PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - It was a high profile murder on the highway in South Philadelphia that left the vice president of the notorious 'Hell's Angels' Motorcycle Club, dead.
The killing threatened to touch off a biker war here in the city, and the case has gone unsolved for more than a decade.
But the arrest of a high ranking member of the rival 'Pagans' Motorcycle Club on kidnapping for ransom charges has fueled renewed interest in the cold case.
FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser went inside the investigation of Tom Wood's murder.
Pagans Motorcycle Club Vice President Robert Gray was standing in his driveway at his Folsom home just two days after being released on $200,000 bail in a bizarre kidnapping for ransom case. That case has the biker underworld in Philadelphia on edge.
"Well it's very serious. In the investigative world when you have charges this significant, it's always a good thing to have over a person's head," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
Gray was arrested and charged with kidnapping and other offenses along with Charles Oakley. Police say they kidnapped former Pagans treasurer Vincent "Pit Stop" Pezzano right off the corner at Alder and Oregon in March. Pezzano lives right up the block.
"That kind of plays into what we saw back in '05. Where you had Pagans and guys patching over to the Hell's Angels. You had a lot of bad blood," explained organized crime expert George Anastasia.
Police sources say, Gray and Oakley allegedly lured Pezzano to a vehicle claiming they wanted to speak with him. When he sat down in the front seat, police say one of the men, who was seated in the back seat, allegedly placed a belt around Pezzano's neck and began choking him. Investigators sayGgray and Oakley then drove Pezzano around South Philadelphia, before threatening him and dumping him out on the street.
"When you're talking about motorcycle gangs, there are serious concerns of ours that violence could go on there and get out of control," Commissioner Ross added.
Gray, who goes by the nickname "Go Fast", was charged with kidnapping for ransom, aggravated assault, intimidating a witness, unlawful restraint and other counts. Oakley, who is not a Pagan, faces the same charges.
"At the end of the day, we're satisfied that when all the evidence is presented, my client will be exonerated," stated Oakley's attorney Fortunato Perri Jr..
Gray's arrest on the kidnapping charges has caused quite a buzz in the outlaw motorcycle gang underworld here because Gray was once questioned in connection with the murder of Hell's Angels Vice President Tom Wood back in 2005. That case remains unsolved.
Some believe local and federal authorities could use this kidnapping case to pressure Gray into giving up information about Wood's murder.
"When you think you have this cloak of secrecy, that people will not tell on each other, they'll find out that's not the case," Ross said."
Ed Rocks is a retired Philadelphia homicide detective with 44 years on the force, with 28 years in the homicide unit. He says investigators are always looking for someone to give up information on an unsolved murder.
"You're also looking for a person who may have been involved in the case or knew about the case to be jammed up, facing charges themselves and they're holding the ace in the hole, they have the information on the homicide. Never come forward 'til they need it. Once they're arrested and they need it. Out comes the ace," Rocks explained.
"If you got leverage on a guy and he's got a problem and he knows he's going down, you go to him and say look what else do you know, you want to help yourself.
Wood was gunned down in his pickup truck on I-76 in South Philadelphia in January 2005. Police believe Wood attempted to stop a pair of gunmen in a white Suburban as they tried to gun down another biker, Byron Evans, who was riding a motorcycle next to Wood. Wood and Evans had just left a South Philly gentleman's club. Police believe they were followed by 2 or 3 hitmen. At the time, authorities said those hit men may be tied to the rival Pagans Motorcycle Club.
Wood's murder rocked the Hell's Angels chapter in Philly just months after it was established. The Angels had just set up a club house in West Philadelphia. Wood's funeral drew hundreds of bikers from across the country, including the leaders of the Hell's Angels mother club. It also sparked concerns about a biker war.
"I remember distinctly that we were gonna lay the law down and stave off any retaliatory shootings that could result," Commissioner Ross said.
Within days of Wood's murder, Gray and another member of the pagans were questioned by homicide detectives at police headquarters. Only FOX 29 was there when they left the homicide unit. Neither man wanted to answer questions. Homicide detectives knew then, this would be a tough case to crack. 11 year later it's still unsolved.
"You just wait for the time to come when information comes in on the case," Rocks said.
Steven "Gorilla" Mondevergine, the former president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pagans, was also questioned about Wood's murder at police headquarters weeks after the homicide. We were there when he left tight lipped about the Wood case.
To date no one has been charged in the Wood murder, but law enforcement sources say federal authorities began taking a closer look at the Wood murder over a year ago. Some in the biker underworld now wonder if Gray's kidnapping arrest could generate the kind of heat and information that would lead the FBI or homicide detectives to Tom Wood's killers.