(Editor’s note: This story contains language in the 21st paragraph that some readers may find offensive)
By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger choked to death a fellow gangster’s 26-year-old stepdaughter, and had her buried in the basement of a South Boston house already full of dead bodies, gang member Kevin Weeks testified on Tuesday.
“It was a girl, she wasn’t involved with us, she wasn’t a criminal,” Weeks, 57, told a jury at Bulger’s trial on charges including committing or ordering 19 murders while running Boston’s “Winter Hill” gang in the 1970s and 1980s.
After taking part in two execution-style killings in the house and burying the victims in the basement dirt floor, Weeks said he was nervous when Bulger called him to return there in early 1985, but could not refuse an order.
“You never know, it could have been my time,” he said.
He felt a surge of relief when he saw fellow reputed gangster Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi had come with his stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, and thought there would be no trouble.
He was proven wrong when Bulger choked her to death, Weeks testified. Bulger and Flemmi had decided to kill the woman, fearing she could testify against them.
Bulger, now 83, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of charges that include racketeering, extortion and drug dealing. He has entered “not guilty” pleas, though his lawyer on Tuesday described Bulger as a criminal.
“It’s fair to say that Jim’s business was being an organized criminal?” defense attorney J.W. Carney of the Boston law firm Carney & Bassil asked Weeks, who replied, “Correct.”
It was not the first time Carney said Bulger had committed criminal activity - in his opening statements he described his client as an extortionist, loan shark and drug dealer.
But Weeks, who led police in 2000 to the bodies of several of the people Bulger is accused of murdering, said on Tuesday that Hussey was one of three people he saw Bulger kill in the South Boston house.
As he had done with the other two victims, Flemmi pulled out Hussey’s teeth and ordered Weeks to dig her grave. He had run out of space in the floor and had to place her atop an earlier victim, John McIntyre, Weeks testified.
“She was buried not quite on top of McIntyre, kind of half on top of him and half next to him,” Weeks said. “We were kind of running out of room down there.”
In cross-examination, Carney did not ask Weeks about the killings, instead focusing on which members of Bulger’s gang provided information to law enforcement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation developed a 700-page file on Bulger over more than a decade when he met with corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, who is now serving a 40-year sentence on racketeering and murder charges.
Bulger denies ever serving as an informant, insisting through lawyers that he paid Connolly for information but never provided any of his own. A 1994 tip from Connolly led Bulger to flee Boston and he evaded arrest until 2011.
“In your dealings on a daily basis for a decade with Jim Bulger, you learned that what he hated above all else was informants, didn’t you?” Carney asked Weeks, who replied, “Yes. And we killed people for being informants.”
Weeks, who served just five years in prison after admitting to a role in five murders and agreeing to testify against his fellow conspirators, said he decided to cooperate with prosecutors only after fearing that Flemmi, who had also been arrested, would testify against him.
“I was worried about what Stevie was going to do,” said Weeks, who was the second of three high-ranking gang members to take the stand in a trial that is now in its fifth week. “He had me and Jimmy to give up so I made a deal before Stevie did.”
John “The Executioner” Martorano testified last month and Flemmi is due to be called later in the trial.
When Carney tried to point out inconsistencies in Weeks’ prior testimony, he replied, “I’ve been lying my whole life, I‘m a criminal.”
He later insisted that he had told the truth on Tuesday, though Carney had clearly gotten under Weeks’ skin, prompting a profane outburst.
“Fuck you,” Weeks told Carney. “Your client killed those people.”
The story of Bulger, who fled Boston after the tip from Connolly, and evaded arrest for 16 years before his arrest in June 2011, has fascinated Boston for years.
It inspired Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film “The Departed,” with Jack Nicholson playing a character loosely based on Bulger.
Editing by Dina Kyriakidou, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernard Orr