Michael Torello is a Detective Lieutenant in charge of the Chicago Police Department's Major Crimes Unit (MCU) which specializes in investigating and prosecuting gangs of professional thieves and members of the Organized Crime Syndicate.
Torello is characterized by a deep compassion for victims of crime and a hair-trigger temper against all criminals and authority figures who mis-use their power. Sometimes, his anger will temper his better judgement. He's also known to use brute-force tactics to threaten criminals or coherse a confession or get vital information. He weapon of choice is a 1911-style .45 Automatic pistol which usually has tape and rubber bands wrapped around the handle and trigger to give him a firmer grip on his weapon.
While no actual date of birth is ever specified in the TV Series "Crime Story", it can be assumed from other aspects of his background that he was born sometime in the late 1920's. What is known about his background is that he grew up in the Chicago neighborhood know as "The Patch", a neighborhood infamous for giving rise to such famous criminals as Al Capone's trigger man "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn, bank robber "Baby Face" Nelson, and Mafia boss Sam Giancana. Amongst Torello's closest friends from childhood is Ted Keyhoe. Both men grew up together and even served together in the Marines, fighting in the Korean War. It was during this war that Torello earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for actions of bravery and valor. Torello's other closest friends included a shopkeeper and retired bookmaker named Tom O'Donnell and his wife Anna. Because of his close relationship with the O'Donnells, Torello became a self-appointed guardian/big brother to their only son, the troubled youth Johnny O'Donnell.
Sometime after the war, Torello married his sweetheart Julie (no last name given) and joined the Chicago Police Department where he continued his track record of bravery, dilligence, and valor that would take him from Patrolman, to Detective, to Sergeant, and finally to a Lieutenant in charge of the MCU.
Working under Torello's command was Sgt. Danny Crycheck, Det. Walter Clemmons, Det. Wes Connelly, and Det. Joey Indelli.
It was through his command of the MCU that Torello would cross paths with an up-in-coming hoodlum named Ray Luca.
The confrontation began with a series of violent robberies pulled of by a group of small-time Chicago hoods and a independant Native American thief from New Mexico named Charlie Runningbird in early 1963. During the gang's violent hold up of a classy restaurant, Boyer's, the Chicago police, including Torello's MCU team, surrounded the robbers, trapping them inside the restaurant. During the stand off, Torello was forced to make a deal with the hoods for their safe passage out. Provided with a getaway car, the hoods took hostages and escaped. Torello and the MCU gave chase and eventually killed the hoods, including Runningbird. The hostages were rescued without injury. During their subsequent investigation to learn more about Runningbird, Torello and Crycheck tied Runningbird to a petty thief named Paulie Taglia. Through interrogation by Torello, Crycheck, and Clemmons and surveillance of Taglia by Connelly, the MCU linked Taglia to another thief named Frank Holman and hoodlum Ray Luca, an independant thief and part-time strong-arm man for the Mafia in Chicago.
Unbeknownst to Torello, Luca was working with Johnny O'Donnell in planning heists. O'Donnell had promised Torello that he would go straight and attend community college where he learned architectual design and chemestry. In truth, O'Donnell was using his college education to plan robberies with Luca. This collaboration culminated in the heist of nearly $3,000,000 in jewels from a Museum exhibit.
It was during this time that Torello met a man who would first be his adversary and later his friend, defense attorney David Abrams, who was representing Paulie Tagila for an unrelated robbery trial for which Taglia was later acquitted. Abrams was the son of a legendary Chicago bookmaker, Izzy "The Dancer" Abrams.
Tragedy struck the MCU while investigating Luca and his crew when Wes Connelly was murdered by Ray Luca who had discovered Connelly tailing him from a meeting with Frank Holman and Johnny O'Donnell to split the money paid to them by mob boss Phil Bartoli for fencing the stolen jewels. Connelly would be replaced in the MCU by Det. Nate Grossman.
