Authorities: Potential Bulger witness found dead

The body of Stephen Rakes was found Wednesday afternoon - an autopsy will determine his cause of death


Associated Press

BOSTON — A man who was on the witness list for the racketeering trial of reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and had been a vocal critic of the reputed gangster was found dead, authorities said Thursday.

The body of Stephen Rakes was found Wednesday afternoon in Lincoln, Mass., with no obvious signs of trauma, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office said. Authorities were conducting an autopsy to determine the 59-year-old Quincy man's cause and manner of death.

Rakes and his former wife were forced to sell Bulger their South Boston liquor store in 1984 to use as a headquarters for his gang and as a source of legitimate income, prosecutors say. But another prosecution witness testified that wasn't true, and it was unclear whether prosecutors would put Rakes on the stand.

Rakes regularly attended Bulger's trial and was last seen there Tuesday.

He was a vocal critic of Bulger leading up to the trial, saying in April when Bulger appeared in court for the first time in about two years that he began hyperventilating when he first saw the defendant. Rakes said Bulger wouldn't look his way.

"The day I see him in a box, not breathing, will be better," Rakes told The Associated Press that day.

Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, spent 16 years on the run, becoming one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted before authorities captured him and his girlfriend in California in 2011. He is charged with participating in 19 murders.

Bulger maintains his innocence. 

Copyright 2013 Associated Press

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