Death of Whitey Bulger foe Stephen Rakes a homicide, unrelated to Bulger case, prosecutor says

WOBURN — Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said today that Stephen “Stippo” Rakes was allegedly murdered by a Sudbury man who poisoned his iced coffee at McDonald’s after several business deals went awry, leaving the man heavily in debt to Rakes.

In this June 6, 2013 photo, Stephen Rakes is shown outside the liquor store he once owned in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston. Authorities Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 charged William Camuti, of Sudbury, Mass., with attempted murder for allegedly poisoning Rakes. His body was found July 18, 2013, in woods on the side of a street Lincoln, Mass. Rakes had hoped to testify in the racketeering trial of reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger. Prosecutors said Rakes and his former wife were forced to sell Bulger their liquor store in 1984 to use as a headquarters for his gang and as a source of legitimate income. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Stephen Rakes was allegedly killed by a man who owed him money. The slaying was not related to the James “Whitey” Bulger case. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
AP

William Camuti, 69, was arrested in Boston today and arraigned this afternoon in Concord District Court on attempted murder and other charges. Judge J. Elizabeth Cremens ordered him held without bail and slated a dangerousness hearing for Tuesday.

Ryan said the charge would be upgraded to murder when the state medical examiner completes an autopsy. Camuti also faces charges of misleading police and unlawful disposal of human remains.

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“The investigation showed us that Mr. Rakes and the defendant have known each other for many years and had been involved in a number of business transactions,” Ryan said. “We developed evidence showing Mr. Camuti owed Mr. Rakes a significant amount of money.”

At a press conference this afternoon, Ryan said officials believe Camuti “acted alone’’ and that there was no connection to the James “Whitey” Bulger case. Rakes was an alleged victim of the notorious gangster nearly three decades ago. Rakes told the Globe that Bulger and his allies, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi and Kevin Weeks, extorted a South Boston liquor store from him at gunpoint in 1984 while Rakes’s two young daughters were in the same room.

Rakes had wanted to testify at Bulger’s high-profile trial, which is nearing its end in US District Court in Boston, but he had been notified by prosecutors that he wouldn’t be called to the witness stand.

Ryan said today that Camuti contacted Rakes by telephone on July 16 and asked to meet so they could discuss a business deal Camuti had underway in Wilmington — a deal that Ryan said did not, in fact, exist.

“Mr. Rakes was lured to this meeting on the promise of a real estate deal in which he could invest to make a significant amount of money,’’ Ryan said. “However, that deal, did not, in fact, exist.”

Ryan said the two men met around 1:45 p.m. at a McDonald’s restaurant in Waltham. At some point, Camuti purchased two cups of iced coffee.

“We allege that the defendant, Mr. Camuti, laced one of those iced coffees with two teaspoons of potassium cyanide,” Ryan said.

She said that after Rakes, 59, ingested the fatal dose of poison, Camuti drove around for several hours with Rakes in a vehicle before eventually dropping Rakes’s body off in a wooded area in Lincoln, where it was found July 17 without keys, a wallet, or cellphone.

Many of Rakes’s friends and relatives had questioned the circumstances of his death, given that he was physically fit and without a wallet when found. His body was found the day after US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office informed him that he would not be called as a witness against Bulger in his US District Court trial.

A South Boston native and a retired MBTA worker, Rakes was living in Quincy at the time of his death.

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