In an online obituary, Arthur L. “Butchie” Doe Jr., who died this month at age 59, is described as a union longshoreman and avid sports fan who lived in Wakefield for the past 17 years “and enjoyed visiting the race track with his good friend Tommy Denehy.”
But law enforcement officials from the 1980s and 1990s knew Doe as one of Charlestown’s most notorious criminals, with a record that included convictions for bank robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and being a felon in possession of a gun.
“Bad things would happen when he was around,” said Joe Desmond, a retired US Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who helped convict Doe and his brother, Ronnie, of selling heroin in Charlestown in 1997. “He or someone else would get shot.”
Doe’s death recalled another era in Charlestown, when the neighborhood, now a sought-after destination for young professionals, was a more insular and violent place, dubbed by a Boston police detective as “probably the bank robbery capital of the world.”
Most of the violence Doe was suspected of causing — including three homicides — never resulted in criminal charges. Officials said the investigations, along with many others at the time, were stymied by residents who obeyed an unwritten rule that forbade cooperation with police.
“His legacy speaks to the citizens of Charlestown who looked the other way and allowed this to flourish with their own code of silence,” Desmond said.
Law enforcement officials said they were constantly frustrated in their attempts to bring more serious charges against Doe, who was linked to shootings and murder plots. As one investigator told the Globe in 1989, “No one will testify against Butchie. The guy is genuinely feared.”
A product of Charlestown’s tough housing projects, Doe started robbing banks when he was a teenager, police said. By the time he was 30, he had survived four attempts on his life, including a stabbing when he was 14 and gunshots to his chest, arm, and head.
The most vicious attack was in 1989, when masked men burst into the Charlestown apartment of 28-year-old Maurine Szymielewicz, who was believed to be Doe’s girlfriend, and shot her in the stomach, killing her.
Doe, who was with Szymielewicz and believed to be the intended target, survived when a bullet hit his forehead, grazing his skull, and another struck his neck, but missed an artery, police said. “A couple of inches either way, and he’s gone,” said one detective at the time.
Also shot in the attack was Doe’s friend, Joseph “JoJo” Burhoe, a convicted bank robber. Burhoe was one of two Teamsters convicted in 2014 of using the threat of pickets to pressure businesses into hiring union workers. The conviction was reversed by a federal appeals court last year.
Doe refused to help detectives solve the slaying, despite their suspicion that he knew who was responsible.
“Butchie wouldn’t tell us if our coats were on fire,” one investigator told the Globe in May 1989.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Doe was frequently in prison, serving sentences for being a felon in receipt of a firearm and illegal gun possession.
In 1996, while awaiting trial on charges of selling heroin, Doe and three other inmates cut through a chain-link fence in an outdoor exercise yard at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.
The four climbed to a roof, jumped over razor-wire fencing, and ran along nearby railroad tracks before guards noticed they were gone. Doe was apprehended in Attleboro several hours later. The three others were also captured.
A year later, when he was convicted of selling heroin, Doe alluded to the federal wiretap in the case, muttering to prosecutors as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, “You guys did a beautiful job setting me up.” He was sentenced to 12 years behind bars.
In 2007, after he was released from prison and on probation, Doe, who was 46 and living in Wakefield, was arrested again, this time for kicking his girlfriend in the face while she lay on a South Boston street after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Doe pleaded guilty to the beating, and was sentenced to two years in state prison, according to the Boston Herald.
While Doe helped give Charlestown a reputation for violence in the 1980s, the notion that the neighborhood was ever the “bank robbery capital of the world” —
“I always felt that was overblown,” said Jack Kelly, a public health consultant from Charlestown, who ran for City Council in 2013. “Yeah, there was an element of that. But I think, for the most part, people were hard-working, and that was it.”
Doe died June 7 after a battle with cancer, according to Carr Funeral Services in Charlestown, which posted an online obituary. A father of two, he was married for the last 13 years to Maryanne Rock, according to the obituary.Levenson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.