Authorities: Potential Bulger witness found dead
BOSTON — A man who had hoped to testify in the racketeering trial of reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and vocally criticized him has been 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.
Rakes attended Bulger's trial every day through Tuesday, when was last seen there.
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 but maintains his innocence.
Rakes 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.
Rakes was upset when he left the courthouse Tuesday, said Steven Davis, the brother of alleged Bulger victim Debra Davis. But Davis said he wasn't sure why. Prosecutors told the judge that day who their remaining trial witnesses would be and Rakes wasn't among them.
Rakes was eager to get on the witness stand, Tommy Donahue, son of alleged Bulger victim Michael Donahue, said Thursday.
"He said he wanted to get up there and tell his side of the story," Donahue said.
Davis said he had repeatedly called Rakes, a friend of his, since then but had not heard back.
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