When she was little, Susan Lera often imagined her wedding day.
“I never imagined getting married in a prison to someone who was there to have someone cut their throat,” Lera said in an interview.
“But Joey was very charming.”
Her wedding ceremony took place on February 11, 2006, at Joyceville Medium Security Penitentiary, northwest of Kingston, Ontario.
She had met her husband, Joseph Catroppa of Innisfil, Ont., On a dating website while he was under house arrest, before being sent to jail for manslaughter.
It took a little while for her to learn of her house arrest.
He looked like a bad boy online, but she said she had no idea how badly.
Before their marriage, the prison authorities informed him that he had already served a sentence in a Mexican prison for drug trafficking.
His last stint in jail came after stabbing and slashing to death Marco Nardozi, 23, of Woodbridge, Ont., On July 15, 2000, at the upscale Paparazzi Nightclub in Richmond Hill in a brawl that started in a washroom for men.
Catroppa was there to celebrate her 28th birthday.
The court heard that Nardozi had tried to be a peacemaker.
The court also heard Catroppa cut Nardozi about 20 times with a pocket knife and slash his chinstrap from ear to ear.
Catroppa was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison, with seven years credit for the three years and seven months he spent in prison and under house arrest while awaiting trial.
What sparked the violence, Catroppa later told his fiancee, was that a man accidentally urinated on his shoes in the club’s bathroom.
On their wedding day in prison, Lera said she and her husband settled down for a pastor approved by the All Seasons Church in Canada penitentiary, even though they both identified as Roman Catholics.
“She was general. I was looking for Catholic but there was none.
The best man, Angelo Musitano of Hamilton, signed the marriage certificate as a witness.
Musitano was in custody for the contract murder of Niagara Falls gangster Carmen Barillaro on July 23, 1997.
Musitano was also the chef for the occasion.
“We had lamb,” Lera recalls.
The couple spent their honeymoon in a prison cottage with a TV, garden, barbecue, and fully stocked refrigerator.
The chalet was familiar to the newlyweds. They had benefited from several private retreats there during their court.
“He was happy that day (of the wedding). He was happy every time I went to see him.
Musitano became a familiar face when they were all released from the penitentiary.
“I had no idea at the time that Angelo was so big in the organized situation.”
Musitano and his older brother Pat, who was also in prison for the contract murder of Barillaro, were released around the same time as Catroppa, who was paroled in 2007.
They stayed in touch, despite the parole board’s non-association clauses.
Lera remembers strange face-to-face encounters with strangers.
“We wouldn’t go anywhere – Milton – and meet people.”
Sometimes Catroppa suddenly had a big load of random gear, like a semi-truck full of above ground pools or jeans. Her husband’s only explanation would be, “Someone gave it to me,” Lera said.
There were also shovels, maps and pictures of strange men in the trunks of Cadillacs and BMWs.
Catroppa was quiet about her things. Whatever Catroppa did, he was making a lot of money.
Its vehicles included a Bentley, a Maserati, Ferraris and a Lamborghini. He wore Rolex and drank Dom Pérignon.
“We had the best of the best. “
He claimed his income came from construction work and home renovations.
His Spanish had been common since his days in a Mexican prison. The subject of the Mexican prison was strictly forbidden.
“He didn’t want to talk about it,” she said.
Catroppa made frequent trips south once he was released from Joyceville. This included trips for ostensibly elective medical treatments to Central and South America, including what he said were dental appointments in Colombia.
There were also frequent trips to Peru.
“He had a nice passport,” she said.
There have also been visits to southern Ontario from southerners, one of whom has been described as a prison friend from Mexico.
Sometimes Lera would say she was trying to get him to talk about the Mafia. She had grown up in Las Vegas and was interested in gangster traditions.
“He was like, ‘You’ve seen too many movies. You are crazy.’ They don’t even talk about the Mafia. They don’t say that word.
If anyone was obviously a powerful person in this world, Lera says, Catroppa would explain it by saying, “He’s a good guy or he’s a friend of ours or, if they were higher up, he’s is my brother. “
One of his longtime friends was Dean Costanza of Oakville.
They both had issues with a millennial group of cocaine traffickers called The Wolfpack Alliance, who were making their way into the Canadian underworld.
Their circle included Nebojsa Dronjak of Port Robinson and Nick Nero of Niagara on the Lake.
Court documents show that on May 11, 2012, Dronjak emailed Nero describing how he spoke to “that Cotropa bird” and “was doing bullshit to him.”
Nero sent Dronjak a warning SMS:
Be careful with this brother guy.
He plays on both sides.
I don’t want you in trouble too
Dronjak responded by text message with what sounded like a threat to Catroppa.
F — him brooo
we introduce him to Wolfpack.
Dronjak pleaded guilty in October 2013 to conspiracy to traffic cocaine while Nero is serving a sentence for first degree murder.
In 2012, Costanza was warned by Niagara Regional Police that there was an attempt to kidnap and murder him by gangsters linked to Mexico’s Wolfpack and Sinaloa cocaine cartel.
Costanza was found gunned down on Sunday, December 3, 2017 in a truck parked in an upscale residential area on North Park Boulevard near Sawmill Street.
For a while, Catroppa moved to Las Vegas, Lera’s hometown, where he racked up some $ 75,000 in casino debt.
He was also warned by his family that “You will end up in jail or you will be dead,” Lera said.
As their marriage became difficult, he often took away her cell phone.
When his friends called him he would respond with things like, “Oh, she’s at the base of Niagara Falls. “
Lera says she has raised tensions in their home.
“Most of the women he was with were very submissive and didn’t question,” Lera says. “I wasn’t that kind of person.
“The majority of our fights were (because) I didn’t shut my mouth.”
The marriage was finally over after six years.
A few years ago, Lera noticed that Catroppa’s social media accounts were down and sensed something was wrong.
Catroppa was gunned down outside a hotel in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2020.
“It surprised me a bit. He had been Teflon’s gift of sorts, ”she said. “He thought he was invincible. He really did. Looks like it would take a grown-up to bring me down.
The murders of Catroppa and that of Costanza remain unresolved.
The murders of Angelo Musitano and his brother Pat are also unsolved.
Lera says she felt a surge of emotion when she heard about Catroppa’s murder.
“I cried. I am a sensitive person.