STOLEN INNOCENCE: Whitey Bulger Exploited Teenage Schoolgirls
Monday, April 9, 2001
Second in a four-part series
For nearly 20 years, as James J. “Whitey” Bulger's allies were buffing his image as South Boston's gentleman gangster, the middle-aged Mob boss was sating his sexual appetite with a generation of neighborhood teenage girls.
“This is a whole part of (Bulger's) history that people in Southie don't want to even talk about,” said a mental health counselor who has treated women who had sexual encounters as teenagers with Bulger.
“These girls didn't have a chance. Once you got involved with them, once they got their claws in you, you couldn't get away,” added the counselor, who spoke on condition that her name not be used.
Bulger's exploitation of young girls - most of them the underage daughters of South Boston - was confirmed during months of interviews by Herald reporters with women who came into contact with Bulger during the 1970s and 1980s.
The counselor said the number of teenage victims of Bulger and his longtime criminal cohort, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who also had a history of sex with underage girls, probably exceeded 100.
What the mental health counselor described matched information from one of Bulger's own criminal associates. Edward J. MacKenzie Jr., an enforcer and drug dealer for the Bulger gang for 10 years, estimated that Bulger himself had sex with scores of young girls.
“Like a vampire, he was sucking the blood out of every young girl in South Boston,” MacKenzie said.
Bulger “had a healthy appetite for the (Catholic) high school teeny boppers, especially when they walked around in their little school uniforms, white shirts and tall white bobby socks,” he added.
MacKenzie said Bulger was fond of repeating the title of the famed Broadway show tune, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” and often referred to his young conquests as “tasty little morsels.”
Bulger and Flemmi's targets were, for the most part, teenage girls from poor homes who had little parental guidance or protection. And many of the girls were introduced to sex and drugs simultaneously by the gangsters.
“They took the most vulnerable and they preyed on them,” the counselor said. “They made sick kids sicker. They didn't go after girls from good families, girls who were doing the right thing. They went after (girls) who had nothing at home.”
The counselor said the girls, like all girls in their early teens, were just coming into puberty and trying to answer questions about their identities, their bodies and their sexuality. Bulger and Flemmi gave them the wrong answers, she said.
“At 12, 13 years old, these girls are in their formative years,” she said. “If they have some guy showing them love and attention, they are drawn to it. They come to identify love and attention with drugs and sex.”
As they've grown older, some of those women have suffered from psychological problems, drug and alcohol addictions, years in prostitution, failed marriages, and in at least one case, life-threatening despondency, according to interviews with their friends and relatives.
One girl who became involved with Bulger when she was a 15 year-old beauty pageant winner has been in and out of drug and alcohol detoxification programs and halfway houses for years.
The woman was admitted to a Boston hospital last August after trying to commit suicide, according to hospital officials and relatives.
For two other young women, their relationships with Bulger and Flemmi cost them their lives. Deborah Hussey and Debbie Davis, both of whom became sexually involved with Flemmi in their teens, were murdered - allegedly by Flemmi and Bulger.
In reporting done over the last year, the Herald established the identities of two dozen other women who had sexual encounters with Bulger or Flemmi when they were teenagers. When contacted, most of them refused to talk about it.
However, several reluctantly acknowledged they were involved with the gangsters and knew of their sexual track records.
One of the women, who now lives out of state, confirmed Bulger's eye for teenage girls, but declined to discuss her own experiences.
“You are on the right track,” said the woman, now 42. She said the girls Bulger selected were generally about 15 years old. “Some were older, some were younger,” she said.
Like their bosses, about 20 members of Bulger and Flemmi's criminal network - MacKenzie included - regularly engaged in sex with teenage girls. And some of them secretly photographed and videotaped those sexual encounters, according to MacKenzie, the mental health counselor and other sources.
MacKenzie said he personally knows of two to three dozen such videos, which circulated among members of the Bulger gang and others for viewing.
The counselor said many of those photographs and videotapes are still circulating in South Boston, fodder for stag parties and some of Bulger's remaining cohorts. She said that fact, and a continuing fear of retalitation from Bulger loyalists, are the reasons many women identified by the Herald refused to talk.
The counselor said one woman she knew as a friend growing up was lured into the sex and drugs morass by Bulger's gang at the age of 14 and, like many others, became the subject of pornographic pictures. She said the woman - whom she described as “beautiful, absolutely beautiful” as a young girl - struggled for years with heroin addiction and shame.
When the woman was in her early 20s, the counselor said her then-boyfriend was at a friend's house where they were showing pictures of some of Bulger's young conquests. The man saw his girlfriend in the photos and quickly ended their relationship. “He told her she was trash,” the counselor said.
