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America’s most wanted gangster killed after prison transfer

Notorious Boston mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger has reportedly been killed inside a federal prison in West Virginia. The 89-year-old was serving a life sentence for the murders of 11 people, among other racketeering crimes.

Boston Globe reporter, Michele McPhee broke the news on Tuesday morning, citing unnamed prison officials. Officials at the facility, USP Hazelton in West Virginia, confirmed the news a short time later.

Bulger had just been transferred to Hazelton on Tuesday. Beforehand, the mobster had been held in an Oklahoma transfer facility since last week, and Florida’s Coleman II penitentiary since 2014.

Before his arrest in 2011, Bulger had been one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives for 16 years, since 2001 occupying the number 2 slot on the agency’s list behind Osama bin Laden. Now the FBI has opened an inquiry into Bulger’s death.

The son of one of Bulger’s victims said he was “surprised and pleased” to hear the news on Tuesday.

“I’m surprised and pleased. I didn’t think anyone was going to get to kill him. I thought he would die an old man in jail,” Tommy Donohue told Newsweek. “This is happy news for our family.”

Bulger’s long and sordid career of criminality began in South Boston where the teenager fell in with a gang known as The Shamrocks, and quickly developed a reputation for ferocity and a rap sheet for assault, forgery and armed robbery.

After a spell in a juvenile correctional facility, Bulger joined the US Air Force in 1948 and was discharged honorably in 1953. Bulger’s service failed to straighten him out, and the Bostonian went on to deepen his involvement in the criminal underworld.

The 1950s and ‘60s were marked by stints in various prisons, including Alcatraz, and towards the end of the 1960s, Bulger partnered up with the Killeens, an Irish-American mob family in Boston.

This partnership involved racketeering, organizing illegal gambling, extorting drug dealers, trafficking arms, and hijacking trucks. Bulger mercilessly killed off rival gangsters, and was described by Massachusetts State Policeman Tom Foley as “one of the hardest and cruelest individuals that operated in the Boston area...a bad, bad, bad guy.”

When he was sentenced to two life sentences in 2013, judge Denise Casper told Bulger that such a sentence was appropriate, given the “unimaginable” and “agonizing” suffering he had inflicted on his victims.

Prosecutors said Bulger strangled two women with his hands and tortured a man for hours before shooting him in the head.

“We took what we wanted,” former associate Kevin Weeks - who ended up testifying against Bulger - wrote in his memoir. "We made millions through extortion and loansharking and protection. And if someone ratted us out, we killed him. We were not nice guys."

Throughout his criminal career, Bulger counted on a rogue FBI agent, John J. Connolly, to stay out of prison. Connolly would tip Bulger off about his agency’s investigations, and Bulger would give Connolly information about other Boston criminals in exchange. Bulger’s willingness to dish the dirt on his criminal rivals
prompted some observers to wonder whether his apparent murder on Tuesday was the settling of an old score.

Save for his infamy, Bulger’s demise is nothing new for Hazelton. The high-security federal prison, which houses some 1,270 male offenders, has been the scene of two alleged homicides so far this year.

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