Patricia Donahue’s voice cracked with emotion Friday as she told jurors about her frantic search for her husband in 1982 after watching a television report about a shooting and recognizing the bullet-riddled blue Datson on the screen as the car he was driving.
“I waited and I waited for someone to call me and tell me where my husband was,” said Donahue, 68, recounting how she called every Boston hospital looking for Michael, who had gone to the South Boston waterfront to buy bait for a fishing trip with his son. But she was unable to get any information until police came to her Dorchester home hours later and said he was dead.
Seated just a few feet from her husband’s alleged killer, James “Whitey” Bulger, on trial in US District Court in Boston on charges of racketeering and murder, Donahue looked at the 83-year-old gangster. But he kept his head down, avoiding her gaze.
“I felt like saying: ‘You’re a coward. You can kill people, but you can’t even look your victims in the face,’ ” Donahue said later outside the courthouse.
Bulger — who was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., two years ago after 16 years on the run — is charged in a sweeping federal racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders, extortion, money laundering, and stockpiling guns.
Also testifying Friday was the brother of Debra Davis, who Bulger is accused of strangling. Steve Davis, 55, of Milton said that his 26-year-old sister vanished Sept. 17, 1981, after telling her mother she was having dinner with her boyfriend, Bulger’s partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi.
Davis told jurors Flemmi claimed that Debra had taken off, and he would come by Davis’s mother’s house, crying sometimes, and urged her not to call police because “he would find her, he would bring her back.”
Davis said he did not believe Flemmi and told his mother to call police.
Debra Davis’s remains were discovered in 2000 in a grave on the banks of the Neponset River in Quincy. Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence and is expected to take the stand next week, has testified that he watched Bulger strangle Davis.
“She had no enemies, except for two, and everybody who met her loved her,” Davis testified, referring to Bulger and Flemmi. “She was full of life.”
Former Bulger associate Kevin J. Weeks testified earlier that Bulger admitted being present with Flemmi when Davis was killed, but did not tell him which one of them did it.
Weeks also testified that he served as lookout when Bulger and an accomplice opened fire on Michael Donahue’s car, killing him and his passenger, Edward “Brian” Halloran. Weeks said Donahue was slain because he was giving a ride to Halloran, who was targeted after a corrupt FBI agent told Bulger and his partner that Halloran was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated them in slayings.
Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., asked Donahue, a retired hairdresser, how she felt about Weeks’s plea bargain. He served five years in prison for being an accessory to five murders.
“It made me sick,” she said.
Weeks testified that he did not know the identity of the masked accomplice, but he said it may have been Patrick Nee of South Boston.
Carney suggested it was Nee, and Patricia Donahue agreed. Nee has never been charged with the slayings, much to the dismay of the Donahues.
When he asked if there was anything she wanted jurors to know, Donahue said, “I don’t understand why all these people that were involved in my husband’s death are walking around like nothing happened. . . . I don’t think it’s fair.”
Carney asked Donahue’s sons, Michael, Shawn, and Tom, who were 13, 12, and 8 when their father was slain, to stand in the courtroom so jurors could see them.
Jurors also heard from Kevin Hayes, a ticket broker, who said he was a bookmaker in fall 1994 when he was warned that he had to pay rent, or payoffs to operate, to Bulger and Weeks.
Hayes said he was brought to a South Boston home and led to the basement, where a giant plastic tarp covered the floor and Weeks was there with a gun. Unbeknownst to Hayes, it was the same house where Weeks says Bulger previously killed three people and buried them in the cellar.
“You disrespect us; we should just kill you now,” Hayes said Weeks told him. Another man was repeating, “Don’t waste your time; just put a cap in his head.”
Hayes said Weeks demanded $100,000, but settled for a lump sum of $10,000 or $20,000. In addition, Hayes said, he made regular rent payments of $1,000 a week during the football season, and $1,000 a month during the off season.
Asked why he did not go to police, Hayes said, “I was in fear for my life.”
Earlier Friday, a convicted drug dealer, Anthony Attardo, testified that Bulger demanded he pay him $100,000 in the 1980s, but initially he resisted.
Attardo, 55, who manages The Sports Connection Bar & Grill in South Boston, said Bulger showed up at his house the day after his 17-year-old brother was shot and told him that if he did not pay, “you’re next.”
Attardo said he gave Bulger $80,000, and the gangster told him, “You can do what you want now.”
Although Attardo believed at the time that Bulger was involved in his brother’s shooting, he later learned it was someone else, Attardo’s lawyer said after the testimony.
Another former drug dealer from South Boston, Paul Moore, testified that he sold cocaine and marijuana in the 1980s and paid $3,000 to $5,000 weekly to Bulger, who he described as “the boss.”
Under questioning by Bulger’s lawyer, Moore said he never sold heroin or angel dust, and that Bulger would not have allowed it.