An Alleged Extortion Victim of Whitey Bulger Was Found Dead

A jogger found the body of Stephen Rakes, who says Bugler forced him to sell his liquor store.

Stephen Rakes, who has long accused Whitey Bulger of forcing him to sell his South Boston liquor store at gunpoint, was found dead in Lincoln just days after prosecutors informed him he wouldn’t get the chance to testify against his longtime antagonist, according to the Boston Globe. Authorities haven’t released many details about his cause of death, which is under investigation, but the Middlesex District Attorney’s office reports that the body didn’t show “obvious signs of trauma.” The Globe reports that a jogger found his body Wednesday afternoon. He was 59.

Rakes and Bulger’s former associate Kevin Weeks agreed that Bulger and his gang pulled a gun on Rakes and forced him to sell them his store, but they disagree on the circumstances leading up to the meeting. Rakes says the store was never for sale, and that they threatened his daughter with the gun. Weeks testified earlier in Bulger’s trial that Rakes had earlier agreed on a price but then tried to ask for more, prompting the extortion. The Boston Globe has video of Rakes talking to reporters outside the US District Court in Boston two weeks ago, reacting to Weeks’s testimony. “That night haunts me every night,” he said.

For many of Bulger’s alleged victims and their families, the ongoing trial has offered a chance to confront the man who evaded justice for so long. In addition to testifying, victims and family members, including Rakes, are a staple in the courtroom every day. Steve Davis, the brother of alleged victim Debra Davis, told Globe reporters that Rakes had just learned he wouldn’t be among those taking the stand and that he was “devastated.” Given Weeks was also a government witness, and one the government has worked hard to present as credible despite his life of crime, you can see how the prosecutors might not want to introduce another witness who would publicly contest his testimony. Nevertheless, the Globe says:

Davis said Rakes perceived the decision by Ortiz’s office as robbing him of the opportunity to refute claims by Weeks, Bulger’s ally, that Rakes had sent his sister, Mary O’Malley, as an intermediary to Whitey and Weeks, asking if they were interested in buying Rakes’ liquor store.

Other outlets are playing up the idea that a “key witness” was found dead under suspicious circumstances, and though the news that he wasn’t actually going to testify colors that angle a bit differently, the prospect of an accuser turning up dead in the trial of a notorious gangster at the very least calls up unpleasant memories. Needless to say, people will be anxiously awaiting more info on his cause of death.