Law enforcement sources tell CBS News Whitey Bulger was apparently severely beaten by one or more inmates before his death in prison. The notorious mob boss, who was serving a life sentence for his role in 11 murders and other crimes, was found unresponsive in his cell on Tuesday.
Some reports say the 89-year-old was targeted in prison for being a government informant. His death comes just one day after he was transferred to a high security prison and is now under investigation by the FBI in Pittsburgh and federal prosecutors in West Virginia.
According to the Boston Globe, Bulger’s eyes were nearly gouged out and two inmates, including a convicted mafia hitman, were seen on surveillance video entering his cell Tuesday morning. For many victims of Bulger’s reign of terror, his violent death seemed all too fitting.
“He deserved a slow death and that’s what I hope he got,” said Tommy Donahue whose father was killed by Bulger. Added his widow, Patricia, “I’m gonna buy myself a bottle of champagne, and I’m going to pop that cork.”
Radio host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr says Bulger ordered a hit on him after he started writing about the Irish mobster.
“According to one of his associates they got some C-4 explosives from some of their crooked FBI agents and tried to blow me up with it putting it in a basketball,” Carr said. “You’re not supposed to be happy when someone dies, but this guy was a monster, a fiend, and one of the most horrible people I ever hope to meet.”
Bulger rose to power by ratting out his rivals. In the ’70s through the ’90s, he seemingly ran the Winter Hill gang with impunity, having paid off police and FBI agents. His brutality and ruthlessness inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed” and Johnny Depp portrayed him in the movie “Black Mass.”
In 1995, tipped off to an imminent federal indictment, Bulger and his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig went on the run, landing him on the FBI’s most wanted list.
When they were finally found 16 years later, they were using fake names and posing as retirees in Southern California. Scott Garriola, the FBI special agent who arrested Bulger, spoke with 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft in 2013.
“I asked him to identify himself and that didn’t go over well. He asked me to f’ing identify myself, which I did. And I asked him, I said, ‘are you Whitey Bulger?’ He said, ‘Yes,'” Garriola recounted.
Bulger’s lawyer blamed the federal government for his death. In a statement issued Tuesday, he said Bulger “was sentenced to life in prison, but as a result of decisions by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that sentence has been changed to the death penalty.”