Torello would get a break in the case in an unexpected and personally unpleasant way. Johnny O'Donnell was unhappy with the pay off by Bartoli for the jewelry heist. Believing that he was short-changed in the value of the jewels, O'Donnell sought revenge by breaking from Luca and starting his own crew with Benny Primo and JoJo Sweeney. Together, they robbed a jewelry store owned by Phil Bartoli. In response, Bartoli ordered Ray Luca, who had officially joined Bartoli as a soldier, to kill Johnny O'Donnell and his crew, which he did by murdering Sweeney and Primo in a restaurant and shooting Johnny dead in his new Ford Thunderbird. However, O'Donnell did not die at the scene. He was taken to the hospital where Torello stood vigil over the dying youth. Before expiring, Johnny O'Donnell identified Ray Luca as his killer to Torello. However, Torello knew he could not convict Luca on Johnny's statement alone. He needed more.
After interrogating Paulie Taglia at the point of a gun, Torello learned Luca was planning to heist the safe of Bernette's Department Store on Good Friday 1963. Torello set up an ambush which succeeded in killing Luca's specially picked crew but failed to capture Luca, Holman, and Taglia who escaped detection.
From that point on, Torello became obsessed with capturing, or killing, Ray Luca. His obsession often went against the priorities of the MCU squad and caused strain in his marriage to Julie. As a result of Torello's pre-occupation with Luca, Julie's personal stress caused a mis-carriage of their un-born child and eventually drove her to divorce Torello.
In the meantime, Torello watched as Ray Luca rose through the ranks of Organized Crime, first as a strong-arm man and extortionist for Phil Bartoli, and later as an apprentice under New York crime lord Manny Wiessborn, one of the founding fathers of Organized Crime along side "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, and "Bugsy" Siegel. Under Wiessborn's influence, Luca developed a plan to take over nationwide bookmaking operations in Las Vegas with Wiessborn's assistant Max Goldman. Torrello looked for any way he could to nail Luca.
One way was to go after professional thief Frank Holman whom Torello linked to a violent "home invasion" (a burglary where the victims are at home during the robbery) which resulted in the death of the wife of Jim Novak, a wealthy businessman. It was through this investigation that Torello also started a brief affair with Mister Novak's secretary, Ingrid Thorson at a time when Torrello's marriage to Julie was hitting rock bottom. Durning this time, Torello learned from FBI Agent Stanton that Holman was wanted for a similar crime in El Paso, Texas.
While Torello was trying to link Holman to the crime, Luca used Holman to pull off a burglary in St. Louis. Holman was to ransack the home of a Las Vegas bookmaker, Noel Ganz and steal a book containing all the information Ganz used to build his bookmaking empire. Unbeknownst to Holman, he was under surveillance by Detectives' Grossman, Clemmons, and Indelli of the MCU. They, along with Torello and Crycheck, followed Holman to St. Louis. Upon learning what Holman was up to, Torello and his MCU, with the help of the St. Louis police, apprehended Holman who was in possesion of Ganz's book and evidence linking him to the Novak and El Paso burglaries. Upon booking Holman in the St. Louis jail, Torello called Staton and the FBI to arrange extradition of Holman back to Chicago. However, the local police chief released Holman citing lack of evidence in the St. Louis burglary and the fact that Holman promised to become an informant for the chief. This was, of course, a lie and Holman fled. he was now a federal fugitive.
Despite Holman's foul-up to get Ganz's book and drawing the attention of Torello, Ray Luca was still able to take over the Ganz's bookmaking operation.
With Holman gone, Torello then tried to link Ray Luca to money laundering and and embezzlement scheme. This investigation would also personally effect Torello.
Ted Keyhoe, Torello's childhood friend had become the Midwest Workers Union's chairman and loan officer for the pension board after Ray Luca murdered the current officer to ensure Keyhoe getting the post. It was through Keyhoe that Luca managed to get Union funding for his bookmaking operation and launder his and Phil Bartoli's illegal income through a bottling plant owned by Keyhoe and managed by his girlfriend and business partner, Marylin Stewart.
