Former hit man John V. Martorano coolly describes a long parade of murders
Coolly and calmly, former hit man John V. Martorano today continued to lay out a grim parade of murders in horrific, cinematic detail in his testimony in the trial of notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in US District Court in Boston,
Martorano, who testified that he tried to be a nice guy and rejected the label serial killer, has confessed to 20 murders but served only 12 years in prison after agreeing to testify for the prosecution.
The killings he described included the murders of:
Richard J. Castucci
Martorano said Bulger told him and other members of their Winter Hill Gang that Castucci was an FBI informant. Bulger credited corrupt FBI agent John Connolly with providing him with that information, Martorano said.
Martorano said Bulger discussed with him and and others what to do about the 47-year-old Castucci, who was owner of the Revere strip club, The Squire.
“We decided to take him out,” Martorano said of the Dec. 30, 1976, murder.
Martorano said he owed Castucci some money so he told him that he now had the cash and to meet him, along with Bulger, to collect the money. Bulger and Castucci were in the apartment together, sitting at a table where Castucci was counting the money when Martorano walked in.
“I walked to the side of Mr. Castucci and I shot him,’’ Martorano told Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak. “In the temple, yeah.’’
He said after he shot Castucci, Bulger and Bulger’s right-hand man, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, put the body into a sleeping bag, dumped it in the trunk of a car, and drove the car to Revere. Jurors were shown photographs of Castucci’s body, the car, and the blood-soaked sleeping bag where his body was found.
Connolly has been convicted in both federal and state courts of Bulger-related crimes, including murder.
Martorano described the May 27, 1981, killing of Wheeler, who was the owner of a jai alai business in Florida, where John Callahan, a Bulger associate, was skimming some of the profits.
Callahan convinced Bulger that Wheeler should be murdered to prevent the skimming from being disclosed, and to lead his wife to sell the business, Martorano testified. Martorano agreed to commit the murder, and received information about what Wheeler looked like and the way he lived his life from another FBI agent, Paul Rico.
Martorano spent four days following Wheeler around Oklahoma and discovered that Wheeler had a regular tee time at his country club. Wearing a beard and armed with a gun he said was provided by Flemmi, Martorano waited in the country club parking lot until he saw Wheeler start walking toward his car.
“So I headed toward the car,” Martorano told somber-faced jurors. “I opened the door and shot him.”
“Where’d you shoot him?” Wyshak asked him.
“In between the eyes,’’ Martorano said.
Jurors were then shown photographs of Wheeler’s car, of his body slumped over inside it, and a picture of Wheeler taken at the morgue, showing the bullet hole between his eyes.
Martorano, who on Monday insisted he was never paid to kill anyone, said Callahan paid him $50,000 for murdering Wheeler. He said he split the money with Joe McDonald, a man who helped him commit the killing, and shared some of it with Flemmi.
Martorano said his career as a killer came to an end in August 1982 when he murdered Callahan, the man who had set up the Wheeler killing, because Bulger had been warned by corrupt FBI agent Connolly that Callahan would expose the murder plot to authorities.
He said he considered Callahan a friend and argued against killing him during a meeting with Bulger and Flemmi in a New York motel. But, he said, he was convinced by Flemmi it had to be done and it had to be done in Florida where they could blame it on Cuban drug rings and distance the Winter Hill Gang from the crime.
“I felt lousy,’’ Martorano said. “But these [Flemmi and Bulger] were my partners. ... We were up to our necks in murders already. If it had to be done, it had to be done.’’
Along with McDonald, who had been his accomplice in the Wheeler’s killing, Martorano said, he met Callahan in a van in Florida and, with a gun wrapped in a towel, he shot and killed Callahan.
Martorano said that when moving Callahan’s body to the trunk of a car, McDonald “heard a moan. He thought he was still alive. He shot him a couple more times.”
Callahan’s body was found in the trunk of Cadillac parked at Miami International Airport on Aug. 3, 1982.
Martorano also said Bulger told him that Bulger was the person who murdered Edward “Brian” Halloran, and that he killed Halloran as an act of friendship. Halloran, Bulger had been told by Connolly, was cooperating with the FBI and had incriminated Martorano in the killing of Wheeler.
Bulger “said he did it for me,” Martorano testified.
Authorities allege Bulger shot both Halloran and Michael Donahue,a 32-year-old truck driver, after they left a Boston bar on May 11, 1982. Donahue, officials have said, was not involved in the underworld and was simply giving Halloran a ride home.
Martorano testified that Bulger and Flemmi shot and killed Edward Connors in Dorchester on June 12, 1975. It was the first time that jurors were told by a witness that Bulger himself had committed a murder.
Under questioning by Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak, Martorano described the decision made by six members of the Winter Hill Gang, led by Bulger, to kill Connors because they had been told that Connors had bragged how he had helped Bulger’s crew murder James O’Toole, a Bulger rival.
“We decided to shoot him,” Martorano said of Connors. “Whitey devised a plan.”
Martorano said he drove Bulger and Flemmi to Dorchester where they found Connors waiting for them.
“They walked to the phone booth and shot Eddie,’’ Martorano told jurors.
Martorano, who said his first murder was committed in 1965, also testified about going on the lam after being tipped about charges pending against him in a horse race fixing scheme.
While on the run, Martorano said, he continued to work with Bulger and Flemmi, and also continued to receive money from his illegal businesses and loyal subordinates who sent cash to him through the mail. Bulger and Flemmi also continued to send him cash, he said.
“I was on the lam. I was happy to get whatever it was,’’ said Martorano.“If they made me a score, they would send me a piece of it. They could rob somebody, shake somebody down.”
Martorano, who was arrested in Florida in 1995 after being a fugitive for 16 years, said he decided to testify against his former cohorts after he learned that both Bulger and Flemmi had themselves been serving as informants for the FBI. He testified Monday that learning that they were informants “sort of broke my heart.”
Follow Globe coverage from the courthouse at boston.com’s live blog on the Bulger trial.Kevin Cullen and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.