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For relatives of alleged Bulger victims, a bittersweet day

Patricia Donahue, with sons Tom (left) and Michael, left the Moakley Courthouse after the opening day of arguments in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Patricia Donahue, with sons Tom (left) and Michael, left the Moakley Courthouse after the opening day of arguments in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.

It was a bittersweet day for the relatives of James “Whitey” Bulger’s alleged victims, as the notorious gangster’s trial began in earnest at the federal courthouse in Boston but the void remained in their lives from the loved ones they lost.

Steve Davis, whose 26-year-old sister Debra was allegedly killed by Bulger, said after opening statements in the case, “There was so much being said. I was just trying to take in a lot of what was being said.”

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Tapping on his chest with his palm, he said that if he could speak to Bulger, he would unleash a “bomb” of emotion. “It will come right from my heart, right here. ... I have a lot to say,” he said.

Bulger, 83, faces a federal racketeering indictment that alleges he participated in 19 murders during a decades-long reign of terror in Boston’s underworld. His trial is expected to last into September.

“I’m having anxiety attacks here,” said Patricia Donahue, who was left to raise three sons alone after her husband, Michael, an innocent bystander, was gunned down in 1982. “This has been hanging over our heads for years.”

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Donahue’s son, Tommy, said, “There’s nothing satisfying for me or my family, not yet” because mystery still shrouds the identify of the masked man who joined Bulger in the car during the slaying on Northern Avenue, when Michael Donahue had unwittingly offered to give Brian Halloran, Bulger’s alleged target, a ride home from a bar.

Asked about the defense tactic of questioning the credibility of former Bulger associates like hit man John Martorano, Donahue said, “In order to bring a rat down, obviously, you’ve got to grab his rat friends.”

Donahue said Bulger seemed unfazed during the proceedings. “Honestly, if you looked at him, it looked like he was sleeping towards the end of it, so he didn’t really seem to be into it,” he said.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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