Key prosecution witness in ‘Whitey’ Bulger trial found dead

By David Ferguson
Thursday, July 18, 2013 12:43 EDT
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Whitey Bulger via ABC News screencap
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Authorities say that a body found Wednesday afternoon near Lincoln, Massachusetts is that of former gangster Stephen “Stippo” Rakes, who was a key witness for the prosecution in the trial of notorious gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger. According to USA Today, Rakes was expected to tell the court that he was forced at gunpoint to sign over his liquor store to Bulger in 1984.

Law enforcement officials told USA Today that Rakes appeared to have died of natural causes, that there were “no obvious signs of trauma” at the scene, and than an autopsy is pending. ABC News said that prosecutors told Rakes, 59, that his testimony would not be needed at the trial, news that left him “despondent,” according to a “source close to his family.”

ABC also reported that police told the Rakes family that the death appeared to be a suicide. When found, his body had no phone and no wallet, and police are still looking for his car. Rakes was only identified Thursday morning by his fingerprints.

Steve Davis, a longtime friend of Rakes, told ABC, “Stippo would not kill himself. Absolutely not. He was looking forward to taking the stand. He told me over and over he had a big bombshell to drop. He had everything to live for and was looking forward to his day in court.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Watch background video about this story, embedded below via ABC News:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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