STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Whitey Bulger, Boston Gangster, Found Dead in Prison at 89

James 'Whitey' Bulger, the murderous Boston gangster who benefited from a corrupt relationship with the FBI before spending 16 years as one of America's most wanted men, has died in federal prison.

Posted: Oct 30, 2018 10:42 AM

DENISE LAVOIE , Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — James "Whitey" Bulger, the murderous Boston gangster who benefited from a corrupt relationship with the FBI before spending 16 years as one of America's most wanted men, has died in federal prison. He was 89.

Bulger was found unresponsive Tuesday morning at the U.S. penitentiary in West Virginia where he'd just been transferred, and a medical examiner declared him dead shortly afterward, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Authorities did not immediately release a cause of death but said the FBI was notified and is investigating.

Bulger, the model for Jack Nicholson's ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie, "The Departed," led a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets. He also was an FBI informant who ratted on the New England mob, his gang's main rival, in an era when bringing down the Mafia was a top national priority for the FBI.

Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., warned him he was about to be indicted. With a $2 million reward on his head, Bulger became one of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" criminals, with a place just below Osama bin Laden.

When the extent of his crimes and the FBI's role in overlooking them became public in the late 1990s, Bulger became a source of embarrassment for the FBI. During the years he was a fugitive, the FBI battled a public perception that it had not tried very hard to find him.

After more than 16 years on the run, Bulger was captured at age 81 in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

In 2013, he was convicted in the slayings, as well as extortion, and money-laundering after a sensational racketeering trial that included graphic testimony from three former Bulger cohorts: a hit man, a protege and a partner. He was sentenced nearly five years ago to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.

Bulger had just been moved to USP Hazelton, a high-security prison with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. He had been in a prison in Florida before a stopover at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City. Federal Bureau of Prisons officials and his attorney had declined to comment on why he was being moved.

Bulger, nicknamed "Whitey" for his bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project and became known as one of the most ruthless gangsters in Boston. His younger brother, William Bulger, became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for 17 years.

In working-class "Southie," Jim Bulger was known for helping old ladies across the street and giving turkey dinners to his neighbors at Thanksgiving. He had a kind of Robin Hood-like image among some locals, but authorities said he would put a bullet in the brain of anyone who he even suspected of double-crossing him.

"You could go back in the annals of criminal history and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone as diabolical as Bulger," said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major who investigated Bulger.

"Killing people was his first option. They don't get any colder than him," Duffy said after Bulger was finally captured in June 2011.

Bulger was accused of strangling Debra Davis, the 26-year-old girlfriend of his partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, and Deborah Hussey, also 26, the daughter of Flemmi's common-law wife. In both cases, Bulger insisted on pulling out the women's teeth so they would be difficult to identify, Flemmi testified.

During a search of his Santa Monica apartment, agents found over $800,000 in cash and more than 30 guns, many hidden in holes in the walls. A property manager at the building said Bulger and Greig, who used the names Charles and Carol Gasko, had lived there for 15 years and always paid the rent-controlled rate of $1,145 a month in cash.

They were caught days after the FBI began a new publicity campaign focusing on Greig. The daytime TV announcements showed photos of Greig and noted that she was known to frequent beauty salons and have her teeth cleaned once a month.

A woman from Iceland who knew Bulger and Greig in Santa Monica saw a report on CNN about the latest publicity campaign and called in the tip that led agents to them. The Boston Globe identified the tipster as a former Miss Iceland, a former actress who starred in Noxzema shaving cream commercials in the 1970s.

Bulger, a physical fitness buff, had been taken to a Boston hospital from his jail cell at least three times, complaining of chest pains, since being brought back to Boston to stand trial.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 44388

Reported Deaths: 675
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9653167
Washington608278
Marion6068109
Umatilla346145
Clackamas330966
Lane250127
Malheur196738
Jackson18657
Deschutes120913
Yamhill102515
Linn86316
Polk67515
Jefferson60910
Morrow5547
Lincoln51913
Union4872
Benton4646
Klamath4313
Douglas3738
Wasco35216
Hood River2861
Columbia2751
Josephine2733
Coos2621
Clatsop2510
Baker1433
Crook1162
Tillamook750
Curry581
Wallowa512
Lake470
Harney370
Sherman220
Gilliam120
Grant120
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 928028

Reported Deaths: 17618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3063277056
Riverside680501319
San Bernardino643671074
Orange597181475
San Diego56369888
Kern34154422
Fresno31321443
Sacramento26018500
Santa Clara24867406
Alameda23775463
San Joaquin21994492
Contra Costa18981246
Stanislaus17872401
Tulare17800292
Ventura14486166
Imperial13038338
San Francisco12320147
Monterey1161695
San Mateo11341161
Santa Barbara9919126
Sonoma9646136
Merced9623155
Kings850283
Solano763476
Marin7121127
Madera509476
Placer435359
San Luis Obispo426532
Yolo326660
Butte314353
Santa Cruz286125
Shasta204631
Napa200916
Sutter189712
San Benito146115
El Dorado13804
Yuba134610
Mendocino115621
Tehama9259
Lassen7721
Lake70417
Glenn6823
Nevada6358
Humboldt57110
Colusa5556
Calaveras34721
Amador33816
Tuolumne2886
Inyo24115
Siskiyou2210
Mono1822
Del Norte1811
Mariposa812
Plumas790
Modoc480
Trinity280
Alpine80
Sierra60
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 78°
Brookings
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 63°
Crater Lake
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 60°
Grants Pass
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 66°
Klamath Falls
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 60°
Bright and warm Sunday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events