Bruno Lanza was 72. His body was found bound and gagged in his car. The first officers on scene said it resembled a gangland style excitation. The suspects, Philip L Sumarkoff (25) and his 17 year old companion Elisa Nevew Barron, were apprehended on October 11th 1969 in Mexico after a reported shoot out.
Barron admitted to luring Lanza from Tiajuana Mexico on August 25th to a remote area. Sumarkoff was waiting for them and conducted the robbery. Both stated Lanza was alive when they left him.
Photo Dated 1936 taken in front of downtown Sheriff's Office
Bruno C. (Tony) Lanza
In 1969, almost 29 years to the day he enlisted to fight for his country, Bruno was murdered in Mexico in what was initially reported as a robbery attempt. His body was found in a remote area east of Tecate Mexico September 5 1969.
Bruno's Colt Detective Special was manufactured in 1934. The serial numbers match and the grips are original.
San Diego Badge History
Why does an elderly, former navy intelligence officer from WW2 get murdered?
Why is the suspect an AWOL Sailor with a Russian last name in the midst of the cold war?
When Lanza returned from the war he resumed his role with the Sheriff’s Dept. retiring in 1956.
Bruno was an established member of the Sheriff’s Department when WWII began overseas. He and many of his coworkers enlisted in the armed forces. It was reported he joined the US Navy over a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor and approximately 2 weeks prior to the Burke-Wadsworth Act was passed by Congress, establishing the first peacetime draft in the history of the US. Bruno was made Chief Warrant Officer with US Navy Intelligence.
These photos of Bruno Lanza's personal items were provided by his family for this site.
Sumarkoff (referred to as “Hunter” in initial reports) was a US Navy Meteorologist who was AWOL. He and Barron admitted robbing Lanza of $1,405 (Inflation value over $9K in 2015) but not the murder.
In a 1982 San Diego Tribune story, a man identifying himself as “John Hunter” was interviewed and admitted to the killing of Lanza. He stated he was paid to do it. His sentence was to have been completed in 1984, with good behavior. However there are charges awaiting him in Nayarit, Mexico for a double murder committed there after Lanza was found.
Hunter spent the first 8 years of his 25 year sentence in Mexicali where he met and courted his Mexican common law wife and fathered children with her.
Hunter wrote letters from his cell in the La Mesa Penitentiary to President Nixon and Senator Alan Cranston to request assistance with comfort items he felt entitled to because the US Navy showed him as active duty. He asserted he was in Vietnam and was wounded in action. Sumarkoff died on 10-15-1986 in Imperial County.
According to the Social Security Death Index. Sumarkoff died in Imperial Country California in 1986. He must have been released early for good behavior. So why did he Die in his 40's?
Bruno Lanza, a native of Italy, arrived at Ellis Island in 1931 on the Ile Ie France bound from La Harve France. He was 35 years old and single. His journey took him to San Diego where he joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1935.
By the 1940 Census, Bruno had married Leila Black, a Clerk with the S M Bingham Company (a dry goods retail store located at 1065 5th Ave) in San Diego. She was originally from Missouri before her and her family moved to San Diego. Bruno and Leila resided in the home of her family in North Park at 3582 Baucroft St in San Diego and they had a son, Gary who was 2 years old by then.