PROVIDENCE R.I. (WPRI) — Federal officials have confirmed the FBI is investigating the prison death of former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger as a homicide.

Stacy Bishop, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of West Virginia, said in a statement: “The United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI are investigating the death of James Bulger as a homicide.”

“To protect the integrity of the investigation, no further details will be released at this time,” she added.

Bulger was found unresponsive inside Hazelton federal prison in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, according to a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson.

Bulger had arrived there just hours earlier.

It is unclear why an inmate with Bulger’s notoriety was placed in general population. A spokesperson for the prison did not return an email seeking comment.

Target 12 has confirmed Hazelton prison remained on lockdown Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the murder.

The Boston Globe and the Associated Press are reporting a western Massachusetts mob figure Fotios “Freddy” Geas is the prime suspect in Bulger’s murder.

Geas is listed on the BOP website as being housed in Hazelton.

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The Globe reported Geas and other inmates are suspected of beating Bulger to death, and Geas “did not dispute his role in the killing.”

Geas was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2003 gangland slaying of the then-mob boss of Springfield, Mass., Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno.

Geas’ attorney, David Hoose, said in an email he didn’t know anything about the Bulger murder.

“When I represented him he was a stand-up guy who did not and would not rat on anyone,” Hoose said.

Bulger’s attorney, J.W. Carney, said in an email, “I was proud to be appointed by the Federal Court to represent James Bulger.” 

“He 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,” he wrote. “I’ll have no further comment.” 

On Tuesday, Richard Heldreth, the president for the correctional officer’s union at Hazelton, told Target 12 Bulger’s homicide was the third in seven months. He attributed the killings to being short-staffed at the prison.

Reached on Wednesday, Heldreth said he has been in touch with the administration at the prison who assured him they are trying to hire more officers.

“I’m grateful for it but that is the same thing we’ve been told for years,” Heldreth said.

Tim White ( is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook