Brother of slain woman urges state to try Bulger

Steve Davis broke down while speaking to the media after the verdict was read against James “Whitey” Bulger in August.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/file
Steve Davis broke down while speaking to the media after the verdict was read against James “Whitey” Bulger in August.

The brother of a woman who was allegedly strangled by James “Whitey” Bulger met with Suffolk County prosecutors Thursday about the possibility of bringing a state murder charge against the notorious gangster since a federal jury was unable to reach a verdict on the slaying.

“I want them to bring him to trial for conspiracy to murder,” said Steve Davis, who is frustrated that the federal jury that found Bulger guilty in August of participating in 11 murders made no finding on whether he was involved in the 1981 slaying of 26-year-old Debra Davis.

Even though Bulger, 84, faces life in prison when sentenced in November in federal court in Boston, Davis said, “That’s not good enough.” Davis said he met with Ed Zabin, chief of the district attorney’s homicide unit, who agreed to look at the evidence and meet with Davis again after Thanksgiving.


Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said, “As in every single homicide in Boston, we will take a serious look at the evidence.”

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Bulger still faces state murder charges in Oklahoma and Florida, and authorities have said they will wait until after he is sentenced in federal court before deciding whether to go to trial in those cases.

Bulger’s partner — Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who is cooperating with the government — testified at Bulger’s racketeering trial that Bulger insisted they kill Davis, who was Flemmi’s girlfriend, because she was ending their relationship and knew that the two gangsters were FBI informants.

Flemmi said he brought Davis to a vacant South Boston home he had purchased for his parents, then watched as Bulger strangled her. He said they buried her along the banks of the Neponset River in Quincy. Investigators unearthed her remains in fall 2000, based on a tip from another Bulger associate. Flemmi pleaded guilty to participating in the murders of Davis and nine other people with Bulger and is serving a life sentence.

Bulger’s lawyers argued at trial that Bulger had nothing to do with Debra Davis’s slaying and that Flemmi killed her. The jury found Bulger guilty of 31 of 32 counts of a sweeping racketeering indictment and found that the gangster participated in 11 of 19 murders he was accused of while running a sprawling criminal enteprise from the 1970s through the 1990s. Jurors found that prosecutors failed to prove Bulger was involved in seven murders, and the only slaying they could not reach a finding on was that of Debra Davis.


Steve Davis said he is convinced that even if Bulger did not strangle his sister, then he was present when Flemmi killed her because they were partners and the murder occurred in a house next door to the home of Bulger’s brother, William, former president of the state Senate and the University of Massachusetts.

In a motion filed late Wednesday, Bulger’s lawyers urged US District Judge Denise J. Casper to prohibit Davis and the families of the seven victims whose murders Bulger was not found guilty of from giving victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing on Nov. 13.

“They’re trying to keep me out of it, but for what purpose?” said Davis, noting that the government has pledged to turn all of the gangsters assets to the families of his victims.

“He’s going to suffer,” Davis said. “I don’t want money. I want control of his life rights, so he can’t profit.”

Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.