Published July 18, 2013
The body of a key witness in James 'Whitey’ Bulger's racketeering trial was discovered on the side of a road Wednesday by a jogger west of Boston.
Stephen "Stippo" Rakes, 59, was allegedly extorted by Bulger and considered one of the most determined alleged victims who waited a decade to testify, The Boston Globe reported.
The Globe reported that Rakes has been a fixture for six weeks at Bulger's trial and was told recently that he would not get the chance to testify.
The Middlesex County district attorney's office confirmed Rakes' identity in a press release Thursday. There were no obvious signs of trauma, a statement said. The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
ABC News first reported the link to the Bulger case and reported that Rakes was set to testify that Bulger threatened his daughter with a gun and took over his Boston liquor store. Police told Rakes' family the cause of death appears to be a suicide, the report said. However, Rakes was reportedly missing his phone and wallet.
Former Bulger associate Kevin Weeks said during testimony that the group did not extort Rakes and that they bought the store in a sale agreed upon by both sides, MyFoxBoston.com reported. Rakes claimed Weeks lied on the stand and looked forward to testifying.
Calls from FoxNews.com to the Middlesex district attorney to confirm the report were not immediately returned.
The Boston Herald reported that Rakes was allegedly exhorted in 1984 to sign over his family store for $67,000 and his children's lives after Bulger and Weeks laid a gun on his kitchen table.
Rakes spoke to The Herald earlier in the trial and said he is no longer afraid of Bulger.
"I can't wait to get on the stand and look him right in the eyes," he told the paper. “I come here to represent the victims that are afraid to come here. My friends. That’s why I’m showing up. And there’s not one. There’s not 10. There’s hundreds. And they’re still afraid. Some of them, 40 years later, they’re still afraid. I tell them, ‘Are you going to let him kick us around or are we going to kick him around?’ They took everything from me. They don’t care about nothing. They don’t care about what they take from you."
Bulger, now 83, is accused in a 32-count racketeering indictment of playing a role in 19 killings in the 1970s and '80s while he allegedly led the Winter Hill Gang. He is also charged with money laundering and extortion.
Bulger's alleged partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, was scheduled to testify Thursday — nearly 20 years after they last saw each other. The judge was reportedly meeting with lawyers Thursday at the courthouse.
The men's former FBI handler, John Connolly, was convicted of tipping off both men in late 1994 that they were about to be indicted. Bulger fled Boston and was one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011. Flemmi stayed, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to 10 killings. He is now serving a life sentence.
Bulger's lawyers have strongly denied the prosecution contention that their client was an informant who ratted on the New England Mafia and other criminals. They say he paid FBI agents to tip him off to investigations and upcoming indictments.
In other testimony Wednesday, a former U.S. Customs agent said a man Bulger is accused of killing was cooperating with law enforcement just before he disappeared in 1984.
Bulger is charged with fatally shooting John McIntyre, a fisherman from Quincy, after learning that he was talking to authorities.
Former Customs Agent Donald DeFago testified that McIntyre described drug smuggling and other activities, including a failed attempt to ship weapons to the Irish Republican Army.
Bulger associate Kevin Weeks testified earlier that Bulger interrogated and killed McIntyre while he was chained to a chair. Weeks said Bulger tried to strangle him, but when the rope caused him to vomit, he asked McIntyre if he wanted a bullet in the head.
Weeks said McIntyre replied, "Yes, please" and Bulger shot him.
The daughter of Roger Wheeler, a Tulsa, Okla., businessman prosecutors say was killed by Bulger's gang, also testified. Pamela Wheeler said that in the months before her father was killed in 1981, he wanted to sell one of his businesses, World Jai Alai, a legal sports betting operation.
Pamela Wheeler said her father had bought the business less than two years earlier, but was disappointed in its financial performance and had been trying to sell it just before he was killed.
A former drug dealer also testified Wednesday that Bulger once tried to scare him into paying $1 million by having an associate spin a loaded gun on a table, point it at him, then pull the trigger.
William David Lindholm, testifying in Bulger's racketeering trial, said Bulger's associate played a "Russian Roulette"-like game with him in 1983. He said the associate first fired the gun and a bullet went by his head. Then, he spun the gun on the table and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off, Lindholm said.
"I was just glad to get out of there," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report