WASHINGTON — James “Whitey” Bulger, 89, the notorious South Boston crime boss and head of the Winter Hill Gang, died early this morning at a maximum-security federal prison in Hazelton, West Virginia, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement. The New York Times reported that he was beaten unrecognizable, according to two Bureau of Prisons employees.
Bulger had just been transferred to the Hazelton prison on Monday.
Bulger was serving two life sentences after being convicted in 2013 of racketeering and 11 murders. He had been on the lam for 16 years before being captured in 2011. (For 12 of them, he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.) During those years, it was discovered that a rogue former FBI agent, John Connolly, had warned Bulger of his pending arrest.
Bulger, dubbed “Whitey” in his youth for his fair hair, was a brother of William “Billy” Bulger, the former longtime president of the Massachusetts Senate.
Whitey Bulger’s reputation for murder was well known to many of us Bostonians when he operated as a crime boss. Locals who knew and grew up with him described him to me as punk. That is, a little mischief maker who was once allegedly picked up by the seat of his pants and tossed out of a bar.
Bulger’s headquarters on Broadway in South Boston, the Triple O’s bar, was just blocks from my studio. It was known to be a no-good place. Some people were rumored to exit out the back in body bags. Bulger was known in Boston as a “hands-on killer” and most of us dared not speak publicly about him.
During his 2013 murder trial, his associate Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi testified that Bulger strangled Flemmi’s stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey. Flemmi said his 26-year-old stepdaughter knew too much. After Bulger strangled her, he napped, Flemmi testified. Meanwhile, Flemmi proceeded to pull her teeth before she was buried in a shallow grave near the southeast expressway, he told the court.
In 2015, as Bulger resided in federal prison, three girls — as part of a history project for school — wrote to him seeking his views on “leadership” and “legacy.”
Bulger wrote back, “My life was wasted and spent foolishly, brought shame + suffering on my parents and siblings and will end soon.”
Doug Christian, Washington