§19: Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: Spike O’Toole And The Historic Staggering Walk:

Following The

Spike O’Toole was in and out of prison. The first newspaper reference I found relating to him was on July 13, 1965, in the Boston Globe. It read that a Quincy man named John Flannery was shot and dumped from a car at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Tremont Street at 2:56 a.m. He “staggered to a nearby taxi stand and cried: “Help me. I’ve been shot. Spike O’Toole dit(sic) it.”  

Dick Connolly of the Globe, another columnists with good FBI and Boston police connections wrote the next day on July 14, 1965,  that “O’Toole who . . . harbored McLaughlin while the latter was among the FBI’s 10 most wanted criminals, has been marked for death since last December . . . [he was just about to be released from state prison] when he received a telegram [indicating that he’d soon get what Harold Hannon received who was found garroted and  floating in Boston Harbor] Connolly went on to write: “O’Toole . . . has not tried to hide his fear. He has conceded that he probably is number one on the current “hit parade” but he claims he does not know who is trying to eliminate him.”

Whitey is involved in none of these ongoing disputes. He’s just out of prison in 1965.

Spike was arrested at the end of September when he came back from the Cape to visit his mother at her Dorchester home. She was seriously ill.  He was next mentioned on October 25, 1965, when he was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to murder by helping McLaughlin hide out.

Six years later on September 25, 1973, two masked men carrying revolvers shot Spike on Linda Lane in Savin Hill putting him in the Boston City Hospital for a month. Murderman knows nothing of this for if he did he would have told us in his tell-all book. One would think those who tried to kill Spike in September returned to finish the job a month after he was out of the hospital. As I mentioned, Spike was murdered around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 1. 1973, at the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Savin Hill Avenue.

Howie Carr in his 2006 book had already decided on a theory for his killing. He wrote that Whitey “still needed to eliminate some of his old rivals in Town.”  Like other things in Howie’s books he made that up. Whitey was not around during the McLaughlin wars and Spike had nothing to do with Southie’s rackets.  He wasn’t a Whitey rival.

Carr had it that Eddie Connors, the owner of Bulldog’s, a bar on Savin Hill Avenue, “was tight with Howie Winter” who was gunning for Spike. One night Spike was “tying one on at the Bulldog.” Connors called Winter to tell him he was there for the taking.

Carr went on with his fiction writing, “Sitting in a black car . . . Johnny Martorano waited for Spike to stagger out of the Bulldog, then machine-gunned him in front of the Avenue Laundry.”  For that to make sense Spike would have had to stagger past Sydney Street, walk a block past stores and St. William’s school and cross Tuttle Street, continue another block and cross Saxon Street, then go on past the next block to Sagamore Street where he was reported living, pass that and amble the next block to Auckland Street, and finally traversing over the final block to Dorchester Avenue. He’d have perambulated closing in on if not passing a 1/2 mile, perhaps the longest drunk staggering walk in history, something for the Guinness record book. It’ also amazing Murderman could sit in a car and watch this long stagger.

This would be picked up by Murderman in his recital of the murder. Their problem was Spike was not in Bulldog just before he got killed. He was in a bar at the corner of Dorchester and Savin Hill Avenues, Gavin’s. Carr put him at Bulldog because he wanted to pretend he knew why Eddie Connors was hit eighteen months later.

Howie Carr wrote Connors was murdered because “he fingered Spike O’Toole, a year or so earlier . . . [and] he had taken to bragging about setting up O’Toole for Howie Winter.”  But as we saw, that never happened. Connors did not set up Spike since was not in Connor’s place but another bar near his Auckland Street address. Carr just throws things out without any basis to support them. Sadly, his fictions become fact.

Murderman agrees somewhat with Howie Carr. He says they “watched  Spike unsteadily leave the Bulldog, and he reeled down to the corner to wait for the bus. . . .”  A Boston Globe report on December 3, 1973, two days after the Saturday night murder puts Spike in the correct bar room. It has him leaving the Gavin Grille on Dorchester Avenue right next to that intersection of Savin Hill Avenue.

