Retired Police Chief Still Wants to Know Where The Bodies are Buried
December 16, 2022 by Private: Brian Doering

Local Author Launches 5th True Crime Book

As a former law enforcement officer for 33 years, Russell Township resident Rick Porrello has a knack for writing captivating true crime stories.

As a former law enforcement officer for 33 years, Russell Township resident Rick Porrello has a knack for writing captivating true crime stories.

So much so, he just released his fifth book, “There’s More Bodies Out There: The True Story of a Mafia Associate and a Cop Who Emerge as Suspected Serial Killers” — which is having its official launch party Dec. 17 at Versare Café + Market in Chester Township.

The story follows the life of Richard Henkel, a Mafia associate during the 1970s and 1980s who was a serial killer claiming to have murdered 28 people.

“I first learned about Richard Henkel, the main character of my current book ‘There’s More Bodies Out There,’ from Phil Christopher, the subject of my 2006 title ‘Superthief,”’ said Porrello. “A seed was planted as sometimes happens when a writer learns of a story idea they might want to develop.”

Porrello said after doing a little research, he found it to be a fascinating, albeit tragic, true crime story and decided to make it his next book.

Set in Pittsburgh with numerous connections to Ohio — particularly the Youngstown and Warren areas — Porrello said Henkel and his crew reportedly conspired to kidnap the owner of a major sports team in a brazen plot.

“Henkel was closely associated with a Pittsburgh-area police officer and some investigators believed that the cop was involved in some of the murders Richard Henkel committed,” said Porrello. “Those story aspects further drew me in.”

Porrello’s unique perspective when it comes to writing true crime stories comes from his knowledge on both sides of the fence.

He grew up in Cleveland Heights, graduated from Heights High School and his first career was a jazz drummer at the age of 18.

Despite having an up-and-coming music career, Porrello decided to turn in his drumsticks for a police badge, a dream he had since childhood.

He enrolled at Lakeland Community College, earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice and served in law enforcement for over three decades.

“I served as a career police officer for the City of Lyndhurst with my last 10 years as chief of police and retired from the force three and a half years ago,” said Porrello.

When he began writing his first book, “The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia,” he learned while doing family research into the murders of his grandfather and three uncles, that all were mob leaders killed during Prohibition.

Porrello went on to write several other books about Cleveland crime figures, including “Bombs, Bullets, and Bribes,” the true story of notorious Jewish mobster Alex Shondor Birns, as well as the story about mobster Danny Greene in “To Kill the Irishman,” which was turned into a movie in 2011 starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer.

“Naturally, I am excited and proud that film producers are interested in my work,” said Porrello. “It speaks to the public’s long-held curiosity about, and enjoyment of, true crime and organized crime stories as adapted for film.”

Porrello’s “To Kill the Irishman” is set in the 1970s and follows a mob war involving the Irish-American Greene and competing factions of the Italian Mafia, which led to more than 30 car bombings in the city.

Porrello said while the film “Kill the Irishman” was adapted from his book, he was not a contributor to the screenplay, nor did he have any input in the film’s production.

“Neither is unusual,” said Porrello. “Screenwriting is a specialty and filmmakers do not want too many cooks in the kitchen.”

Porrello said the phrase, “There’s more bodies out there,” which he knows is grammatically incorrect, was a quote Richard Henkel told a homicide detective.

“I spent about two years researching, including spending a day with the original lead homicide detective, then I decided to send Richard Henkel a letter in prison to ask if he would speak with me,” said Porrello. “I knew it was a longshot and sure enough, he politely declined.”

About eight months later, Porrello tried again and what followed was 10 months of questioning him about his life of crime, including the murders he committed or in which he was otherwise involved.

“On one occasion, I told Henkel about steps I took to confirm something he told me about his background,” said Porrello. “He was upset and wrote to me saying, ‘I never lied to you!’”

Porrello also communicated with members of the victims’ families.

“I felt it was important for someone to speak for the victims,” said Porrello, adding the whole project took four years.

“With the public’s heavy interest in the subject of serial killers and organized crime, my goal is a dramatic series based on the book,” he said. “It used to be fun, but because the film or series development process can often be so lengthy, I no longer ponder what actors might portray what characters.”

In addition to “There’s More Bodies Out There,” Porrello has another book in progress, as well as movie or series options in development.

“I was further encouraged in my goal to get my work adapted for film when about two years ago, ‘Kill the Irishman’ began showing on Netflix,” he said.

Porrello does much of his work at his favorite coffee shop in Chester Township.

“Versare Café + Market, where the Italian and Greek breakfast and lunch items and coffee beverages are superb, and where I work on a laptop computer while sipping an Americano or Cortado,” said Porrello. “Versare opened last year and I go there two or three times a week to spend a few hours writing.”

Café owners Gabriella Albino and her mother, Athena Callas Gallo, are hosting a book launch gathering from 3:30-5 p.m. Dec. 17.

“The public is welcome and may purchase coffee beverages and pastry items, or a bottle of wine to enjoy in the café,” said Porrello.

Copies of Porrello’s books are available at or through Greater Cleveland bookstores including Fireside Books in Chagrin Falls and via major online retailers.

Next up for the organized crime author is something completely different.

“My next book is a memoir about my teen years following in my brother Ray’s footsteps as a drummer working for the great entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr.,” said Porrello.