The body of Stephen Rakes, a potential witness in the James “Whitey” Bulger trial, was found Wednesday in a Boston suburb..
Rakes, who was in his early 60s and went by the nickname “Stippo,” was initially set to take the stand in Bulger’s racketeering trial and testify that members of Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang crew forcibly took his South Boston liquor store. The business later became Bulger’s headquarters.
While Rakes was on the witness list of potential witnesses to testify at Bulger's trial, the U.S. attorney's office told him Tuesday that he would not be taking the stand, the Boston Globe reported. The paper said Rakes was "devastated" after learning he would not tell his story in Boston federal court.
Rakes’ death appeared to be a suicide, according to police who spoke with the Bulger witness’ family, ABC News reported. But there were other indications of foul play, according to another source.
Rakes “had no phone, no wallet, and police are still looking for his car,” a source close to the family told ABC News.
The body was found by a walking path in Lincoln, Mass., about a 30-minute drive from Boston. A fingerprint match helped authorities identify the corpse as Rakes.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston declined to comment on Rakes’ dead body being found. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office would only say that a body was found and did not elaborate on the development.
Steve Davis, a longtime friend of Rakes’, told ABC News that he was skeptical that Rakes committed suicide.
"Stippo would not kill himself. Absolutely not,'' he said. "He was looking forward to taking the stand. He told me over and over he had a big bombshell to drop. He had everything to live for and was looking forward to his day in court."
Bulger, 83, is on trial for racketeering charges, including allegations that he took part in or orchestrated 19 murders in the Boston area in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prosecutors contend that Bulger was an FBI informant and that the bureau was lenient toward him because he gave the agency information on Italian organized crime in Boston. They also claim a rogue FBI agent assisted Bulger in evading federal authorities for 16 years. Bulger was eventually captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June 2011 after spending 12 years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.