Reports that Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger had been murdered hours after being transferred to a federal maximum security prison in West Virginia shocked the public on Tuesday, and immediately raised questions about the circumstances surrounding his death.
How was the inmate, who was reportedly in ill-health, murdered so quickly after arriving in the new prison? And how was it that guards weren't monitoring such a high-profile inmate, particularly since it came out in his 2013 trial that he worked with the FBI for years ratting out rival mobsters to help consolidate his power in the Boston underworld?
While the federal government hasn't released any more details about Bulger's death, the Daily Mail and TMZ have managed to dig up some information that, if accurate, could indicate a motive for what may have been a killing tacitly sanctioned by senior law enforcement officials. According to the Mail, Bulger, who was confined to a wheelchair at the time of his death, had been talking about outing people in the upper echelons of the FBI's informant program.
The suspicious circumstances of Bulger's death would suggest that there's more to the story than a routine killing. For one, Bulger was seemingly arbitrarily transferred to the Hazelton facility in West Virginia, which had been the site of three other inmate killings over the past year. Sources also said Bulger hadn't even been processed when he was killed. So, apparently, somebody in the prison population had been tipped off that he was coming. When he arrived, Bulger was mixed in with the general population, leaving him vulnerable.
According to TMZ's sources, the circumstances of Bulger's killing were fittingly brutal for the longtime crime boss, who has bragged about killing no fewer than 40 men, though he was convicted of being involved in 11 killings. Sources told TMZ that Bulger was wheeled into a secluded corner of the prison, where three inmates beat him with a lock in a sock, and then tried to gouge his eyes out - a punishment typically reserved for so-called "rats".
A prison source tells us Bulger -- who is wheelchair bound -- was in general population Tuesday morning. We're told he was approached by 3 other inmates who wheeled him into a corner that could not be seen by surveillance cameras.
Our source says the inmates beat Bulger -- one used a lock in a sock as a weapon -- until he was unconscious. They also attempted to gouge his eyes out with some type of shiv, but were unsuccessful. Bulger fell to the ground covered in bruises and with several dents in his head.
As for the eyes, we've been doing some research -- back in the days of Murder Inc., (the 1940s gangsters, not the rappers) mobsters would gouge out the eyes of witnesses who talked to cops.
According to the Mail, Bulger's death might have something to do with US Rep. Stephen Lynch, who is from Bulger's old neighborhood of Southie, and who recently introduced the Confidential Informant Accountability Act. It's possible, according to the Mail, that Bulger was preparing to open up to a member of Lynch's staff about abuses with the FBI's confidential informant program.
The Massachusetts Democrat last year introduced the Confidential Informant Accountability Act - which calls for congressional oversight into the selection and use of confidential informants. It's possible that Bulger was set to open up to someone on Lynch's team with claims of abuses in the program.
Bulger's lawyer, for one, blasted the Bureau of Prisons in a statement, accusing it of unilaterally converting Bulger's life sentence into the death penalty.
In a statement, Bulger's lawyer J.W. Carney Jr blasted the prison system over the mobster's death.
'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,' the statement read.
If these rumors prove true, they will leave many observers to ponder the possibility that the federal government was somehow involved in Bulger's death.