Stephen Rakes Murdered? Key Witness Against Whitey Bulger Found Dead

A man on the prosecution's witness list for the ongoing trial of famed mobster Whitey Bulger has been found dead just one day after being informed he would not be being called to the stand. The body of 59-year-old Stephen Rakes was found yesterday in Lincoln Massachusetts, just outside Boston. There were no signs of trauma, and Rakes was described as being in good shape for his age. He was found without his wallet or cell phone, and his car is missing. The idea that it could be suicide was dismissed by those who knew him. An autopsy is planned.

Rakes had wanted to testify that Bulger and his associates had forced him at gunpoint — and in the presence of his daughter — in 1984 to turn over his liquor store to Bulger so that they could use it as a headquarters. After that confrontation, Rakes fled to Florida, where he lived until he was told to return to Boston by Bulger in order to dispel rumors that he had him killed. Even after Bulger went into hiding, Rakes says he lived in fear and always looked over his shoulder. According to a 2001 interview, Rakes was working for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority when, convinced he was being stalked by Bulger's men, he once fled down a railway tunnel and received a shock from the third rail. In this context, Rake's sudden death is either an eerie coincidence or proof that Bulger can still make things happen in Boston.

WHDH-TV 7News Boston

For nearly three decades, Whitey Bulger was one of the most feared men in Boston. Born during the Depression, he spent a youth committing petty crimes. After a stint in prison, he began to make a name for himself in the 1970s as a reliable hitman for warring Irish gangs, willing to murder those on either side to advance himself. In 1972, Bulger joined the Winter Hill Gang, and made a name for himself as someone who would not hesitate to kill those who "stepped out of line." Now 81, he stands accused of committing at least 19 murders, and also faces 31 charges of racketeering.

Bulger was a larger-than-life character whose audacity set him apart from other criminals. His reputation even reached Hollywood; Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed was said to be based on Bulger. While in prison, he was rumored to have taken part in the CIA's MKUltra program, volunteering to take LSD for 18 months in exchange for a reduced sentence. During the Boston busing riots in the 70s, he firebombed JFK's birthplace and tried to blow up Plymouth Rock. He once tried to help arm the IRA by sending firearms across the Atlantic in a small fishing boat. He allegedly strangled the girlfriend of his partner because she splanned to break up with him. After being tipped off by friend and FBI agent that he was about to be indicted, Bulger hit the road and was not caught until 16 years later. For 12 of those years he was on the FBI's Most Wanted list.