Potential Bulger Witness Poisoned in Unrelated Homicide

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 2 2013 5:23 PM

"Whitey" Bulger Potential Witness Poisoned With Cyanide, but It Was Unrelated to Mobster’s Case

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FBI Wanted posters for James Bulger are displayed at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Well, this is a strange twist. Turns out a man who was eager to testify at Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s trial was murdered after all. But it was a homicide unrelated to the case of the reputed gangster Bulger. Stephen Rakes’ body had been found July 17 and everyone immediately suspected his death may have been due to his eagerness to testify against Bulger. He was “one of the most determined of Bulger’s alleged victims,” as the Boston Globe put it. As Slatest editor Josh Voorhees pointed out at the time, there were questions about whether foul play was involved in his death. Now authorities say Rakes was murdered by a man who put potassium cyanide in his iced coffee, but the poisoning appears to have been unrelated to Bulger’s case, reports the Associated Press.

The suspect in the homicide is 69-year-old William Camuti, who apparently owed Rakes “a significant amount of money,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said Friday, according to the Boston Globe. Camuti was arrested and charged with attempted murder, among other crimes. He pleaded not guilty.

Rakes wanted to testify in Bulger’s trial, alleging that the mobster had taken control of his liquor store in 1984 to use it as a front for his gang’s headquarters, notes the Boston Herald. In the end though, prosecutors chose not to have Rakes testify at the Bulger trial. Earlier today, Bulger said he won't take the stand at his trial, which he described as a "sham."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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