Michele Navarra was a powerful member of the Mafia. He was a qualified physician and headed the Mafia Family from the town of Corleone. He was known as 'u patri nostru (our father).
Following the allied invasion of Sicily in World War II (Operation Husky) in 1943, the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT) granted Navarra the right to collect the military vehicles abandoned by the Italian army. Navarra used these to start a trucking company, which was vital to some of his operations involving the theft of livestock. In 1946 Navarra became the top doctor at the hospital in Corleone after his predecessor, Dr. Nicolosi, was conveniently murdered. A new large modern hospital in Corleone would stand empty from 1952 to 1958 and was only put into service after the death of Navarra, the director of the old one.
Navarra used his positions as director of the hospital to increase his power. In Corleone people still talk of the blind electors of Navarra : on election day hundreds of men and women were struck blind ; they pretended to have lost their sight. He issued certificates to the effect that they were blind or short-sighted and therefore had to be assisted in the act of voting in order to enable Navarra’s men to accompany them into the polling booth and check their ballot.
For a while Navarra sympathized with the Sicilian separatist movement, but he soon joined the Christian Democrat party in 1948. Rizzotto murder
Under tutelage of Navarra, the young and upcoming Mafioso Luciano Leggio got his start, first in cattle rustling and clandestine butchering and subsequently as estate guard (campiere), before becoming a lease holder (gabelloto) of the estate at the age of 20, the youngest ever. When Leggio murdered the Socialist trade union leader Placido Rizzotto in March 1948, Navarra made sure to dispose of the only witness, Giuseppe Letizia, an 11 year-old shepherd. His father took the shocked boy to the hospital ran by Navarra. The boy talked about the murder but died after an injection. Navarra was blamed by the press for killing the boy and thus eliminating a witness.
Navarra was arrested for his involvement in the murder, but not convicted. He was sent into compulsory internal exile in Gioiosa Ionica, (Reggio Calabria), for five years. However, thanks to his contacts with friendly politicians, he returned to Corleone in 1949. In Calabria he established close relationships with charismatic 'Ndrangheta boss Antonio Macrì. Conflict with Leggio
Meanwhile his former underling Leggio developed his own rackets, independently from Navarra – transport, smuggling stolen cattle and selling the meat on Palermo’s wholesale market. From 1953-1958 Corleone recorded 153 Mafia related murders.
Conflicts of interest between Navarra and Leggio also arose over to a plan to dam the Belice river at the Piano della Scala near Corleone. Those who controlled the water supply throughout the neighbourhood of Corleone resented the plan. Springs in Sicily are private property and their exploitation, yielding large profits, is traditionally associated with Mafia power. Navarra represented the vested interests of those opposed to the dam, while Leggio favoured the construction of the dam. He expected to gain a monopoly of haulage work in connection with its construction.
Navarra tried to have Leggio killed in the summer of 1958. Leggio was invited by Navarra to meet him at an estate but instead he found fifteen armed men there. The hitmen hired for the task did a poor job and Leggio escaped with just minor injuries. The event left Leggio and his followers with the knowledge that they were as good as dead if they did not strike back soon
A few weeks later, on 2 August 1958, Navarra and a fellow doctor (Giovanni Russo, who had nothing to do with criminal activities) were both shot to death on an isolated country road as they drove home in Navarra's Fiat 1100.