Notorious Boston gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger killed in prison at age 89
James 'Whitey' Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster who was serving two life sentences for murdering 11 people, was killed Tuesday morning at a West Virginia prison. The death occurred just one day after his transfer. Officials at the US Penitentiary Hazelton say him unresponsive at 8:20am, and pronounced him dead after life-saving measures failed. The statement from The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not reveal a cause of death, and the FBI is conducting an investigation. Bulger was 89.
The legendary mob boss was captured in 2011, after eluding federal authorities for 16 years. After Bulger went on the run, investigators learned that he had been an FBI informant. They also discovered that he got tipped off about the pending arrest from John Connolly, the FBI agent who became his handler. Bolger was finally caught at a private residence in Santa Monica, California, where he and his companion, Catherine Craig, who skipped town with him, were arrested without incident.
In November 2013, the treacherous White Hill gang leader faced a reckoning for his crimes. A federal jury found him culpable for 11 murders from 1973 to 1985, and convicted him on 31 counts, including racketeering, extortion, drug dealing, weapons possession and money laundering. "The scope of the callousness and depravity of your crimes is unfathomable," said .U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper, who sentenced him to two life terms plus five years for his role as architect of a criminal enterprise
Before the sentencing, the victims' relatives gave emotional testimony, calling Bulger a bastard, coward, rat, and Satan. The once-fearsome, intimidating mobster did not speak, nor make eye contact with them. He reportedly kept his head down, scribbling on his notepad. At the hearing, Judge Casper said, "The testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch. At times, I wish we were watching a movie, that what we were hearing was not real. But as the families of victims know all too well, it's not a movie."
Bulger's life did become a Hollywood film, more than once. In 2015, Johnny Depp played him in the movie Black Mass, which told the story of "the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf." In 2006, Jack Nicholson played a character based on Bulger in Martin Scorcese's The Departed. (And Matt Damon played Colin Sullivan, who based on corrupt FBI agent John Connolly.)
Bulger is survived by his two younger brothers and his wife Catherine Greig, who is serving eight years at a federal prison in Minnesota, with a release date of September 29, 2020. One of his brothers, William Bulger, was a state senator, but was forced to resign in 2003, after admitting he spoke to his fugitive brother while on the run.
"Hopefully the seven years he spent in prison as well as his recent death brings some closure to the families of his many victims," said Brian Kelly, one of the federal prosecutors who tried Bulger, in a statement to CNN.