaine and
marijuana, visited his girlfriend Shelly, and fell asleep at her
house. The police found the panel truck, parked in a no parking
zone, with a muddy boot print matching a pair of shoes owned by
Involvement in Black nationalism and the Black Panthers
Sometime after Malcolm X
in 1965, Edwards, like many other African-Americans, became
involved in the civil rights
, supporting the Black
. He agreed with Bobby
and Huey P. Newton
's rejection of the integrationist
stance of Martin Luther King
with their rejection of what they called the "power
Edwards's involvement in the Counterculture
movement of the 1960s angered
Burke and other mobsters, causing him to be a further outcast among
the fellow robbers.
His black radical nationalist views were displayed to the fellow
hijackers while he was attending a Christmas Day celebration at
in South Ozone Park,
Queens. The party was being thrown by Burke following the
apparently successful Lufthansa heist. Edwards attended the party
even after it was known that the authorities had found the panel truck
he was supposed to dispose of.
included fingerprints on a wallet stolen from one of the Lufthansa employees who was attacked during the
Hill later recalled the attendance of Edwards at
the party in Wiseguy: Life In A Mafia Family
- "We were all having a good time when 'Stacks' sees my amount of
money on me, and started to do his 'black dude' number, 'How come
I'm fucking broke and all you whities got the money?' And then
Edwards would persist in making racial jokes about the 'May-fia
guys who got all those millions from the airport.'"
Hill recalled later in Nicholas
's Wiseguy: My Life In A Mafia Family
"knew that Stacks had signed his death warrant that day."
Edwards's bungling of his role in the Lufthansa heist
pushed Burke and fellow
to the limit, and Edwards was
murdered a short time afterward.
Edwards's ambition was to be a successful blues
singer and as such he performed at Burke's bar,
Robert's Lounge, in South Ozone Park, Queens. His booking agent
was Dante Barzotini
. Edwards met Barzotini
through DeSimone in 1967. He acted as a chauffeur for Burke and
Paul Vario and was usually paid in stolen goods. He would take the
stolen goods and sell them to independent stores in Harlem and Jackson Heights or at flea markets in the area.
DeSimone was conflicted when mobster Joseph DiPalermo ordered him
to kill Edwards, since Edwards was a close friend of DeSimone's.
Although DeSimone had killed several people, he felt no closer to
becoming a made man
and as such wasn't
pleased about killing his friend. However, DiPalermo told him that
he could be 'made' if he carried out the murder.
Edwards went into hiding in a South Ozone Park, Queens tenement
. While there one morning sitting at his
kitchen table eating a piece of chicken at breakfast, DeSimone and
Sepe visited him. After Edwards allowed DeSimone and Sepe to enter,
DeSimone killed Edwards with a .32 silencer-equipped pistol.
His girlfriend Shelly found him after coming home from shopping.
The next day a distraught DeSimone called Edwards's mother, with
whom DeSimone was close, and said, "I'm so sorry, mom, about what
happened to Stacks." She asked what happened, and DeSimone hung up.
She didn't find out what happened until Edwards's sister Essie
called and told her. Shelly had called Essie the night before and
Hill spent the week before Christmas 1978 with Edwards's distraught
family; DeSimone never attended.
In popular culture
- Wiseguy written by Nicholas Pileggi and Henry
- Gangsters and GoodFellas Henry Hill as told by Gus