By Joey Ortega and Sharon Branco
During our last broadcast on the Whitey Bulger case, we discussed the mysterious death of Shephen Rakes. Rakes was at one point set to testify for the prosecution to give an accounting of a claim that Whitey Bulger extorted Rakes to sell his liquor store to him. However days before his death Rakes was informed that his testimony would not be used . It was our inquiry into this and his death that lead to even more questions and twists and turns that continues to define this case. Her is what we have learned thus far.
- In 1983, Stephen Rakes and his wife at the time, Julie Rakes, now Julie Dammers, were owners of a liquor store in South Boston. They purchased a run down gas station in South Boston and turned it into a liquor store, at 295 Old Colony Ave. They had some construction work done on the property and opened in time for Christmas…the place was called Stippo’s Liquor Mart. Stippo was a nickname for Stephen.
- the story goes that Bulger and Weeks extorted Rakes to sell him the liquor store. Bulger/ Flemmi and Weeks then made the liquor store their office and changed the name of course to the South Boston Liquor Mart. 90% of the story is true, but there was no extortion, it was a story spun by Rakes to get more money out of Bulger this is backed up by a 1999 document describing U.S. v. Stephen M. Rakes case#96:CR10131-001 (below)
- According to Julie, she reached out to her uncle and Detective, Joseph Lundbohm for help. Lundbohm said he knew of an FBI agent who may be able to help. That agent was John Connolly.
- According to Julie, after the meet Lundbohm Reports to Julie that Connolly said he could help but would need her to wear a wire. She understandably refused.
- Soon after Whitey summoned Stephen Rakes and informed him that he was aware of the feds being contacted and that he better drop the matter.
This lead to claims that Connolly gave Bulger a heads up. BTYT contacted Connolly for comment and he responded Julie’s uncle Lundbohm called Connolly and asked to meet with him. They met at a restaurant called Linda Mae’s in Boston. John told me the place was a hang out for cops. It was a nice place to eat, it just was popular with the cops off duty to grab a quick good meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Lundbohm knew other cops would see him with Connolly and word would get back to Bulger. He wanted to scare Bulger and have the FBI look like the boogie man.
What further muddied the waters in trying to find out for sure what did or did not happen was the questionable background of Detective Lundbohm who would later be accused of a number of crimes, including racketeering.
It stood to reason that the prosecution maybe grew concerned that the amount of conflicting evidence and weak credibility gave them cause to pause and reconsider including him and his accounting in an already complicated case with a number of convoluted twists and turns that seem to come right out of a Mario Puzo novel .
To date we don’t know for sure how Rakes died. Let alone why but given what we now know, it seems nothing can be taken for granted. It would at first glance seem tempting to go with a “he got wacked” scenario but given that their were too many reasons to doubt that story and the fact that he was removed from the witness list prior to his death, it does not make sense to assume such a dramatic conclusion.
If one was to kill a witness for Bulger’s sake, why not go after one who will actually testify and may in fact influence the jury? Yet there were rumors that Rakes had a bombshell to add that may damn Whitey. Whether that is or whether it was even true, we may never know.
Regardless, we will continue to follow Rakes’ death investigation and kep you apprised of what we learn.