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VIDEO VAULT | The unsolved murder of a Las Vegas casino deal

edit:casino time:2018-11-05


The News 3 video archives contain many stories which were still developing when first reported, but dropped from the public eye without a satisfactory conclusion.

That's what happened with an unsolved murder case from 42 years ago, which more recently has been the subject of a 2008 book by the victim's brother.

News 3 gave the case another look in 1992 while developing a local segment based on a popular network program at the time.

"Tonight News 3 begins a new feature," began anchor Sue Tripathi. "A special Crimewatch 3 report: Las Vegas Unsolved Mysteries."

The mystery in question was the October 8, 1976 murder of baccarat dealer Peter "Buster" Bufala, who had driven home from his graveyard shift at the old MGM -- today's Bally's.

"It appears he pulled in and parked his Cadillac at this location," LVMPD Detective Dave Hatch told News 3's Gwen Castaldi in 1992 as they walked up the driveway. "The suspects approached him probably from the street. He was murdered approximately right where we're standing. He fell onto the lawn area, onto this grassy area. And this is where the neighbors discovered him and then called the police."

Billy Gray lived in the house next door in the 7000 block of South Spencer, which was very lightly populated at the time. At daybreak, he walked out to get his paper, glanced over and noticed Bufala on the ground.

"Stepped over the fence and walked over to him," Gray told Castaldi in 1992. "And I was going to wake him up. I touched his shoulder and I knew he was dead as soon as I touched him."

Gray shuddered at the thought that his daughter had been asleep in the house when the shooting occurred.

"She just lay there in bed. She didn't get up and look out. Which, I'm glad she didn't. She might have seen something it wouldn't be safe to see. In fact if they’d have seen her looking out, they might have shot her."

Bufala had moved from Pennsylvania to Las Vegas in the early '60s hoping to find fame as a boxer. He had accumulated a 10-5-1 record in bouts at the Castaways and the Hacienda where he was billed as the "Local Favorite." Injuries in the ring forced him to retire early though.

He cycled through a variety of service jobs in the casino industry, and by 1976 was dealing baccarat at the MGM -- a prestigious position in the industry.

But Bufala also had dreams of greater wealth. He always strove upward, renovating the home where he and his wife, Carol, were raising two young daughters.

“He spent a lot of money on his house, you know,” remembered Gray. “And then tearing them out and doing something else.”

To augment his income, Bufala began collecting debts on behalf of Gaspar (also known as "Jasper") Speciale, who operated a loan shark business out of his Tower of Pizza Restaurant just down the street from the MGM, at Harmon & the Strip.

"Police say Bufala palled around with scufflers like Jasper Speciale, one time bookmaker and pizza joint owner," reported Castaldi. "A man law enforcement connected to organized crime. A man nabbed for playing the numbers game illegally in back rooms."

Another theory held that Bufala may have been involved in skimming money as part of his job at the MGM. Rumors that dealers were holding money back never turned into anything more than loose talk.

"He lived at the end of what was then a seedy, flashy era," observed Castaldi. "One of high times, casino buddyism and the glitter of late night wheeling and dealing."

Ultimately though, investigators with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were drawn to a third theory, which began with an eyewitness account from another neighbor.


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