Decapitation: Mafia Adaptation

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Giuseppe Piazza / Reuters

DYNASTY'S END: Sandro Lo Piccolo, son of Salvatore

Open ambition is a dangerous thing for a mafioso. For years, Salvatore Lo Piccolo managed to mask his highest aspirations as he rose from loyal foot soldier to the upper reaches of the Mafia hierarchy. The 65-year-old Palermo native always seemed to know how to wind up on the winning side of internal feuds, a gift that eventually made him supreme boss in the Sicilian capital. But Lo Piccolo wanted more: control over the entire island of Sicily, expanded cooperation with U.S. mobsters, even the title of capo dei capi — the boss of bosses.

That drive would spell his doom. Along...