Sources indicated that Bulger was "killed." Federal authorities are investigating the circumstances. The New York Times, citing two unnamed Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, reported that at least two inmates beat Bulger to death. The Boston Globe reported that the prison in Hazelton has experienced a string of violent attacks. Two other inmates were killed in fights at the understaffed institution earlier this year, according to the Globe. Bulger was found unresponsive at 8:20 a.m. Efforts were made to revive him.
Eighty-nine-year-old Bulger, sentenced to two life prison terms after being convicted of involvement in eleven murders, had only arrived in Hazelton on Monday, October 29. He was transferred from a prison in Florida and held for a time at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.
Bulger was part of South Boston's Winter Hill Gang. While engaged in his own illicit rackets, he fed information to the FBI about Mafia rivals and assisted in the dismantling of the Angiulo Mafia organization in Boston in the 1980s. His cooperation with federal agents provided him with protection from prosecution for more than a decade. When authorities finally were poised to arrest Bulger early in 1995, he was apparently tipped off and vanished. The indictment against him included charges that he participated in nineteen gangland killings.
FBI corruption was revealed in 2002, when Bulger's handler, John J. Connolly, Jr., was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice.
Bulger quickly earned the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The government reward for information leading to his arrest reached $2 million in September 2008. A worldwide search (there were reports that Bulger might have fled to Sicily) ended on June 22, 2011, with Bulger's arrest in California. He had been living in Santa Monica with his longtime companion Catherine Greig. Agents found $800,000 in cash and more than thirty firearms hidden in their apartment.
Catherine Greig pleaded guilty to helping Bulger elude the police. She was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison. She remains behind bars in Minnesota.
Bulger came to trial at Boston's federal courthouse in June 2013. The jury concluded five days of deliberations on August 12, 2013, finding Bulger guilty of racketeering offenses and participation in eleven murders. On November 14, 2013, he was sentenced by federal Judge Denise J. Casper to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.
Born September 3, 1929, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Bulger grew up in a South Boston housing project. His criminal activity started at an early age. He was arrested in 1956 for bank robbery. Following conviction, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but served just nine years. When he emerged from prison, he became a key member of the Winter Hill Gang. A younger brother, William, went into politics and became a longtime leader in the Massachusetts State Legislature.
- "Crime lord Whitey Bulger appears in LA court, remanded to Massachusetts," New York Post, June 23, 2011, nypost.com.
- "Fugitive Boston mobster arrested on Westside," Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2011.
- "James 'Whitey' Bulger killed in West Virginia prison, sources say," WCVB-5 Boston, Oct. 30, 2018, wcvb.com.
- "Whitey Bulger, galpal nabbed in California," Boston Herald, June 23, 2011.
- Butterfield, Fox, "F.B.I. agent linked to mob is guilty of corruption," New York Times, May 29, 2002, p. 14, nytimes.com.
- Harvey, Matt, "Update: U.S. Attorney Powell in WV...," WVNews, Oct. 30, 2018, wvnews.com.
- Kennedy, Helen, "Boston mobster James (Whitey) Bulger spotted in Sicily?" New York Daily News, Sept. 15, 2007, nydailynews.com.
- Ivory, Danielle, and William K. Rashbaum, "Whitey Bulger said to have been killed by inmates in prison attack," New York Times, Oct. 30, 2018.
- McFadden, Robert D., "Whitey Bulger, notorious Boston mobster and informant, is dead at 89," New York Times, Oct. 30, 2018, nytimes.com.
- Pulice, Chris, "Inmate death at United States Penitentiary Hazelton," U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, news release, Oct. 30, 2018.
- Rocheleau, Matt, and Emily Sweeney, "James 'Whitey' Bulger's killing is just the latest in a string of troubling violence for W.Va. prison," Boston Globe, Oct. 30, 2018, bostonglobe.com.