Marash Gojcaj, the nephew and business partner of Zef Vulevic at the Danbury Gusto Ristorante was charged with the murder of the popular chef and restaurateur. He was taken into custody on August 19th, 2008 after his release from the Westchester County Correctional Center where he was being held on a drunken driving conviction. This was over four years after the April 2004 murder.
On September 4, 2008 in Danbury Superior Court a 57-page arrest warrant charging Marash Gojcaj, 32, with the murder of his uncle was made public. The warrant was based on testimony from several anonymous witnesses, including restaurant employees and an alleged organized crime informant.
The murder of chef/restaurateur Zef Vulevic (aka Zef Vulaj, Joe Vuli) looks like a mob hit. This is just our speculation based on the current facts and state of the investigation.
First, compare the murder of Zef Vulevic to the recent murder of the well known New York restaurant manager Timothy Moore.
Newsday reported an arrest in the Moore case:
NEW YORK -- A Bronx man who works at a trendy Manhattan restaurant was arrested Sunday in the brutal beating death of its manager, police said.The police solved the Moore murder within one day. It was committed by a restaurant employee. If an employee or co-worker of Vulevic killed him they should also have been identified very quickly in the police investigation. It is currently nine days since the body was found.
Lerome Hilson, 28, was charged with two counts of murder and one count of robbery in the killing of Timothy Moore, 50, police Chief Thomas Fahey announced Sunday.
Employees discovered Moore on Saturday morning lying in a pool of his own blood in the basement of the East Village restaurant Pop. He appeared to have been bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, police said.
Police said they did not have a motive in the slaying.
Besides Pop, Moore managed Pop Burger, in the Meatpacking District. Both restaurants are owned by Roy Liebenthal.
Moore previously managed Cafe Tabac, another Liebenthal restaurant that attracted such celebrities as Christopher Reeve, Naomi Campbell, Steven Van Zandt, Taylor Dayne and Mick Jagger.
Reports indicated Zef Vulevic was a tough boss who antagonized employees with his fiery temper. Vulevic's temper also got him in trouble with someone other than a bus boy, cook, or waiter - more likely a "wise guy" or Tony Soprano wanna-be. Certainly in his career (20+ years) of running "upscale" Italian restaurants in Manhattan, Westchester County, and Connecticut Zef Vulevic had crossed paths with the mob. There is something organic about the Mafia and "upscale" Italian restaurants. It is also very possible the mob that is involved is the Albanian mob, not the Italian mob, given Vulevic's Albanian heritage. The last two decades of chaos in the Balkans has spawned a vicious and brutal Albanian Mafia that even the Italian Mafia fears.
Was Zef Vulevic broke? Was Vulevic into a mob loan shark? He had declared bankruptcy five times-four times in the last four years. A second home mortgage had been taken out to support the restaurants. He had lost his house in Norwalk to foreclosure. His wife had filed for divorce. He had two young daughters to support. He had moved into an apartment he shared with his 27-year-old nephew. His arrest record was growing-there was an outstanding arrest warrant out for him. His legal expenses were also growing. The 9-11 attack and Wall Street woes had depressed the restaurant business in the New York area for the last several years. Zef Vulevic was certainly not the type of credit risk a standard financial institution would like to assume. Who, then is your lender of last resort?
If Vulevic was into the mob for a loan and if he some how lost his temper and "disrespected" the wrong loan officer then his murder was a done deal. Perhaps he simply didn't have the money to settle his debt and time ran out. Even if he wasn't on the hook for a loan - some previous act of civil "disrespect" to the wrong person could have warranted a death penalty. It is hard to imagine just one person committing this crime. The execution style killing and way the body was mutilated and transported makes it likely more than one person was involved.
Once Vulevic was murdered and cut into seven pieces the killer(s) didn't spend a great deal of time or energy hiding the body. Having it eventually found was part of their plan. A "warning" is no good unless people know about it. The body was left on a dead end road off exit 4 from Interstate 684 in Westchester County. This is the main road from Danbury, CT back to New York City.
The killer(s) were watching Vulevic and used the highly public argument in front of his "Gusto" Restaurant on the night of April 4 as their opportunity to strike and also confuse investigators. They abducted him as he walked home. Drove him around-then back to the restaurant late after closing. (It would be interesting to know where his restaurant key was found) They killed him there and used the meat cutting machine at the restaurant to chop up his body. Thus throwing all the suspicion on to Vulevic's co-workers. But, the crime went far beyond what any disgruntled employee might be motivated to do (see Moore case again).
Perhaps the Vulevic family's reluctance to be forthcoming on this case is due to their bumping into an other "family" that plays rougher than they do. It is very interesting that Martin Vulaj (Zef's younger brother) was telling the NY Times on Saturday that he suspected a disgruntled employee. This is a week after the body was found and almost a month after Zef disappeared. The Vulevic family would like to see the investigation move in that direction instead of into the financial aspects of their on-going family restaurant business, which is perhaps where the police have started to focus.
If our premise is correct then this case will not be solved unless a conspirator comes forward.
related links Moore case:
Employee arrested in Manhattan restaurant slaying [Newsday, May 3, 2004]
Restaurant Porter Admits Killing His Boss: Cops [NY Post, May 3, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery-Update #5 [May 3, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery-Update #4 [Apr. 30, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery-update [Apr. 29, 2004]
Was Gusto Ristorante Chef Chop Shop? [Apr. 28, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery [Apr 27, 2004]
update: above post last updated 19-May