James "Whitey" Bulger was 89 years old and in poor health after multiple heart attacks—but he didn't die from natural causes. Sources tell the New York Times that the Boston mob boss, who was found dead in his cell early Tuesday, was beaten to death by at least two fellow inmates. Federal prison employees say Bulger was apparently killed at the Hazelton high-security prison in West Virginia between 6am, when cell doors were unlocked, and around 8am, when his body was found. He had been transferred to the prison the previous day and admitted to the general population. The sources say the killers were captured on surveillance video and are believed to be "affiliated with the mob." More:
- "Freddy hated rats." One of the inmates reportedly suspected of killing Bulger is Freddy Geas, a Mafia hitman serving a life sentence—and private investigator Ted McDonough tells the Boston Globe he is not surprised, considering Bulger's history as an FBI informant. "Freddy hated rats," McDonough says. "Freddy hated guys who abused women. Whitey was a rat who killed women. It's probably that simple."
- Multiple transfers. Another Boston Globe story reports that Bulger, who was captured in 2011 after 16 years as a fugitive and hit with two life sentences in 2013, had been in a central Florida prison from 2014 until recently, when he was transferred for allegedly threatening a staff member. He was reportedly moved to a transfer facility in Oklahoma last week and was moved to Hazelton, which is not a medical facility, despite his poor health.
- Prison is "very understaffed." The prison, which houses around 1,280 inmates in its main facility, has long had problems with understaffing and inmate violence. "This is the third homicide in seven months at our facility," Richard Heldreth, president of the correctional officers union in Hazelton, tells WPRI. "We are very understaffed, we are short about 40 officers."
- Lawyer blames the prison system. JW Carney Jr., an attorney who represented Bulger, blames the death on the prison system, the AP reports. Bulger "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 says.
- A life of crime. The BBC looks back at Bulger's rise to the top of Boston's Winter Hill gang, "a criminal empire of loan sharking, gambling, extortion, drug dealing and murder," which inspired movies including The Departed.
- 19 murders. The AP looks at all 19 of the murders between 1973 and 1985 that prosecutors believe Bulger was involved in. A jury convicted him of 11.
- "End of a very sad chapter." The mobster's death marks "the end of a very sad chapter in Boston's history, during which this man caused so much harm to many through his brutal crimes," Carmen Ortiz, former US Attorney for Massachusetts, told CNN. Steven Davis, brother of a woman Bulger was accused of strangling, was more blunt. "He had it coming to him and it's just sad that it took so long," he said.
(In 2015, Bulger told high school students who wrote to him that his "life was wasted and spent foolishly."