CONCORD — The man accused of killing Stephen “Stippo” Rakes by poisoning his iced coffee admitted to the crime in the hospital after he attempted suicide, the lead investigator said in court Tuesday.
But William Camuti, who prosecutors say was heavily in debt to Rakes, an extortion victim of James “Whitey” Bulger who was a longtime friend and associate, offered no motive.
“He couldn’t explain,” said Michael Banks, a State Police trooper assigned to the Middlesex district attorney’s office. “He said he really didn’t know why he was doing this.”
A judge ordered that Camuti, 69, should remain held without bail.
Prosecutors allege that on July 16, Camuti asked to meet Rakes at a McDonald’s in Waltham to discuss a business opportunity. When they met in his car, Camuti gave Rakes, 59, coffee laced with a fatal dose of potassium cyanide, prosecutors say.
He then dumped Rakes’s body in a wooded area in Lincoln, where it was discovered the next day by a jogger.
“Mr. Camuti placed potassium cyanide in a cup of coffee,” prosecutor Adrienne Lynch told the court, “and waited for him to die.”
Rakes was hoping to testify at Bulger’s trial, which was ongoing when his body was found, sparking speculation that his death was somehow connected to the case.
Rakes had said that Bulger and his associates extorted a South Boston liquor store from him at gunpoint in 1984 while Rakes’s two young daughters were in the room.
Rakes had waited for years for the chance to testify against Bulger, but federal prosecutors dropped him from their witness list shortly before he was killed.
Prosecutors say that Camuti acted alone and that there was no connection to the high-profile trial.
The former owner of the Loan Depot, Camuti was a familiar presence on television and on radio as a pitchman for his company in the 1990s. In 1993, a federal jury in Boston convicted him of 11 counts of mail fraud, the Globe reported at the time.
In court Tuesday, Trooper Banks outlined a detailed case against Camuti, including GPS records that showed his vehicle near the woods where Rakes’s body was found. The records showed that Camuti had earlier stopped in several other parking lots near woods along Route 2A, Banks said.
In a search of Camuti’s computer, investigators found two e-mails indicating he had inquired about the price of potassium cyanide, Banks said.
Camuti’s lawyer, Stanley Norkunas, said that his client’s admission followed an apparent “psychiatric episode” in which he tried to take his own life.
“They obviously placed a great deal of stress on him,” he said, referring to investigators.
According to Banks, Camuti agreed to be interviewed, but provided inconsistent accounts of his meeting with Rakes. After learning from Rakes’s children that he regularly taped his conversations with Camuti, authorities found a recording that contradicted Camuti’s story to the police, Banks said.
It showed that Camuti had initiated the meeting in Waltham, and promised Rakes that he would receive a check soon, according to Banks.
Camuti initially told police he left Rakes at the fast-food restaurant, but later said they had driven to a movie theater in Woburn, where Rakes went to a second meeting.
“When presented with certain facts, his story evolved,” Banks said.
As police focused on Camuti, they found him bleeding in his Sudbury apartment on July 20, having cut his wrists.
When interviewed in the hospital, Camuti told police he had put the poison into a film container, then poured some into Rakes’s coffee, Banks said.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3.Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com.