Images of skulls pierced with bullet holes and leg bones poking up through soil were shown to jurors Wednesday as a forensic anthropologist described the excavation of graves of four of James “Whitey” Bulger’s alleged victims.
Testifying at Bulger’s racketeering trial in US District Court in Boston, Ann Marie Mires said she oversaw the recovery of skeletal remains from two Dorchester sites in 2000, while working for the state medical examiner’s office.
“This is a picture of Deborah’s skull,” Mires told jurors as remains of Deborah Hussey, who was slain in 1985, were displayed on screens in the courtroom.
Jurors, who were shown video of the excavation and photographs, stared solemnly at a haunting image of Hussey’s skeleton on top of a gurney.
Mires also showed jurors a gold claddagh ring, faded shoes, and dentures pulled from a grave at Tenean Beach containing remains of Paul J. McGonagle, who had been buried there for 26 years.
Bulger, 83, who is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment with participating in the killings of 19 people, barely glanced at Mires as he took notes while studying the images.
Mires took the stand a day after Bulger’s former protégé Kevin J. Weeks testified that he watched Bulger kill Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, John McIntyre, and Hussey in a South Boston house on three separate occasions in the 1980s. He said Bulger’s partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, pulled teeth from the victims to hamper efforts to identify them before Flemmi and Weeks buried them in the dirt basement at 799 East Third St. When the house was about to be sold, Weeks said he, Bulger, and Flemmi exhumed the bodies and buried them on Halloween night 1985 across from Florian Hall in Dorchester.
A month after his arrest in late 1999, Weeks began cooperating with authorities and led them to the grave. Mires told jurors that she was called to the site on a snowy, bitter cold Jan. 13, 2000, and supervised the recovery effort as investigators dug through the night, using a backhoe, then a Bobcat loader, and sifting with rakes once they found bones.
Mires testified that the remains — later identified as those of Barrett, Hussey, and McIntyre — were stacked on top of each other and that it was clear that they had been moved there from another spot. She said traces of lime were found, supporting Weeks’s claim that they used lime to hasten decomposition.
As Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak approached Mires with a skull in his hand, several spectators gasped. He quickly announced that it was plastic, used for teaching, and placed it in front of Mires.
As a photo of Barrett’s skull was displayed, Mires, who teaches at Anna Maria College in Paxton, used the model to demonstrate where a “zone of destruction” indicated he had been shot in the back of the head. Similar damage to McIntyre’s skull indicated he had been shot in the temple, said Mires, holding up bullet fragments she had pulled from his skull. Her testimony bolstered Weeks’s testimony that the two men had been shot in the head.
Mires said there was damage to the jaw area of all three victims, indicating that some of their teeth were forcibly removed shortly after their deaths.
Weeks testified that Hussey, the daughter of Flemmi’s longtime girlfriend, was strangled by Bulger, who wrapped himself around her as he choked her from behind. He said that Flemmi thought Hussey was still alive, so he used a stick and a rope to strangle her more.
Mires said she could not determine Hussey’s cause of death from her remains, which is not unusual when someone is strangled, and that she could only say her death was caused by “homicidal violence.”
In September 2000, Mires said she was called to Tenean Beach after investigators were told a victim was buried there and “covered by rocks.”
“We’re battling the elements, high tide is pretty much full on, and we’re getting [water] seepage,” said Mires, recounting that McGonagle was buried in an area that was not covered by high tide, but water bubbled up from the ground and the salt had degraded his remains.
Yet, after a short time of digging, investigators found remnants of clothing, shoes, a ring, and the remains of McGonagle.
His son, Paul McGonagle Jr., testified earlier that he was 14 when his father vanished in November 1974.
On Tuesday, Weeks told jurors that he did not witness McGonagle’s slaying, but that Bulger admitted he was involved and when they drove by Tenean Beach at high tide, he used to joke, “Drink up Paulie.”
Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.