Flemmi grilled on killing of girlfriend

Denies jealousy was his motive

By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / July 14, 2009
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The gangster Stephen “The Rifleman’’ Flemmi insisted yesterday that he helped arrange the murder of his girlfriend because she knew about the corrupt relationship he and his longtime partner, James “Whitey’’ Bulger, had with a rogue FBI agent, not because she had met another man.

Under cross-examination by a Justice Department lawyer in Flemmi’s third and final day on the witness stand in US District Court in Boston, the convicted mobster discounted a suggestion that he set up the Sept. 17, 1981, murder of Debra Davis, 26, because she had recently fallen in love with a businessman during a trip to Mexico.

“She could have left anytime she wanted,’’ he testified in response to a question from Lawrence Eiser, the Justice Department lawyer.

“Why did you kill her?’’ Eiser asked.

“I explained to you, Bulger killed her,’’ Flemmi said, in the bristling tone he has often exhibited on the stand. “He was concerned. She was aware of my relationship with [FBI agent John] Connolly.’’

Flemmi, 75, testified Friday that he lured Davis to a vacant house in South Boston and watched silently as Bulger emerged from a back room and strangled her. After the murder, he testified, he yanked out “a couple’’ of her teeth, so it would be difficult to identify her remains. He said they wrapped her body in plastic, stuffed it into the trunk of a car, and buried it along the Neponset River in Quincy.

He said yesterday that Bulger was the “driving force’’ behind the murder and regrets his role.

The families of Davis and two other murder victims, Deborah Hussey, who was killed in 1985 at age 26, and Louis Litif, who was killed in 1980 at age of 45, have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the federal government.

They contend that the FBI is responsible for the slayings because it allegedly created a dangerous condition by failing to control Bulger and Flemmi, both of whom were FBI informants. The families say the bureau protected Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution while knowing they were vicious killers.

The informants reported to John J. Connolly Jr., a corrupt agent who was sentenced to 40 years in prison in January for leaking information to Bulger and Flemmi that led to the killing of a Boston businessman in Florida in 1982. Connolly was also convicted in 2002 of federal racketeering and of warning Bulger to flee to avoid prosecution.

Bulger, 79, is wanted in 19 killings and has been a fugitive since 1995.

The Justice Department saidit had no obligation to control the gangsters and did not know they planned to kill the victims.

Eiser’s line of questioning seemed designed to persuade US District Judge William G. Young, presiding over the nonjury trial, that the three murders stemmed from the gangsters’ own personal activities and had nothing to do with the government.

Flemmi testified Bulger also strangled Hussey, the daughter of his one-time girlfriend Marion Hussey. That murder, he said, came months after Hussey told her mother that Flemmi had had a sexual relationship with her when she was 16 or 17.

Flemmi, serving a life sentence for 10 murders in federal prison, testified Bulger killed her, and Flemmi helped arrange it, because she had drug and alcohol problems, was constantly dropping their names when she got in trouble, and “was an embarrassment to both of us.’’

The civil trial is scheduled to resume Monday, and one of the witnesses for the plaintiffs is expected to be Davis’s sister, Eileen Davis of Mansfield.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at