Stephen “Stippo” Rakes, a key witness in the James ‘Whitey’ Bulger racketeering trial was found dead on the side of a road near Boston on Wednesday. Rakes, who has been a fixture at the trial for a month and a half, desperately wanted to testify that he was exhorted by Bulger.
Rakes was set to testify that Bulger threatened his daughter with a gun and took over his Boston liquor store. However, Rakes was recently told that he wouldn’t get the chance to take the stand.
The 59-year-old Rakes’ body showed no obvious signs of trauma, according to a statement from the Middelsex County district attorney’s office. The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
Police told the Rakes family the death appeared to be a suicide. However, a source close to the Rakes family told ABC News that "he had no phone, no wallet, and police are still looking for his car."
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Rakes was extorted in 1984 to sign over his liquor store to James “Whitey” Bulger and Kevin Weeks for $67,000 cash and his children’s lives after they laid a loaded gun on his kitchen table, according to authorities. Last month, attending Bulger’s murder and racketeering trial as federal court in Boston, Rakes told the Boston Herald he was eager to testify.
“I’m not afraid of him anymore. I can’t wait to get on the stand and look him right in the eyes,” Rakes said. “I come here to represent the victims that are afraid to come here. My friends. That’s why I’m showing up. And there’s not one. There’s not 10. There’s hundreds. And they’re still afraid.”
Bulger is accused in a 32-count racketeering indictment of playing a role in 19 killings in the 1970s and '80s while the now 83-year-old allegedly led the Winter Hill Gang. He is also charged with money laundering and extortion.