Witness in trial of accused mobster Whitey Bulger found dead

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The Department of Justice released images of Bulger and his alleged crew from the 1980s.

The Department of Justice released images of Bulger and his alleged crew from the 1980s. (Photo: CNN)

BOSTON — A man who’d been prepared to testify in the trial of reputed Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was found dead Wednesday — a day after, a friend says, he learned he was dropped from the prosecution’s witness list.

The Massachusetts State Police are investigating the death of Stephen Rakes, 59, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said Thursday.

Rakes was found dead Wednesday afternoon in Lincoln, Massachusetts. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and an autopsy will determine the cause and manner of death, the district attorney’s office said.

Bulger is on trial, charged in the deaths of 19 people during some two decades when prosecutors say he terrorized South Boston as the head of the Irish mob. He also faces charges of extortion, racketeering and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Rakes had alleged that Bulger forced Rakes to sell his South Boston liquor store to him in the 1980s.

Steve Davis, a brother of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, said that Rakes learned Tuesday that the prosecution dropped him from its list of potential witnesses.

A representative of the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, which is prosecuting Bulger’s case, declined to comment Thursday.

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