Crime

Inmates at prison where ‘Whitey’ Bulger died allegedly knew in advance he was coming

The notorious Boston gangster was allegedly beaten to death in a West Virginia prison in 2018.

Marshals Service shows James "Whitey" Bulger. AP Photo/U.S. Marshals Service, File

Although infamous Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in prison in 2018, revelations about his death continue to surface. The latest development came this week, as prosecutors laid out a timeline of the circumstances surrounding Bulger’s death in a hearing regarding the men who were charged in connection with his murder. 

Before Bulger was transferred to the federal prison in West Virginia where he was killed, inmates already knew the mob boss was coming, a prosecutor said in court Monday. A few allegedly put together a plot to kill him, The Boston Globe reported. 

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Sean McKinnon, who was then a prisoner at US Penitentiary Hazelton, told his mother in a phone call on Oct. 29, 2018, that Bulger was on his way. Mckinnon said that the prison was “getting ready to get another higher profile person here tonight,” according to the Globe. “You should know the name … Whitey Bulger,” he continued. 

McKinnon was one of three men charged in Bulger’s killing, along with Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero. McKinnon was free and living in Florida when he was arrested. Geas and DeCologero were already incarcerated. 

Bulger, 89-years-old at the time, was transferred from a protective unit in a Florida prison to Hazelton. The West Virginia prison is notoriously violent, and Bulger was placed in general population. By then, the gangster was known to be a longtime FBI informant. 

He was beaten to death less than 12 hours after arriving at Hazelton, Assistant US Attorney Hannah Nowalk told a magistrate judge Monday, according to the Globe. Nowalk asked that McKinnon be held until his trial. The judge agreed, and said that McKinnon is a flight risk and a potential danger to the wider community.

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Geas was a mafia hitman from Springfield, currently serving a life sentence for two murders. DeCologero was a member of an organized crime group based out of the North Shore, the Globe reported. He is currently at a Virginia penitentiary. 

Geas and DeCologero were charged with beating Bulger to death. McKinnon allegedly acted as a lookout. All three were charged with conspiracy to kill the gangster. McKinnon is charged with making false statements to a federal agent.

During Monday’s hearing, Nowalk provided a timeline of the events surrounding Bulger’s death:

  • 8:30 p.m. Bulger arrives at Hazelton and is brought to cell 132 in his wheelchair. 
  • 5 a.m. Geas, McKinnon, and DeCologero are seen meeting in cell 125. Geas and McKinnon shared the cell. The three leave together.
  • 6:06 a.m. Geas and DeCologero are seen entering Bulger’s cell. They stay for seven minutes. Security footage did not capture what happened inside the cell. McKinnon sits “at a table with a view of cell 132 and the officers’ station, so he was able to see both Whitey Bulger’s cell and the officers’ station to be on lookout,” Nowalk said, according to the Globe
  • 6:13 a.m. Geas and DeCologero leave Bulger’s cell. McKinnon joins them, and the three head back to cell 125. 
  • 8:07 a.m. Bulger is found dead in his bed by prison guards.

The government has received information from three prison informants, NBC News reported. One of them told authorities that DeCologero told him that Bulger was a “snitch.”

“[DeCologero]  said as soon as they saw Bulger come into the unit, they planned to kill him,” Nowalk said, according to NBC News. “And then Paulie told this inmate witness that Sean McKinnon was the lookout.”

DeCologero allegedly told another prisoner that he and Geas used a belt with a lock attached to it to kill Bulger. 

A witness testified before a grand jury that he asked McKinnon and DeCologero if they were the people who killed Bulger. They said that they were, according to the Globe

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Bulger’s lawyer has said that the charges against Geas, DeCologero, and McKinnon are “inconsequential” and that the Bulger family believes the Bureau of Prisons is responsible for his death.

Bulger’s family sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 30 employees of the prison system over his death, according to the Associated Press. They alleged that it appeared Bulger was “deliberately sent to his death.” A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in January.

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