They knew him as Charlie Gasko, the reclusive husband of Carol Gasko who rarely ventured far from his rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, Calif.
In June 2011, they were stunned to learn that he was actually James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives, charged with terrorizing his native Boston over a decades-long career as one of the city’s most feared organized crime figures.
And on Monday, former neighbors of Bulger in California said they were relieved to hear that the elderly gangster probably would die in prison following his conviction in federal court in Boston.
“It’s really over, huh?” said Barbara Gluck, who lived on the same floor as the couple. “Whitey is going to spend the rest of his life in jail? Well, that’s good.”
People have traveled from all over the country to the Princess Eugenia Apartments, where Bulger lived with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, to snap photos of the building. Reporters have also come by, seeking comment from neighbors of the former fugitive.
But those who knew Bulger and Greig as the Gaskos said Monday that they have tried to put the memory of the couple behind them. Greig was convicted separately of harboring Bulger during his 16 years on the lam and is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
Neighbors don’t even talk about the Gaskos, said the Rev. Janus Goodwin, 64, who also lived on the same floor as the couple.
“It depresses me,” Goodwin said. “I wish I had recognized sooner what a vicious criminal he was and had spoken out.”
A team that included the fugitive squad of the FBI field office in Los Angeles captured Bulger on June 22, 2011, and Special Agent Scott Garriola testified during the trial that the gangster told arresting authorities, “You know who I am; I’m Whitey Bulger.”
A spokeswoman for the field office declined to comment on Monday, saying in an e-mail that agents “would have to allow the verdict to speak for itself” before sentencing.
Joshua Bond, a manager of the Princess Eugenia complex who assisted the FBI in Bulger’s capture, said Monday when reached by phone that he was not immediately able to comment.
Bond, at Garriola’s request at the time of the arrest, called Bulger and told him that someone had broken into his storage locker, luring the crime boss out of his apartment and eventually into custody.
Goodwin said Monday that she learned of the verdict from a local reporter calling for an interview, and said she feels sorrow for the relatives of Bulger’s victims. She added that she never perceived the couple as living happily in Santa Monica.
Rather, she said, they seemed trapped, always staying inside and keeping their apartment dark.
“He was in jail while he was in here. And he’s still in jail, and he should stay in jail,” Goodwin said. “I’ll say it again and again and again. They did not have anything. They didn’t go anywhere.”
Gluck, a former photojournalist who has lived in the building for 17 years, saw it differently. She noted Bulger lived two blocks from the beach and two blocks from Third Street Promenade, a sunny stretch of designer boutiques and upscale restaurants where Hollywood celebrities are often spotted.
“The thing I think is the most surprising to me, the most amazing, was the fact that he was able to live 16 years in this beautiful neighborhood that we live,” she said. “Where did he get that good karma from?”
Asked whether she was glad Bulger’s good luck had run out, Gluck said she felt indifferent.
“I’m just over it,” she said. “It’s almost irrelevant to our lives right now. You don’t want to go backward. You want to go forward.”
Two young men now live in the two-bedroom apartment that Greig and Bulger shared. They moved in a few weeks after the couple was arrested, and Gluck recalled asking them whether they knew who lived there previously.
“They said, ‘Yeah, we cleaned it out really well,’ ” she said.