Crime

Authorities make arrest in 1984 killing linked to Whitey Bulger

Michael Lewis, 61, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection with the 1984 fatal shooting of Brian Watson.


BOSTON (AP) — A suspect in the 1984 killing of a South Boston man that authorities say was linked to mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s control of the drug trade in the neighborhood is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

Michael Lewis, 61, faces a first-degree murder charge in Suffolk Superior Court in connection with the fatal shooting of Brian Watson, according to a statement from the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

The defense attorney for Lewis has yet to be determined, the district attorney’s office said.

Watson, 23, was last seen alive on July 16 or 17, 1984, and was reported missing by his mother on July 28 that year, authorities said. His body was found hidden among the trees and bushes by a motorist who had pulled over on Interstate 93 in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Sept. 16, 1984.

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According to the prosecution’s account of events, the then 24-year-old Lewis and an another man involved in the drug trade drove around the neighborhood in July 1984 looking for a drug dealer they thought had told Bulger that Lewis’ associate was selling angel dust in South Boston.

As a result, Bulger had demanded a $5,000 payment plus another $1,000 per week from the man, whose name was not disclosed by prosecutors. Bulger was known to shake down drug dealers doing business in South Boston.

The pair encountered Watson, who agreed to help them find the other dealer and got in their car, prosecutors said.

“While the three men drove around South Boston, Lewis suddenly turned, shot and killed Watson,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Authorities do not allege that Lewis or Watson were tied directly to Bulger, who was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia in 2018. He was 89. Bulger, who spent 16 years as a fugitive, was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 killings.

Federal authorities developed a “significant break” in Watson’s case in 2009, but not enough to secure an indictment, the district attorney said. But new information was developed within the past year that led to Lewis’ indictment on Friday.

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Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden thanked New Hampshire law enforcement agencies and federal authorities for their efforts in securing an indictment.

“This was a true team effort to help indict and charge a homicide that hearkens back to a very different Boston,” he said. “Brian Watson was a young father cut down seemingly on a whim. A remarkably cold-blooded whim. Mr. Watson’s family has endured many, many years of loss and heartache. At the very least, they now have some answers.”

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