BOSTON (CBS) – Stephen Rakes still shudders thinking about the clicking sound of Whitey Bulger’s knife, and the look in his eyes. “Looking into his eyes would scare people,” says Rakes. “He had bullet piercing eyes that would scare you to death.”
His emotions are still raw as he remembers the night Bulger showed up at his home.
“I’m pretty angry still about what happened close to thirty years ago, and I want to make sure Bulger gets justice. I’ll be satisfied when he’s in jail and never coming out.”
Rakes brought us back to the house on East 4th Street, and told us about the night Whitey Bulger and his sidekicks Kevin Weeks and Steve Flemmi arrived while he was making dinner with his two young daughters.
“Still today it haunts me. I sometimes think about it when I’m sleeping and still can’t go to sleep.”
They told him they wanted his brand new liquor store. He and his wife Julie had poured in $100,000 to open its doors on the rotary on Old Colony Ave. It was the only one in South Boston with parking.
When Rakes refused to sell or become business partners, Bulger said, “We’ll kill you and we’ll just take it.”
Flemmi lifted Rakes’ young daughter onto his lap, and he reached for a gun on the table. “They said, ‘It would be a sin to see your daughter growing up without a father.’ And that just melted me. I didn’t know what to do after that. No one would protect us or they knew what happened but wouldn’t do anything because Bulger at that time was so powerful and he got away with everything.”
Bulger put $67,000 in cash on his table in exchange for the store. “They gave me a bag of money and said we own the store and started laughing.”
Rakes brought us to the site of the liquor store. He says, “It brings back feelings of good times and terror. I feel terrible about what happened and feel sick about it, and I feel shame because I couldn’t fight them back because they were so powerful I didn’t know what to do.”
Looking at the store, he says, “This was my life back then. I put my heart and soul into it. My wife and I at the time worked diligently morning noon and night to get it out off the ground. We couldn’t do a damn thing. No one would protect us, no one would help us.”
His wife wanted to go to the police, but Rakes learned quickly that Bulger had deep ties through the city, in the courts and with law enforcement. “I couldn’t trust anyone; I didn’t know who to trust. You couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. I was scared to death for years.”
Rakes took his family to Florida, but Bulger soon tracked him down. “Kevin Weeks said you have to come back because they think we killed your whole family. What I had to do was stand at the corner of Dorchester and Broadway and wave to people and let them know I was alive.”
The incident tore Rakes’ family apart. He went on to be convicted of perjury after lying to a federal grand jury about Bulger.
When he heard Whitey was caught, Rakes was elated. He says, “I just sat down and couldn’t believe it. They finally caught him, it’s about time.”
Today, Rakes is close to many victims’ families, working to help them unite. “I didn’t get killed, but he might as well have killed me because I was living in fear for an awfully long time. It makes me very angry and almost ashamed that I didn’t do anything to protect my children.”
As we walked in South Boston, many people greeted Rakes with a warm embrace and a wave. But some still defend Bulger. “It’s sad they still think he’s a Robin Hood. They don’t realize he was the devil in disguise.”
In 2003, a judge ordered Whitey Bulger to pay the Rakes 28 million dollars. Rakes wants the government to go after what he believes is Bulger’s hidden fortune. He also wants to make Bulger’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, provide information on the money as well.
“I think Catherine Greig has information, and they shouldn’t let her out until she tells all.”
Rakes says he wants to speak out now for justice. “Make sure this man goes to trial in November and I’ll be really happy. To make sure he never gets out again.”