The woman returned to heroin and several years later died of AIDS, according to the counselor.
Bulger's ravaging of Boston's young and the damage it caused contrasts sharply with a legend promoted for decades by certain politicians, law enforcement officials and members of the media: that, on balance, Whitey was good for South Boston, that he protected families by keeping the crime rate down and drugs out of the neighborhood.
The chief architect of that view was the gangster's FBI handler, former agent John J. Connolly Jr., who sold the bureau and, to an extent, the public, on the notion that Bulger was not only a benevolent criminal who abhorred illegal drugs, but also was the government's biggest asset in its quest to destroy the Italian Mafia in New England.
Bulger also had defenders in politics - most notably his brother, longtime Senate President William M. Bulger, and veteran City Councilor James M. Kelly.
In the media, former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle often portrayed Whitey Bulger in a positive light. According to Barnicle, who referred to Bulger as “Jimmy,” the name used by Whitey's friends and relatives, the South Boston gangster had “more integrity than the FBI.”
When Bulger claimed a share of a $14 million Lottery ticket in 1991, Barnicle wrote, “Knowing him, he probably already has handed out money to St. Augustine's.”
In reality, Bulger, with Flemmi's help, ran a vicious organized crime group which committed murder, corrupted members of law enforcement, threatened and extorted ordinary citizens, preyed on underaged girls, and flooded the Boston area with cocaine and marijuana. In the process, the government has charged, Bulger and Flemmi made more than $100 million.
Last month, investigators in Tulsa, Okla., charged Bulger, Flemmi and John Martorano with the 1981 murder of business tycoon Roger Wheeler. In a revised “wanted” poster, Tulsa authorities said Bulger is “traveling with a female companion and may be found in homosexual communities/resorts or nudist facilities.”
As they rose to the top of organized crime in Boston, protected by their allies in law enforcement, Bulger and Flemmi became untouchable outlaws with money to burn - an attractive combination for some teenage girls from impoverished homes.
According to sources, Bulger and Flemmi handed out cash, expensive clothes, jewelry and free vacations to their young girlfriends.
“The street became their sanctuary and here there were guys who dressed them, gave them jewelry, sent them on cruises,” the mental health counselor said. “They were 15 years old and they were getting on planes for the Bahamas. They went after kids they knew wouldn't or couldn't say no.”
In the cases of some girls, Bulger and Flemmi also bought their parents' silence with gifts, including cash and furniture. Some families were given entire livingroom sets.
At one point in the early 1980's, Bulger even gave the family of a 13-year-old South Boston girl living in public housing a triple-decker home in the fashionable City Point section, sources said. The family of another girl was given a trip to Hawaii.
MacKenzie recalled an incident in which the parents of a 14-year-old girl Bulger was having sex with complained. MacKenzie said Bulger sent him and other enforcers to their home to straighten them out.
“We said, `If you go to the authorities, we'll kill every single one of yas,` “ said MacKenzie, adding that he gave the “petrified” parents $1,000 in cash from Bulger to seal their silence.
“We gave them a little honey and a little vinegar,” he said.
A woman formerly of South Boston said one particular Dorchester family became a feeding ground for Flemmi. She said there were six girls in the family and Flemmi had sex with all of them. The family had an apartment full of furniture delivered to them, courtesy of Flemmi, she said.
“The (parents) knew what (Flemmi) was doing,” the woman said. “He bought their silence.”
The youngest daughter, who the woman said was impregnated by Flemmi, is now a drug addict and a prostitute living in Quincy.
According to MacKenzie, Bulger helped himself to young neighborhood girls in the same entitled manner that he stole money and seized businesses from terrified local merchants.
When he was among his criminal underlings, Bulger described having sex with teenage girls as “butchering” them.
The mental health counselor said that as the true story of Bulger and Flemmi starts to circulate outside of South Boston, a long-delayed healing process will begin.
She predicted what little support Bulger has left in his old neighborhood will disappear when people learn that he preyed on the daughters and sisters of those he claimed to protect.
“This will let them know they weren't - and aren't - alone,” she said. “This will tell them, `This is not right. This should never have happened to you.' “
YESTERDAY: Mob insider: former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. allegedly served as a lookout on a mob hit and accepted valuable gifts from Whitey Bulger.
TODAY: Whitey Bulger sexually exploited scores of neighborhood teenage girls, many of whom are still struggling to cope with the abuse.
TOMORROW: What makes Whitey Bulger the “ultimate predator.”
WEDNESDAY: FBI insider: corruption in the bureau's Boston office went higher than John Connolly.