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Cyanide killed potential witness in trial of Boston gangster Bulger

| Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts medical examiner's office determined that cyanide poisoning killed an alleged extortion victim of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger who had hoped to testify at Bulger's trial, prosecutors said on Sunday.

The medical examiner's office concluded that Stephen Rakes, 59, of Quincy died of acute cyanide toxicity in July and ruled his death a homicide, according to MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney's office.

Authorities said Rakes' death was not related to the Bulger case.

Rakes' business associate, William Camuti, 69, of Sudbury, is charged with attempted murder and other crimes for allegedly poisoning Rakes' iced coffee. Camuti has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said Camuti owed Rakes money and lured him to a meeting where he poisoned his drink, then drove Rakes around for hours before dumping his body.

Long said the district attorney's office intends to file additional charges against Camuti based on the findings of the medical examiner.

A phone message for Camuti's attorney, Stanley Norkunas, was not returned.

Rakes' body was found in a wooded area of the Boston suburb of Lincoln on July 17, just a day after he learned he would not be called as a witness against Bulger.

Rakes openly despised Bulger and blamed him for seizing control of his South Boston liquor store to use as headquarters for Boston's Irish mob in 1984.

Rakes said that Bulger and his buddies extorted the store from him at gunpoint in 1984 while Rakes' two young daughters were in the same room.

Bulger was convicted in August of 11 killings and dozens of other gangland crimes. He is set to be sentenced next month.

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