Spike was in a bar within a short walk of his home and a long walk to Bulldogs. Murderman has him without a car waiting for a bus. The cops report he was heading for his car. The cops said as Spike walked from Gavin’s an unidentified man walked up to him and stared an argument. That man backed away. Spike  was then gunned down by a nearby parked car.

The more these events are studied and the patina of fiction is peeled away, it seems that Whitey had no involvement in any of the murders during the pre-Flemmi days in the Learning Years. It also seems Winter Hill had nothing to do with O’Keefe’s murder. Them that did Spike in were the same guys that tried in September. It wasn’t Winter Hill.  Martorano involved himself in this, tossed in Whitey so he could make his deal; Carr makes up things to sell his books.

Neither man ever thought Whitey would be caught and their stories subject to scrutiny. Sort of gives one a creepy feeling thinking how their lies are believed by others, especially the prosecutors.




12 thoughts on “§19: Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: Spike O’Toole And The Historic Staggering Walk:

    1. Thetruth:

      Thanks for writing. What can you tell us about Spike? Do you know anything about Savin Hill? He was known around Savin Hill as a tough guy to us younger kids.

    2. HI, I have stories from the past on James” spike/red” oToole also, I would like to hear from you and yours.,

    3. HI, I have stories from the past on James” spike/red” oToole also, I would like to hear from you and compare my story. maybe fill in some blanks?

  1. If you read up on the Greg Scarpa case (and I have not read the referenced book but have followed the case in the press) I believe you’ll find that his FBI handler Lin Delvecchio (sp) was charged in state court for actions taken while an FBI S/A handling Scarpa. Specifically, he was charged with providing Scarpa with law enforcement info (for reasons among other things to help him fight the internecine Colombo family war). Very similiar to Connolly in concept. In this case the federal govt was not happy with the prosecution. The feds had already cleared Delvecchio in their investigations but did not intervene and remove it to federal court.

    I don’t have the time right now to provide a detailed analysis of why this wasn’t done but I think that the grounds for federal intervention (the S/A having an honest and reasonable belief that his actions were required in the performance of his official duties) just are not there in both the Delvecchio and Connolly cases if the state allegations are to be proven at trial. The Horiuchi (FBI sniper ) case is clearly distinguishable in that Horiuchi was sent to the Weaver standoff as part of an FBI SWAT team and in a confusing scene fired two shots in 20-30 seconds. The first was adjudged reasonable by all to be justified, the second was thought to be unreasonable by the state but even then it only charged him with involuntary manslughter having fired ‘without malice”.

    The end for Delvecchio was happier than for Connolly as the state prosecution collapsed and I don’t think it ever even reached a jury.

    1. JHG:
      I’ve read something about Scarpa’s situation. Ralph Ranalli in his book Deadly Alliance had some reference to it but I read a lengthy report or book on it sometime ago and I have not refreshed my memory on it. I recollect, but I may be wrong, that it involved a prosecutor who was hell bent to get him. Thanks for talking about this and the FBI’s involvement in it. I know it differs from the Ruby Ridge incident but right now without getting my book out I’m not certain of all of that. But I’ll keep your post in mind since it raises some good points I want to consider.

  2. Not to go too far astray from Jimmy’s case, but this link below is to a new book on another egregious mafia murderer on the FBI payroll, Gregory Scarpa. Scarpa admitted to at least fifty murders while working for the Feds. I’m beginning to think the FBI is the real Murder, Inc by allowing these crimes.


    1. Henry:
      I appreciate the comment. I’ll have to get the book. It fills in a big gap. The Apalachin meeting took place in 1957, after that until 1965 the FBI started monitoring the activities of the Mafia with black bag operations and illegal bugs. It’s interesting to see that in 1962 they already had as an informant a top Mafia guy. It is probably through its experience with him that the Top Echelon program that gave us Whitey and Stevie Flemmi came about. The FBI was involved, and still is as we’ve seen with Rossetti, in dealing with and protecting these hoodlums. It was suppose to stop but it hasn’t. I can imagine a lot more people would be alive today if the FBI had taken another course rather than joining up with murderers. Thanks.

