The U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ own inmate-locator website could have told it that the United States Penitentiary, Hazelton might not be the best to lodge 89-year-old James “Whitey” Bulger.
As the inmate locator confirms, the 1,384 prisoners already there include at least two men convicted of Mafia murders. The more recent arrival is 63-year-old Paul Weadick, who joined the onetime boss of the New England Mafia in killing a man whom Bulger had fingered as a possible FBI informant. Bulger was himself an FBI informant at the time.
The Mafia killer with a longer tenure in Hazelton is Fotios “Freddie” Geas, who killed a mob higher-up in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is reported to detest men who abuse women. Bulger murdered at least two women.
There is no parole in the federal system and the BOP website could have told anybody that neither Weadick nor Geas had anything much to lose if one of them decided to add another murder to his record. Both have the same entry:
“Release Date: LIFE”
Of course, any number of inmates might have seen Bulger’s arrival as an opportunity to demonstrate energetically their capacity for savage violence, reportedly battering his face beyond recognition Tuesday morning and attempting to gouge out his eyes. Bulger has been made an object of fascination by movies and books. But in the criminal world he is known as a duplicitous rat who specialized in giving a friendly FBI agent—now also incarcerated—information on Mafia members in exchange for being tipped off when the feds had anything on him.
When the longtime arrangement came to light, Bulger had gone on the run for 16 years. He was finally caught—reportedly after Miss Iceland happened to see him on television back home and recognized her former neighbor in Santa Monica, California. He was sentenced to life in 2013 after being convicted of a host of crimes that included 11 murders.
Among the victims was 32-year-old Michael Donahue, a completely legitimate, hard-working member of truck drivers’ union Local 25 as well as a great husband and father, the kind of man we should celebrate rather than psychopathic homicidal gangsters such as Bulger.
Donahue spent the first Saturday in May 1982 celebrating the First Communion of his youngest son, 8-year-old Tommy, at St. Mark’s Church in Dorchester. On Sunday, Tommy, along with 13-year-old Michael and 11-year-old Shawn, gathered with their dad and mom, Patricia Donahue, for a Mother’s Day brunch.
That Tuesday began remarkably like other weekdays. Tommy had no presentiment of what was to come when he said goodbye to his dad and headed off to school.
“You tell him, ‘I’ll see you later,’’” Tommy recalled to The Daily Beast.
The dad had promised Tommy to take him fishing that weekend as a reward for his First Communion and later that day went by the waterfront area to get tackle and bait. He briefly stopped into a bar, where he encountered a friend named Brian Halloran.
The dad agreed to give Halloran a ride home. They had just climbed into Donahue’s blue Datsun when the car was sprayed with bullets. Donahue was struck in the head and killed instantly. Halloran tried to scramble away but was cut down.
At home, Patricia Donahue happened to see news footage of the bullet-riddled Datsun. She called every hospital in Boston with no luck.
“I waited and I waited for someone to call me and tell me where my husband was,” she later testified.
She did not get an answer until hours later, when police arrived at her door to notify her that her husband had been killed. She called to the boys.
“She sat us down and told us,” Tommy would remember.
Tommy later said to The Daily Beast, “You got to school and you come home and he never comes home.”
On the same weekend that the dad was supposed to take Tommy fishing, the funeral was held in the same church where Tommy had made his First Communion exactly a week before.
The family only learned years later that an FBI agent had tipped Bulger that Halloran was cooperating against him. One of Bulger’s henchmen would later confirm that the completely innocent Donahue had just happened to be there.
“Wrong place at the wrong time,” the henchman had shrugged.
The following year, when he was 9, Tommy wrote a poem that he would later read aloud in court:
“Speak, father, speak to your little boy. Or I shall be lost forever.''
After Bulger was finally caught, Michael Donahue’s widow and his three now-grown sons attended every day of the trial. Patricia Donahue testified and noted that Bulger kept his head bowed, 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,’” she told reporters afterward outside the courthouse.
Back in court, she could not keep silent when she heard Bulger whine that he was the victim of a “sham trial.”
“You’re a coward!” she rightly cried out.
Bulger was also a master manipulator, as are many psychopaths, including all mob bosses. He arrived at a prison in Tucson, Arizona, to discover that he had been assigned a two-man cell in a protected prisoners’ unit that included other informants as well as child pornographers. He did not seem to mind the company, but he had always objected to being consigned to a two-man cell.
Bulger is reported to have used his charms to convince a female psychologist to recommend he get his own cell. He said to have also persuaded her to help him get permission to correspond with the girlfriend who had accompanied him on the lam. A defense attorney had carried love notes on legal pads back and forth between the couple when they were both incarcerated in the Boston area. But she was then sent to a federal prison in Waseca, Minnesota, sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to harbor a fugitive and an additional 21 months for refusing to name others who helped Bulger on the run—as the one woman in the case also proved to be the one person who refused to turn rat.
After authorities got wind of Bulger’s persuasiveness with the psychologist, he was transferred to a prison in Coleman, Florida. One fellow inmate later wrote that Bulger was in a wheelchair, pushed about the facility by a bald and toothless former member of the Aryan Brotherhood. Bulger is said to have then made the mistake of threatening one of the staff.
That apparently qualified 89-year-old Bulger for transfer to the notoriously violent and understaffed prison in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. The facility averages nearly one violent incident a day. Two inmates had been murdered there so far this year.
Bulger appears to have become 2018’s third murder victim there even before he was fully processed. He appears finally to have encountered people whom he could not manipulate, and the considerable care he had always taken of his health had kept him alive long enough to be murdered. The persons of interest in the case are said to include inmate 99759-038, Paul Weadick, who would have turned up had anybody bothered to check the BOP database.
When the news reached the Donahue family, Patricia announced that she was going to buy a bottle of Champagne. She then noted to a TV reporter that two wrongs do not make a right.
“But he had it coming,” she then allowed.
Tommy welcomed what he termed “the good news.” He is now 44. He then spoke to The Daily Beast about the father who was what every father should be.
”My father was one hell of a family man,” he said. “He always did trips... The good stuff: camping, fishing, skiing.”
Then came the day Tommy told his father he would see him later and then headed off to school and returned home and never saw his father again.
“Everything was tough from then on,” Tommy said. “Everything. A little boy needs a father in his life.”
But his father had left him and his brothers and their mother with enough love to carry them through. Tommy himself became a father, and he was determined to be a good one.
“Absolutely I am,” he said. “I grew up without a having a father. I definitely don’t want my kid to live like that.”
His daughter is now 20 and has grown up hearing about the grandfather she never met.
“She knows all about him,” Tommy said.
If you find yourself in Boston and you want to make partial amends for having participated in the glorification of psychopathic homicidal gangsters in movies and books, you can head for Cedar Grove Cemetery.
There you will find the grave where a great dad who was murdered by Whitey Bulger was then buried on the weekend he was supposed to take his youngest son fishing.
Say a prayer for Michael Donahue. He has it coming, now and always.