A potential witness in the James "Whitey" Bulger case, Stephen "Stippo" Rakes, was found dead of undetermined circumstances in the Boston suburb of Lincoln on Wednesday.
The Boston Globe reported that Rakes' body was found about 1:30 p.m.
with no obvious signs of trauma. The medical examiner's office was trying to determine a cause of death.
Massachusetts State Police and the Lincoln Police Department are conducting the investigation, according to Middlesex district attorney Marian T. Ryan, the Globe said.
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Bulger, 83, has been on trial for the past six weeks in U.S. district court in South Boston, charged with racketeering and murder. He was captured two years ago after living on the run in California for the past 16 years.
Rakes had hoped to testify in the case and was on the witness list until Tuesday when U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz told Rakes that prosecutors decided not to call him as a witness, said the Globe.
Steve Davis, an alleged Bulger victim's brother, told the Globe that the decision prevented Rakes from refuting claims by Bulger's former protégé Kevin Weeks about the sale of Rakes' liquor store in 1984.
According to the Globe, Weeks testified that Rakes tried to shake down Bulger, Weeks, and another man from an agreed-upon price and finally relented to the sale when the men pulled a gun in front of Rakes' children at his South Boston home.
Rakes told the Globe in a 2001 story
that his liquor store was never for sale but the alleged mobsters forced him to agree to it during the gangster-style showdown at his home. Rakes testified to federal grand juries targeting Bulger in 1991 and 1995 that the liquor store was voluntary, because Bulger had threatened to kill him if he said otherwise, Rakes told the Globe.
A jury would eventually convicted Rakes of perjury and obstruction of justice in June 1998, but he avoided prison when he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Bulger had become larger than life in mob circles, allegedly feeding information to an FBI agent he grew up with about his rival gang members in return for information on stings against him, according to the New York Daily News in 2011
Jack Nicholson's character in the Academy Award-winning movie "The Departed" was loosely based on Bulger.
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