Both Torello and Luca would eventually learn that a ambitious Federal Prosecutor named Harry Brightel was planning to indict Keyhoe, Luca, and Bartoli for the money laundering scheme. While Torello attempted to talk his childhood friend into becoming a federal witness, Luca tied up loose ends by having Marylin Stewart, Brightel's key witness in the case, killed. Upon her death, Brightel accused Torello of tampering with his investigation, thus beginning a bitter rivalry between Torello and Brightel. Meanwhile, Keyhoe, devestated over Marylin's death, confronted Ray Luca, only to be murdered himself.
A break in Torello's case against Luca came when Frank Holman was found by Crycheck and Grossman working in a diner in Gary, Indiana. Torello went to Gary and he and Crycheck arrested Holman. While under the guard of the federal prosecutor in Indiana, Brightel arranged the extradition of Holman without Torello's co-operation. Once returned to Chicago, Holman offered to testify against Luca and Bartoli in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He also lied to Brightel and claimed that Torello was being bribed by Luca and Bartoli. Because of his hatred for Torello, Brightel bought Holman's story and Torello found himself suspended from duty and under indictment for receiving stolen property, accepting bribes, witness tampering, and extorion. Things were about to get worse for Torello.
David Abrams, who was also friends with Ray Luca, inadvertantly advised Luca to subpoena Torello as a defense witness to counter Holman's lies. When Luca had mentioned the trial to the unsuspecting Abrams, he didn't mention that Torello was under indictment. Thus Torello was hit with a subpoena to testify for Ray Luca. Upon learning the truth afterwards, Abrams broke off his relationship with Luca and became Torello's defense attorney, swearing to join Torello in fighting Ray Luca. Unfortunately, Abrams declaration came at a cost when Luca planted a bomb in Abrams's car which went off when Abrams's father borrowed the car and he was killed in the explosion.
During the course of the trial, Abrams defense of Torello destroyed Brightel's case which unfortunately meant that while Torello's name was cleared, Ray Luca and Phil Bartoli were acquited, thereby effectively destroying Torello's case against Luca as well.
After the trial, Luca murdered Phil Bartoli, thereby fully aligning himself with Manny Wiessborn and headed to Las Vegas to run his bookmaking operation and casino with Paulie Tagila, Max Goldman, and Stephen Cordo, Ted Keyhoe's replacement on the Union pension board. He thought he was out of Torello's reach, but he was wrong.
After the trial, Patrick Halahan, an Assistant Attorney General, offered Torello and the MCU the chance to follow Luca to Las Vegas as an special Department of Justice task force with David Abrams as a special prosecutor. Torello took up the offer and headed for Las Vegas in the Spring of 1964.
In Las Vegas, Torello effectively hampered Luca's bid to take over Las Vegas by shutting down a major loan sharking operation run by Luca and keeping him taking over a Casino and Hotel Workers Union. But they were unable to completely stop Luca from strong-arming four other casino owners out of business.
Despite this, Torello used his strong-arm Chicago tactics to hamper Luca's day-to-day operations and turn Luca against his partners. First, Crycheck and Clemmons discovered Luca was makring the cards in his private poker game to fleece high-rollers. They took their evidence to the Nevada Gaming Comission who pulled Luca's gaming licence, thereby locking him out of his casinos. Second, Torello was able to turn Luca against Max Goldman by making Luca think Goldman was wise to his affair with Max's wife. In retaliation, Luca tried to kill Goldman with a car bomb but failed. Unfortunately for Torello, this plan backfired when Goldman refused to testify against Luca. Torello's tactics didn't come without a price. Luca had Undercover FBI Agent Jack Claymore murdered when he discovered Torello had planted Claymore in one of his casinos to try and uncover the illegal skimming operation of stealing the in-coming money from the slot machines which resulted in a $12,000 a week scam.
