Jane Collins / Reuters file
Admitted killer Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi takes the witness stand in James 'Whitey' Bulger's murder and racketeering trial, as seen in this courtroom sketch in Boston on July 18.
The twisted life of a prosecution witness in the James “Whitey” Bulger trial came under scrutiny Monday when he admitted he had sexual liaisons with a young woman who called him “Daddy” growing up – and that he stood by as she was strangled.
“It was a moment of weakness,” Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi said of his two X-rated encounters with Deborah Hussey, according to the Boston Globe.
Flemmi, 79, has been on the stand in Boston Federal Court for three days, testifying about a string of gruesome murders that his ex-partner Bulger allegedly committed as head of the Winter Hill Gang.
When the defense finally got a crack at Flemmi, who is serving life for 10 murders, it zeroed in Hussey – suggesting he took advantage of her and then killed her himself.
Hussey’s mother was Flemmi’s longtime mistress and bore him three children. Deborah was the woman’s daughter from an earlier relationship but knew Flemmi from the time she was small and treated him as a father figure.
By the 1980s, Hussey had become a problem for the Winter Hill Crew – in and out of trouble with the law, using drugs, hanging out at the gang’s tavern headquarters, and dropping Flemmi’s and Bulger’s names, he testified.
Bulger wanted her gone and Flemmi agreed.
On a winter night in 1985, Hussey was brought to a house in South Boston where Bulger lay in wait, Flemmi said. He “stepped out from behind the top of the basement stairs, grabbed her by the throat and started strangling her,” he told the court.
Bulger “lost his balance and they both fell on the floor,” Flemmi said, according to the Globe. But Hussey was “very fragile” and died quickly.
Flemmi and other gang members buried her in the basement while Bulger took a nap, he said. Under cross-examination, defense lawyer Henry Brennan suggested that Flemmi was the killer.
“Is it hard for you to accept the fact that you strangled a girl who sat on your lap as a little girl?” Brennan asked.
“I didn’t strangle her,” Flemmi insisted. He did acknowledge having sexual contact with her twice, but emphasized that it was not intercourse and was “consensual.”
The account of Hussey’s death bore eerie similarities to the story of another 26-year-old, Flemmi’s longtime girlfriend, Debra Davis. Last week he testified that in 1981, he caved into pressure from Bulger and brought her to an empty house where she was strangled.
Although Bulger, 83, is charged with 19 slayings – and has pleaded not guilty to all charges – it’s thought that he is particularly anxious to distance himself from the deaths of Hussey and Davis because the killing of women went against his code.
Steven Senne / AP
Steve Davis speaks to reporters about his sister, alleged murder victim Debra Davis, outside U.S. District Court in Boston, on July 22. Davis exploded in anger in court after Bulger's former partner Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi identified him as a drug user and informant.
It was Flemmi, however, who came in for a tongue-lashing from Davis’ brother in court on Monday. The aging gangster suggested that Steve Davis was an informant and a drug addict, prompting him to stand up and shout, “You’re a [expletive] liar!”
Apparently shaken by the outburst, Flemmi backtracked, apologized and said he was actually talking about another brother, Mickey.
“I was enraged,” Steve Davis, 55, later told NBC News. “If the railing hadn’t been higher, I might have jumped right over it.
“I’m nothing like those guys,” Davis said. “I made my mistakes and I’ve paid for it, but I’m not out there ratting on people, incriminating people.”
Bulger — who spent 16 years on the lam as one of America’s most wanted — shares Davis' distaste for the label of informant.
Since the trial started in June, he has hurled a profanity at a former agent who testified that the FBI recruited and aimed some four-letter words at an ex-confederate who called him one of "the biggest rats."
This story was originally published on Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:09 AM EDT