Boston gangster Whitey Bulger killed in prison

James "Whitey" Bulger, who was captured in 2011 after 16 years on the run, was found dead at a high security facility in West Virginia.

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 1:16 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 1:21 PM

In a 3-foot grave near a river not far from Boston, Paul McGonagle's body lay decaying, undisturbed until his remains were found nearly 20 years ago. Parts of a pelvic bone. A fractured skull with decomposed brain matter. A ring with a part of a decomposed finger bone.

McGonagle was the leader of a gang that was a rival to reputed Irish mobster boss James "Whitey" Bulger's Winter Hill Gang. Bulger was suspected of being involved in McGonagle's death in 1974, and in 18 other mob-related killings between 1973 and 1985.

Whenever Bulger drove by the shallow grave, he would say "Drink up, Paulie," a witness testified at Bulger's trial in 2013. A federal jury convicted Bulger of 31 counts that year, including racketeering and extortion, and found him culpable in 11 killings, including McGonagle's death.

Bulger, leader of the South Boston gang, was the ruthless kingpin of a criminal empire that a federal judge said committed "unfathomable" acts. His infamous reign would be the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorsese's film "The Departed." Bulger evaded police for 16 years before his capture in 2011.

He died Tuesday in a West Virginia prison, an 89-year-old man serving two life sentences and five years.

"The guy is a sociopathic killer," Tom Foley, the former Massachusetts State police head who spent years trying to capture Bulger, told CNN in 2011. "He loved that type of life. He's one of the hardest and cruelest individuals that operated in the Boston area. He's a bad, bad, bad guy."

Bulger, a longtime FBI informant, was killed in the US Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills. He was found unresponsive at 8:20 a.m., according to statement from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

He was pronounced dead by the Preston County medical examiner after life saving measures failed. No other inmates or staff were injured, the prisons bureau said.

The FBI is investigating Bulger's death, which occurred a day after he was transferred to the West Virginia facility, the prison bureau said.

'It's a happy day'

A statement Tuesday from Andrew Lelling, the US Attorney for Massachusetts, was brief. It made no mention of Bulger other than he had died.

"We received word this morning about the death of James "Whitey" Bulger. Our thoughts are with his victims and their families," the statement said.

The brother of a woman Bulger was accused of killing in 1981 told CNN, "It's a happy day."

Steven Davis' 26-year-old sister, Debra Davis, was the girlfriend of Bulger partner Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi. Flemmi testified that he lured Davis to a house where Bulger strangled her. Flemmi testified he "inadvertently blurted out" to Davis that he and Bulger were FBI informants, and that Bulger said several times "he wanted to kill" Davis because she knew about the relationship with the FBI.

The defense presented testimony from former hitman John Martorano, who admitted he "accidentally strangled" Davis. Martorano served 12 years in prison, but was released in 2007 in exchange for testifying against Bulger.

The jury had "no finding" in Davis' death. Bulger "didn't have the right to live as long as he did," her brother said.

The end of a '16-year honeymoon'

In 1995, Bulger skipped town ahead of a pending indictment, allegedly on a tip from a rogue FBI agent.

The mob boss, who took Osama bin Laden's place at the top of the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list, hid in plain sight in Santa Monica, California. He and his girlfriend, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, lived blocks from the beach under the aliases of Charlie and Carol Gasko. The fake name was even on the door bell list.

The couple dined some nights at a white-tablecloth establishment that drew Hollywood producers, sitting in a corner table in the patio at the back of the restaurant, a manager said. They were generally polite, too. Bulger often wore a hat, with the brim pulled down, neighbor Catalina Schlank told CNN in 2011.

"They were kind of secretive. Even on the phone -- you couldn't call them," she said. "Sometimes, I wanted to give them a tip of stuff on sale."

A tip led the authorities to him.

In 2011, the FBI lured a likely unsuspecting Bulger out of his seaside apartment. Bulger had received a phone call and was told that his lockbox had been broken into in the basement parking lot area of his building. The FBI arrested Bulger when he went to check it out, a source told CNN.

Bulger would refer to his years as a fugitive with Greig as a "16-year honeymoon."

In 2012, Greig was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for identity fraud and helping Bulger avoid capture.

During Bulger's trial, gruesome details emerged about the deaths he was accused of being involved in.

Onetime enforcer Kevin Weeks testified how Bulger killed Arthur "Bucky" Barrett.

In the summer of 1983, Bulger organized a meeting with Barrett under the guise that he had stolen diamonds he wanted to get rid of. When Barrett showed up at the house, Weeks, Bulger and Flemmi were waiting.

They chained Barrett to a chair. For hours, they grilled him about a rival gang and local drug dealings, Weeks testified.

Barrett tried to buy his way to out, telling Bulger about his stash of $40,000.

Weeks said Bulger left the house to pick up the money while he and another associate watched Barrett. When Bulger returned, he told Barrett to walk down to the basement. Then Bulger put a gun to the back of Barrett's head and pulled the trigger, according to Weeks.

"Nothing happened," Weeks said.

Bulger realized the gun's safety was on. He removed the safety and shot Barrett, Weeks said.

'It's just sad that it took so long'

During his sentencing, Bulger did not make eye contact with the relatives of the people he killed, nor those slain by his accomplices in the Winter Hill Gang.

He was a convicted murderer in his 80s. He was likely going to die in prison.

Carmen Ortiz, the former US Attorney for Massachusetts who oversaw Bulger's prosecution, said she hopes Bulger's notoriety didn't take away the focus from his victims. Ortiz says she hopes his death "is the end of a very sad chapter in Boston's history, during which this man caused so much harm to many through his brutal crimes."

"He had it coming to him and it's just sad that it took so long," Steven Davis said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150809

Reported Deaths: 4741
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26961607
Cuyahoga17490656
Hamilton13191315
Montgomery7883163
Lucas7322364
Butler6040111
Summit5332252
Marion310347
Warren309649
Mahoning3073281
Stark2883175
Pickaway267844
Lorain231786
Delaware228120
Fairfield211853
Licking193663
Columbiana193280
Wood190272
Trumbull1896132
Clark181040
Clermont173123
Lake163851
Medina147539
Greene146533
Miami145451
Allen144169
Portage115566
Mercer113218
Erie94647
Tuscarawas93620
Wayne93668
Richland90319
Ross89024
Madison83012
Darke80442
Geauga72349
Belmont72227
Hancock71210
Athens7072
Ashtabula65948
Lawrence65922
Shelby64910
Auglaize6089
Putnam60823
Sandusky57720
Huron5517
Union5452
Scioto5117
Seneca48514
Ottawa46930
Preble44015
Muskingum4213
Holmes3909
Jefferson3364
Defiance32511
Henry31814
Logan3123
Champaign3083
Clinton29913
Perry2989
Brown2902
Knox28615
Jackson2636
Morrow2612
Washington26123
Hardin25613
Fulton2461
Crawford2446
Ashland2424
Coshocton23411
Fayette2326
Highland2303
Williams2133
Wyandot21312
Pike2000
Gallia19113
Meigs17610
Guernsey1708
Hocking1669
Carroll1527
Adams1354
Van Wert1233
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
Morgan490
Vinton473
Noble330
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 55°
Angola
Broken Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Decatur
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 55°
Rain moves in for Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events