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Bulger foe poisoned with cyanide, Massachusetts authorities say

August 02, 2013|By Alana Semuels

Stephen "Stippo" Rakes, who had frequently and vocally accused James "Whitey" Bulger of stealing his liquor store, was poisoned to death when an acquaintance laced his coffee with cyanide, Massachusetts authorities said Friday.

Police arrested William Camuti, 69, of Sudbury, Mass., Middlesex Dist. Atty. Marian Ryan said, and have charged him with attempted murder, misleading police, and unlawful disposition of human remains. 

Camuti is suspected of luring Rakes to a meeting with a promise of a real estate deal. The two met at a McDonald's, and Camuti purchased iced coffees for  each of them.

"We allege that the defendant, Camuti, laced one of those iced coffees with two teaspoons of potassium cyanide," Ryan said Friday afternoon at a news conference. "We further allege that Mr. Rakes drank some of that coffee. ... Mr. Camuti then drove around for several hours with Mr. Rakes in his car" and later disposed of Rakes' body, Ryan said.

Authorities believe that Camuti acted alone in the poisoning, which might have had to do with money Camuti owed to Rakes. They said they have information that Camuti searched for information about the poison online.

"Mr. Camuti owed Mr. Rakes a significant amount of money," Ryan said. Rakes' body was found in Lincoln, Mass., with no visible signs of trauma. "Our investigation indicates that Mr. Camuti acted alone."

The news came as Bulger's trial nears its end. Bulger's lawyer said Friday that his client would not testify, meaning the case probably will go to the jury next week. Rakes' sudden death in July had been an odd and mysterious development in a trial that has captivated much of Boston, especially as it came a day after Rakes learned he would not be called to testify.

Rakes was "out of sorts" after learning that he wouldn't be able to testify, said Steve Davis, who has been attending nearly every day of the trial and whose sister Debra was allegedly strangled by Bulger. His death made some victims' families a little more nervous about their own safety.

Rakes has repeatedly said that Bulger forced him to sell his liquor store for an unfair price. Rakes left Massachusetts after that, but when South Boston residents began to worry that  Bulger had killed him for his liquor store, Bulger made Rakes return to Boston and stand on a street corner to prove he was still alive, according to "Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss."

Ryan, the district attorney, said the killing was about a business transaction, not Bulger, but said the investigation was continuing.

The Rakes killing  is one of three grisly and headline-grabbing homicides in Boston this summer. A young graphic designer, Amy Lord, was kidnapped off a South Boston street on July 23, driven to five ATMs to withdraw cash, and then stabbed to death and dumped in a wooded area. And a New England Patriots player, Aaron Hernandez, was arrested on June 26 and charged with killing Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player.


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Twitter: @AlanaSemuels

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