MONTREAL—A prominent member of the Montreal mafia was assassinated Sunday evening in what could be a new chapter in the city’s already bloody mob war.

Police have confirmed that the man shot and killed in front of his Blainville home was Joe Di Maulo, who was widely regarded as the second-in-command of the mob.

Blainville police began the investigation but they transferred the file to the Surete du Quebec once the man's identity was confirmed.

"We started with dog handlers that came in at the end of the night. We also had the crime scene unit that was here on the scene trying to find any clues that will help us resolve the mystery," said Sgt. Benoit Richard.

Police plan to canvass the neighbourhood to see if anyone heard or saw anything. The call to 911 came from family members inside the home.

So far it appears that an assassin was hiding in bushes near the residence on Blainvillier St., shooting Di Maulo twice in the head as he walked outside around 9:00 p.m.

He was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Di Maulo was in his early 70s. In 1971, Di Maulo was accused of murdering three people at a Montreal nightclub. He was eventually acquitted.

Ties to Rizzuto

Di Maulo was the brother-in-law of Raynald Desjardins, another man with reputed mafia links who is known to be a close associate of Vito Rizzuto.

Desjardins, along with four others, was charged late last year with the 2011 murder of Salvatore Montagna.

Montagna was shot and killed in the early afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 on Ile Vaudry just north of Montreal. He was chased from a house by gunmen and pulled from the river by police.

Montagna had come to Montreal after being deported from New York where he had been one of the youngest-ever bosses of a depleted Bonnano crime family. His arrival inspired considerable speculation as it coincided with a lengthy series of slayings of Rizzuto family and associates.

Rizzuto was released from a U.S. prison last month, where he had served a sentence for murder.

Pierre de Champlain, a retired RCMP Mafia analyst and organized crime author, said that Di Maulo was a legendary figure in the Montreal Mafia -- a man who had been involved in the underworld for 50 years and continued to be an important player.

His ties to the Calabrian clan that once dominated the Montreal crime scene became public during a provincial inquiry into organized crime in the 1970s. That Cotroni-Violi empire was soon violently wiped out by the Sicilian Rizzuto family -- and Di Maulo survived the transition.

The businessman was discreet and kept a low profile.

"Over time, he became very influential and respected in Montreal," said de Champlain. "He wasn't someone who was flamboyant or went out seeking attention from the media or the police."

He said Di Maulo recognized that the Cotroni-Violi era was ending in the late 1970s and the Sicilians were on the rise.

He joined forces with them, de Champlain said.

"Because of his experience and expertise, he managed to convince other Calabrian factions to join the Sicilians, he served as a sort of middleman between the two sides," de Champlain said.

Rizzuto clan targeted

In recent years many people with links to the Rizzuto clan have been killed or have vanished.

Di Maulo's murder is very similar to how 86-year-old mafia don Nicolo Rizzuto was killed two years ago.

On Nov. 10, 2010 Nicolo Rizzuto was shot and killed while standing in his kitchen. The assassin is believed to have been in Rizzuto's Montreal backyard, or in a wooded area behind the Cartierville home.

The previous year Nick Rizzuto Jr., Nicolo's grandson and Vito's son, was killed as he got into his car in NDG in Dec. 2009.

Vito's brother-in-law Paolo Renda disappeared in May 2010 and is believed dead.

Agostino Cuntrera, who was believed to be leading the mafia while Vito Rizzuto was in prison, was assassinated in broad daylight in Montreal.

Federico del Peschio was killed in August 2009, and Lorenzo Lopresti, 40, was shot dead on his balcony in St. Laurent on October 26, 2011.

—with files from The Canadian Press.