Target 12

Mobster Whitey Bulger found dead in federal prison in WV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Notorious Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger is dead, sources tell the Target 12 investigators. 

The 89-year-old was an inmate at the Hazelton federal prison in Bruceton Mills, WV after being transferred there on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of prisons said Bulger was found "unresponsive" at 8:20 a.m.

"Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff," said spokesperson Chris Pulice in a news release. "Mr. Bulger was subsequently pronounced dead by the Preston County Medical Examiner."

He had been held temporarily at a prison in Oklahoma after being moved from a federal prison in Florida.

Two sources tell Target 12 officials are investigating the incident as a homicide.

(Story continues after video)

Details are thin on how Bulger died. The union president for the correctional officers union in Hazelton would not confirm Bulger's death, but said, "I can confirm there was a homicide this morning."

"This is the third homicide in seven months at our facility," Richard Heldreth said in a phone interview. "We are very understaffed, we are short about 40 officers."

Citing sources, the Boston Globe is reporting a fellow inmate with Mafia ties is being investigated for the slaying at the US Penitentiary Hazelton.

The 89-year-old was given a double life sentence after he was convicted in 2013 of taking part in 11 murders, conspiracy, and racketeering.

He was arrested in 2011 after being on the run for 16 years. He was found hiding out under an assumed name in Santa Monica California with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said in an email, "We received word this morning about the death of James 'Whitey' Bulger. Our thoughts are with his victims and their families."

Patricia Donahue, who's husband Michael was shot dead in May of 1982, said she is still haunted by the pain Bulger inflicted on her family.

"He ruined my life, definitely," Donahue said. "I could never forgive him for that."

Michael was at a bar in Boston's seaport when a man named Brian Halloran asked him for a ride home. That same night, Bulger was aiming to murder Halloran, who was an informant.

"They went outside the bar and they got in the car as they continued to pull out Whitey Bulger and a couple of his colleagues pulled up next to him and shot and killed them both," Tommy Donahue, Michael's son, explained.

Tommy, who was just 8 years old when his father was killed, said he was overjoyed to hear Bulger was dead.

"I was overwhelmed with joy. I was very pleased to learn he was dead," Tommy Donahue said.

Bulger was ultimately charged for Michael's murder, among 10 others. The jury also issued a "no finding" in the strangulation death of Debra Davis. Her brother, Steven Davis, said he was relieved to hear of Bulger's violent death.

"I hope it was a brutal murder instead of a natural cause and I hope all the families and everyone else are looking at this as a positive and a close for them," Steven Davis said. "I don't believe in closure because that's myself but I hope it closes the chapter in the book for a lot of the families."

Hazelton federal prison is a high security facility that houses 1,270 male inmates, according to a spokesperson.

Caroline Goggin contributed to this report.

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


More Stories

Meet the Team

Don't Miss