Jan. 28, 2004

Chapter closes on Flemmi

Murder victim’s son confronts killer as sentence is imposed

Tim Connors, whose father was killed by Stephen Flemmi in 1975, leaving US District Court yesterday after he delivered an emotional victim-impact statement. Flemmi, 69, was sentenced to life in prison.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff Photo
Tim Connors, whose father was killed by Stephen Flemmi in 1975, leaving US District Court yesterday after he delivered an emotional victim-impact statement. Flemmi, 69, was sentenced to life in prison.

Tim Connors was only a baby when his father, Eddie, was snatched from him by gangsters Stephen Flemmi and James "Whitey" Bulger, gunned down on June 12, 1975, as he stood defenseless inside a Dorchester telephone booth, prosecutors say.

File Photo
Stephen J. Flemmi, shown in a 1965 photo, pleaded guilty to 10 murders in a plea deal reached in October.

Yesterday, as the now-muscular 29-year-old faced Flemmi in federal court for the first time, he was barely able to control his rage and his tears, standing a few feet from his father's killer, a frail, aging criminal who was finally going to be punished for murdering Connors and nine others.

"My life was supposed to be just beginning, but because of you . . ." said Tim Connors, pausing to regain his composure. "I have never, and will never, know what it is like to grow up with a father . . . not to know what his voice sounds like . . .."


As Connors struggled with his emotions, Dan Doherty, the US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who worked to bring Flemmi to justice, quietly appeared at Connors's side, patting his back and whispering encouragement.

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"I know you don't understand my pain and rage, because you were able to enjoy your life, go on vacation, have girlfriends," yelled Connors, as Flemmi sat downcast between his two lawyers, "Sir, look at me when I talk to you. It's the least you can do!"

Flemmi, 69, his voice hushed, replied, "I understand your pain, and I'm sorry."

But Connors wasn't swayed by the apology or the life sentence that Flemmi received yesterday from US District Judge Richard G. Stearns for killing 10 people, including Flemmi's girlfriend, dumping their bodies in unmarked graves and running drug and gambling rings for decades, all while working as an FBI informant.

What is life in prison for a man who's ailing and may not have many years left, Connors asked Flemmi. "Your troubles are over today, and mine will go on until the day I die."


According to Flemmi, Eddie Connors, who owned Bulldogs tavern in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, was killed because Bulger and Flemmi feared he might implicate them in another gangland murder.

Flemmi pleaded guilty in October to 10 murders, racketeering, loansharking, gambling, and drug trafficking and agreed to cooperate with investigators. In exchange, federal prosecutors recommended a life sentence. As part of the deal, state prosecutors in Florida and Oklahoma agreed not to seek the death penalty for Flemmi, who faces murder charges in those states.

Flemmi's were vicious murders, stretching from 1974 to 1985 and causing "excruciating torment" to the victims' families, Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak told Stearns. The modus operandi of the gang was to hide their victims' bodies so they wouldn't be discovered. In some instances, Flemmi admitted that he pulled the teeth from his victims to make them harder to identify.

Most of the families were too emotional to offer public statements yesterday, but several filed written statements detailing their grief and loss.

Flemmi and Bulger, who has been a fugitive for nine years, got away with murder for years, but their criminal organization began to crumble in January 1995 when they were indicted on federal racketeering charges.


In an ill-fated defense strategy, Flemmi disclosed that he and Bulger were longtime FBI informants and asserted that they had been authorized to commit crimes in exchange for providing information about their rivals in the Mafia. Federal court hearings throughout 1998 exposed the gangsters' corrupt relationships with some agents.

An ongoing investigation led to the conviction of several former law enforcement officials, including Flemmi's former handler, retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., who is serving 10 years in prison for racketeering and for helping Bulger evade capture by warning him to flee before his indictment nine years ago.

Three unmarked graves, containing the remains of six of Bulger and Flemmi's alleged victims, were discovered by the Massachusetts State Police and the DEA between January and October 2000, after former associates of Bulger and Flemmi began cooperating with authorities. That fall, a sweeping indictment was handed up, charging Bulger with 19 murders and Flemmi with 10.

Among Flemmi's victims were his 26-year-old girlfriend, Debra Davis, whom he lured to his mother's South Boston home, where she was strangled, allegedly by Bulger, in September 1981. Flemmi admitted he had her killed because she planned to leave him for another man and knew too much about his criminal activities, including the fact that he was an FBI informant.

"To think that she died frightened and in pain at the hands of a man who supposedly loved her, fills me with rage," Davis's mother, Olga Davis, wrote to the court in a statement that was read by the family's lawyer, Susan Sivacek.

She said the family agonized for years over Debra Davis's fate until her remains were unearthed from a shallow grave along the banks of the Neponset River in Quincy in October 2000.

Before he killed Deborah Hussey, the 26-year-old daughter of another longtime girlfriend, Marion Hussey, Flemmi took her shopping. When they returned to a South Boston home, Flemmi strangled her, allegedly aided by Bulger. Flemmi told investigators that he was angry because Marion Hussey had thrown him out of their Milton home after learning he had molested Deborah Hussey when she was a teenager.

Flemmi said that he and Bulger killed Richard Castucci, a Revere nightclub owner shot to death in December 1976, because Castucci had told the FBI the whereabouts of two fugitive members of their Winter Hill Gang. John Callahan was killed in Miami in August 1982 because he could have implicated Bulger and Flemmi in the murder of Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler. Wheeler had been killed the year before because he suspected the Winter Hill Gang of skimming money from his World Jai Alai operation.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff Photo
Christopher McIntyre talked to reporters yesterday after the sentencing of Stephen J. Flemmi, about the murder of his brother, John, who was killed in November 1984.

Prosecutors say Flemmi's other victims were: James Sousa, who was killed in October 1974 because Flemmi and other members of the Winter Hill Gang feared he would implicate them in a botched attempt to rip off a local dentist that ended with the kidnapping of the dentist's son; Thomas King, a longtime rival of Bulger's who vanished in November 1975 and was found buried in Quincy four years ago; Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, a Boston burglar and safecracker, who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in August 1983 so Bulger and Flemmi could steal his money; and John McIntyre, who was killed in November 1984 after Bulger and Flemmi were warned by "federal law enforcement contacts" that he was cooperating in a probe of an ill-fated attempt by Bulger's crew to ship guns to the Irish Republican Army.

Alluding to the rift that the FBI's protection of Bulger and Flemmi caused, Wyshak told the judge that Flemmi "has left a scar upon this city that has pitted law enforcement agencies who should have been working together against each other."

After Flemmi was led away in handcuffs by federal deputy marshals, Doherty said he felt relief, adding that "it's the end of a chapter."