Finally, Torello's break came unexpectedly when Paulie Taglia agreed to testify against Luca for every crime Luca had comitted in Las Vegas and Chicago. Taglia turned because Luca, who was growing more egotistical and power-hungry as he rose to the top, raped Tagila's girlfriend. Torello and Abrams personally arrested Luca in the restaurant of his casino where he was dining in celebration of getting his gaming suspension overturned.
During the trial, Paulie Taglia dutifully testified against Luca. However, Luca was able to stealthly tamper with the jury and got a mis-trial. Before departing the courtroom, Luca apologized to Taglia for raping his girlfriend and forgave Paulie for testifying. Distraught, the dim-witted Taglia later re-teamed with Luca and helped him escape arrest after Torello had caught Luca in the middle of killing a rival gangster trying to move in on his operations. After a fierce gun battle, which both Luca and Torello were wounded, Luca and Taglia escaped.
Unfortunately for Luca and Taglia, their escape would turn deadly. Taglia had chosen an abandoned house in the Nevada desert as a hideout, not knowing it was located on the U.S. Air Force Bomb Testing Range in Yuca Flats. Luca and Tagila were subsequentually killed when the Air Force test detonated an Atom Bomb, obliterating the house and the surrounding area.
In the wake of Luca's death, Torello, his MCU, and David Abrams continued to fight the mob in Las Vegas over the next year as various mob bosses attempted to fill the void left by Luca. But their success in surpressing the mob, including Manny Wiessborn, Max Goldman, and Stephen Cordo was about to come to an end.
Ray Luca and Paulie Taglia were still alive.
When they had learned they were on the bomb testing range, Luca and Taglia tried to escape and were caught in the tail-end of the explosion. After being resuced by the military, Luca and Taglia were given immunity from prosecution for past and future crimes provided they never reveal what they saw at Yucca Flats.
Luca used this immunity to not only rebuild his Las Vegas empire but to increase his power by getting involved in smuggling drugs from South America, despit the initial objections of Manny Wiessborn. Another part of Luca's deal with the US Military was that Luca would use his underworld contacts to smuggle weapons to freedom fighters in South America as part of a secret government operation. In return, the military would turn a blind eye to Luca's drug smuggling.
Outraged at the government's deal with Luca, David Abrams quit the task force, leaving Torello to fight Luca alone, and spinning off into alcohol and drug addiction. Then, much to Torello's horror, David Abrams returned, this time as Luca's defense attorney in repayment for Luca's efforts to help Abrams battle his addictions.
Eventually, Torello was able to indict Luca on federal drug smuggling charges but during a break in the trial, Luca, Abrams, Goldman, and Taglia fled the country, taking refuge with Luca's drug contacts and corrupt officials in Columbia.
Under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Patrick Halahan, Torello and the MCU were allowed to go after South America with the warning that Torello and his team would have to go in alone with out support of the United States. Still obsessed with getting Luca, Torello and his team went to South America.
Over the next several months, Torello, with the aid of his team and other undercover agents from various governments, was able to depose the corrupt officals on Luca's take and hamper the activities of Luca's drug contacts.
Then, in a surprise to the MCU, Torello revealed that David Abrams was faking his turn to Luca's side and was responsable for feeding Torello vital information in nailing Luca. Once Abrams cover was blown, Torello managed to get him away from Luca.
Before fleeing South America, Luca tried to kill Abrams, succeeding in merely wounding the attorney. Torello and Crycheck followed Luca, Goldman, and Taglia to an airfield and managed to jump abord their fleeing airplane before it took off.
As Torello and Crycheck fought Luca and Goldman inside the plane as it headed out over open water, Paulie Taglia killed the pilot after he made the mistake of calling Paulie "dumb". With no one to fly the plane, it crashed in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Because the series "Crime Story" was cancelled after it's second season, the plane crash "cliffhanger" was never resolved, thereby leaving the final fates of Torello, Crycheck, Luca, Goldman, and Taglia a mystery. It's possible that they may've perished in the crash, or survived and were lost at sea. Either way, their final fate is unknown.