Little is known about his
early life. He was born William Paul DeVino in Brooklyn, New York and was described as a long time friend of John Gotti. In 1959 he became an associate of the Gambino crime family and became a made member in 1961. Batts met Jimmy Burke in 1962 and was on friendly terms with him. In 1964, he went to Connecticut to complete a drug deal but upon arrival he was arrested by undercover police for possession and exchange of narcotics and was sentenced to 6 years in State Prison.
Release from prison and confrontation with DeSimone and Burke
On June 9, 1970, he was released from prison and two days later, while celebrating his release at a club called
The Suite in Queens. There Batts ran into Tommy DeSimone. He had not seen him since he was in his early teens. Batts remembered that Tommy used to shine shoes, and made a remark to that effect, which Tommy took as an insult. Tommy held his anger in check. He was at the lounge with his sister Dolores.
Despite the common belief, perpetuated by the movie Goodfellas, that Batts was murdered for insulting DeSimone by making fun of Tommy's former job as a shoe-shine boy, culminating with the famous line "Now go home and get your fuckin' shine box," the real reason was that during Batts' six years in prison, Burke had taken over his money-lending business and so Burke needed to have him out of the way. According to Hill, Batts was 'squawking' to Joseph Gallo, consigliere of the Gambinos, about getting his enterprises back off Burke. Henry said he would whine 'I own this'. Hill also said that Batts pushed it in Hill's bar because he was around un-made men from another family and he wanted to push his authority into people's faces. He was too drunk to be able to fend off anybody on the night they whacked him out (or at least thought that they did).
Two weeks later Batts was drinking at Henry Hill's bar, The Suite (popular hangout for Gambino and Lucchese members), in Queens New York. Henry thought Batts might leave, because it was getting late, when Tommy walked in. However, Henry didn't want a murder in his own bar, but he knew he couldn't control a sociopath like Tommy DeSimone. Tommy saw Batts, who was so drunk that Hill said he couldn't have fended off an old lady. Burke placed his hand loosely around Batts' neck, suddenly Batts saw Tommy and Burke proceeded to put Batts in a headlock. Tommy then began beating Billy with a .38 revolver. Hill ushered out Alex Corcione, a member of Burke's crew, so that he was not mixed up in the murder. Hill was scared that Corcione might tell Paul Vario or the Gambinos. They then laid him onto a mattress cover Tommy had brought in and pulled around Hill's car. They loaded Batts into the mattress cover, which in turn they loaded into the trunk and Tommy drove off.
Getting rid of Billy Batts
Once they had set off, Tommy hit a van on the Van Wyck Expressway and Burke yelled at him, because if the police had stopped the car and found Batts in the trunk they would all have been in serious trouble. As Burke was yelling and screaming at Tommy they heard a thudding, they realised Batts was alive.
They decided that it was best to stop off at a nearby location to collect a knife, some lime and a shovel. So they stopped at DeSimone's mother's house. She made them drink coffee, chat and have some breakfast while they had a semi-dead body in the trunk of Hill's car.
Once at Ralph Atlas', a friend of Burke's, property in Connecticut they warily opened up the trunk of the car. Hill said how Tommy was absolutely enraged, Hill stood on one side of the trunk, Burke on the other and DeSimone opened it up. Tommy began by beating the plastic mattress cover and Burke beat it with a shovel. They finally buried him in a makeshift dog kennel on Ralph Atlas' property.
Six months later, bookmaker Ralph Atlas was joking around with Burke and he revealed that he was going to be rich from some development of his land. Burke came up to Hill in The Suite and made him and Tommy go and put Batts in Hill's brand new, yellow Pontiac Catalina. They then put Batts' half-decomposed corpse in the trunk and took it to a junkyard in New Jersey, enough time had passed for no-one to realise it was Billy.
Unfortunately, Henry Hill has told various versions of the night Batts was killed, including burial in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, but most recently he's said Batts was buried in Connecticut and in Wiseguy he said the body was crushed at a junkyard. Yet during his period as an informant he led the FBI to believe Batts was buried in the original place because they dug up the area in search of Billy.
It is believed that Tommy DeSimone was murdered on January 14, 1979, partly as revenge for his part in Batts' murder - Batts was a made man, and therefore "untouchable."