Stephen "Stippo" Rakes, a possible witness in the murder trial of alleged crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger, has been found dead, authorities said.
The body of Rakes, 59, had "no obvious signs of trauma" and an autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Lincoln, Mass., Police Chief Kevin Mooney announced today.
The corpse was found on Mill Street in Lincoln yesterday at 1:30 p.m., police said.
Rakes had been on the witness list and had been eager to testify that Bulger threatened his family at gunpoint and forced him to turn his liquor store into a front for the Winter Hill Gang. But earlier this week prosecutors informed Rakes he would not be called to testify, a decision that left Rakes "despondent," a source close to his family told ABC News.
The judge overseeing the Bulger case hunkered down with lawyers in a confidential conference at the South Boston courthouse today where the trial is being held. Bulger, alleged to be a notorious and murderous crime boss and federal informant, is standing trial after being found on the lam in California two years ago.
Federal prosecutors said Rakes was supposed to testify that Bulger and associate Stephen Flemmi threatened his daughter at gunpoint, and took over his South Boston liquor store for Bulger's headquarters. Bulger sidekick Kevin Weeks testified last week Rakes' contention that Bulger's gang put a gun to his daughter's head was bogus.