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Man held without bail in death of alleged Bulger extortion victim

By Laura Ly, CNN
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
  • William Camuti, 69, is accused of fatally poisoning Stephen Rakes with cyanide
  • Rakes, 59, was a regular at James "Whitey" Bulger's murder trial
  • Trooper says Camuti confessed to putting potassium cyanide in coffee that he gave Rakes
  • He's charged with attempted murder, misleading police and unlawful disposition of remains

(CNN) -- The Massachusetts man accused of fatally poisoning Stephen Rakes, a regular at James "Whitey" Bulger's murder trial, has been ordered held without bail for 90 days.

A judge deemed that William Camuti's release would not "reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community," said MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office.

Camuti, 69, confessed to putting potassium cyanide in an iced coffee that he provided to Rakes, 59, according to testimony by a Massachusetts state trooper at a hearing in Concord District Court on Tuesday.

"He indicated that he had purchased two iced coffees. He did in fact purchase potassium cyanide, which had been delivered and stored," said Trooper Michael Banks.

Rakes took only one sip before deciding the coffee tasted too bitter. Camuti then drove him around the cities of Waltham, Woburn, Burlington and Lincoln for several hours until he "succumbed to ... ingesting" the cyanide, Banks testified.

Rakes had been a regular attendee at Bulger's trial until he was found dead in a wooded area in Lincoln on July 17, about 30 miles from his home in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Camuti was arrested and charged with attempted murder, misleading police and unlawful disposition of human remains in connection with Rakes' death on August 2, a Middlesex County District Attorney news release said.

CNN's requests for comment from Camuti's attorney were not immediately returned.

Camuti and Rakes were longtime business associates, and Camuti allegedly poisoned Rakes at a time when Camuti owed Rakes money.

In a phone call on July 16, Camuti asked Rakes to meet him about a potential investment property in Wilmington. The investment deal was a ruse to lure Rakes into meeting him, authorities said.

The same day, surveillance video showed Rakes leaving the federal courthouse where he regularly attended Bulger's murder trial. Rakes appeared to be wearing the same clothing in which his body was found, according to authorities.

The two men met that afternoon in a McDonald's in Waltham, where Camuti allegedly bought two iced coffees, laced one with two teaspoons of potassium cyanide and gave it to Rakes, authorities said.

Investigators alleged Camuti dumped Rakes' body in the wooded area, where it was found the next day.

Camuti pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment in August. His next court date is scheduled for October 3, said Long, the District Attorney's Office spokeswoman.

Rakes had been a reported extortion victim of Bulger's and had learned shortly before his death that prosecutors no longer planned to call him to testify, a friend said.

Bulger, a reputed Irish mob boss in Boston, was found guilty in August on 31 of 32 counts, including extortion, money laundering, drug dealing and weapons possession. A federal jury held Bulger responsible for the murders of 11 people.

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