Notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger strangled a young woman who he feared had become a liability, then went to lie down to rest, a key witness testified today in Bulger’s trial in federal court in Boston.

Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, a convicted murderer who prosecutors say was Bulger’s partner in crime, described in graphic detail the murder of 26-year-old Deborah Hussey. Hussey was the daughter of Flemmi’s long-time girlfriend Marion Hussey.

Flemmi said Deborah Hussey had developed a drug problem, had run-ins with the law, and was frequenting Boston’s Combat Zone adult entertainment district. She later started going to Triple Os, a bar Bulger and Flemmi operated from, and dropped their names. She also stole $800 from a bookmaker, Flemmi said.

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“She had become a problem,” he said.

Bulger, 83, is charged in a sweeping federal racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders, extortion, money laundering, and stockpiling guns in the 1970s and 1980s. Prosecutors say he got away with his crimes for so long because he was protected by corrupt FBI handlers. Bulger has said that the allegations he most wants to refute are that he was an informant and that he killed Hussey and another alleged victim, Debra Davis.

Federal prosecutors have been bringing a massive case against him. Flemmi, who began testifying Thursday, is considered a key witness because he was intimately familiar with Bulger’s activities.

Flemmi testified that Bulger insisted on killing Hussey. He reluctantly agreed. So he brought her to a South Boston home in January 1985.

Flemmi said Bulger “stepped out from behind the top of the basement stairs, grabbed her by the throat and started strangling her. ... It didn’t take long. She was a very fragile woman.”

He said Bulger “lost his balance and they both fell on the floor.”

They brought the body to the basement, took off her clothes, and buried her in the dirt floor.

Bulger, as he had after other killings, went upstairs and laid down, while his henchmen buried the body, Flemmi testified

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Hank Brennan, Flemmi said he had known Hussey since she was very small and that she called him “Daddy.”

“I took care of her and her mother,” Flemmi said. “I was a provider.”

He denied a suggestion by Brennan that he, not Bulger, was the one who strangled her.

“Is it hard for you to accept the fact that you strangled a girl who sat on your lap as a little girl?” Brennan asked.

“I didn’t strangle her,” said Flemmi.

But Flemmi did testify that he had had oral sex twice with Hussey, saying “it was a moment of weakness.”

Flemmi also described how Bulger killed Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, a jewel thief and safecracker who had been involved in the 1980 Depositors Trust robbery in Medford. Bulger allegedly shot him in the head walking down the stairs, and his body was also buried in the basement of the house.

Bulger also allegedly killed John McIntyre, a Quincy fisherman who had been informing on them in drug dealing and a gunrunning case. Flemmi said Bulger lured him to the home and started strangling him with a rope. The rope was too thick, however.

Bulger asked, “Do you want one in the head?”

“Yes, please,” McIntyre responded, according to Flemmi. Bulger shot him, Flemmi said.

Flemmi also described how, when the house where the three murders were committed was being sold, he, Bulger, and Kevin Weeks, another Bulger henchman, drove the badly decomposed bodies to a site near Florian Hall in Dorchester to rebury them.

“Who buried them?” asked federal prosecutor Fred Wyshakd.

“Kevin and I,” said Flemmi.

“What did Bulger do?” said Wyshak.

“Nothing,” said Flemmi.

Earlier in today’s proceedings, the normal hush of the courtroom was broken by an outburst from Steve Davis, brother of Debra Davis.

When Flemmi suggested on the witness stand that Steve Davis was a drug-addicted informant, Davis, who has long pushed for justice in his sister’s killing, stood up and shouted, “You’re a [expletive] liar!”

Flemmi apologized, saying he had mixed up Steve Davis with his brother, Mickey.

Looking somewhat shaken, he said, “I apologize for that remark.”

Bulger’s case has inspired books, movies, and TV shows. The tale has fascinated people because of his 16-year run from a worldwide manhunt, the revelations of FBI corruption, and the parallel rise of his brother William to become one of the most powerful politicians in the state.

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