Stephen Rakes, set to testify against Bulger, found dead

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BOSTON, MA — A man who’d been prepared to testify in the trial of reputed Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was found dead — a day after, a friend says, he learned he was dropped from the prosecution’s witness list.

Massachusetts State Police are investigating the death of Stephen Rakes, 59, the Middlesex County district attorney’s office said Thursday.

A jogger reported finding Rakes’ body Wednesday in Lincoln, west of Boston, said Stephanie Guyotte, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

There were no obvious signs of trauma, the office said. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause and manner of death.

Bulger is charged in the deaths of 19 people during some two decades when prosecutors say he terrorized South Boston as the head of the Irish mob. He also faces charges of extortion, racketeering and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Rakes had alleged that Bulger forced Rakes to sell his South Boston liquor store to him in the 1980s.

Steve Davis, a brother of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims and a friend of Rakes, said that Rakes learned Tuesday that the prosecution had dropped him from its list of potential witnesses.

“I was upset for him … because he was looking forward to” testifying, said Davis, who said he’d become close to Rakes in the months leading to Bulger’s trial, which began in June.

Asked whether Rakes was upset about being dropped, Davis said: “I think it was real devastating to him.”

A representative of the U.S. attorney’s office that is prosecuting Bulger’s case declined to comment Thursday.

Michael Connolly, a lawyer who once represented Rakes, told CNN on Thursday that he was shocked to learn of Rakes’ death.

“I saw him a month ago, and he looked fit, healthy, and was in good spirits,” Connolly said. “He was looking forward to testifying at the ‘Whitey’ Bulger trial.”

CNN’s Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

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