  3. dear author, your posts lately have centered on the early 1970s when whitey appeared to be far from being a quote unquote boss. it makes me wonder why he ever got top informant status at that time , as you have gone over many times in your blog. it is very hard to piece together today events that happened sometimes over 40 years ago. i think the murderman, steve flemi, just about all of the whitey players so to speak will be very hard to believe in a courtroom. the one man i would love to hear the most in the trial would be jerimiah sullivan and this will not happen because he is dead. i thank you once again for your ongoing efforts and for not giving in to whitey fatigue. your blog has opened my mind to how law enforcment has the last word so often and can spin events their way without the public ever knowing about it. regards

    1. Norwood Born:
      Good question. Here’s my belief on how he got to a Top Echelon Informant. When Rico and Condon were planning to leave the FBI they had to make sure their prize informant Steve Flemmi was passed on to another agent so he could continue to pass on information and be protected. Connolly was brought back to Boston. It took another bit of time for them to arrange to bring Flemmi back. They had to fix it up so that the murder and blowing up Attorney Fitzgerald’s car charges would go away. When that was done Flemmi came back in May of 1974. Sometime after that two things happened: they fixed him up with Connolly and he and Whitey became bosom buddies. Remember Whitey ran to Condon earlier in 1971 for protection when he first felt threatened by the Mullens. Whitey walked away from Condon because he figured out it’d be better to handle the threat himself. Condon knowing this and seeing the Stevie/Whitey relationship develop did what he could through Stevie to bring Whitey onto the team. That would have been Condon’s farewell gift to the FBI. I figure Flemmi was the main man since he had the Mafia connections, Whitey was brought around because the two of them got to really like each other.
      Your right about the difficulty putting events of 40 years ago together. I’m trying to do it from articles written back in those times. I feel they are more accurate than the self serving memories of the gangsters. I add into that other stuff like my experience with some of these guys and try to figure out what is the most probable scenario. As you can see we’ve been fed a lot of fiction which I have believed. Now I’m trying to use contemporary sources to see if I can tell where the truth is. Nice to hear from you.

  4. If Spike was going to take a bus leaving Bulldog’s, he would have found a bus behind Savin Hill Station on South Sydney Street, a few hundred feet away. Better still, Savin Hill Station was across the street. He could have taken the train to Fields Corner or Andrew Square and got buses there to go anywhere in the City. There are many local, conflicting stories about what happened that night. If you read Carr’s book closely, you’ll find he says someone in Bulldog’s planted by Winter Hill made the call, not Connors. At least that’s how I read it. My anonymous source says there are people in Savin Hill who confirm that a local Savin Hill guy walked with Spike O’Toole for a few blocks from Bulldog’s towards Galvin’s. So, it’s possible he both was in Bulldog’s first and then when he left his buddy around Sagamore Street, he went into Galvin’s for a final beer. Then headed home from Galvin’s. He used to go down Galvin’s a lot, especially after the Bruins’ games, which he watched on tv at somebody’s home. Some speculate that Billy Kelly was involved in Spike’s first shooting. Billy Kelly and Steve the Greek also drank up Bulldog’s from time to time. Eddie Connors somehow felt beholden to Kelly and Steve the Greek who allegedly did away with a guy named Robishaw who was intent on killing Eddie. The reason Eddie was killed was because he had been arrested for involvement in a hijacking and the mobsters feared he was talking. That’s why they killed most people. Some say Spike was killed because he had killed some guys in the Somerville-Charlestown wars. You’re correct, Spike had nothing to do with Whitey or the South Boston rackets. I knew Eddie. I liked him. I knew Spike, too; I was sort of wary of him. I remember him drinking up Connors Tavern, across the street from Bulldogs. Some of my close friends were close with Spike. One friend had asked Spike how many people he killed and he said “fourteen.” I visited Bobby Noonan in the hospital after Spike had shot him six times, hitting him with five bullets, three in the chest, one off his chin, one off his wrist. I saw the x-rays. The doctors said it was a “miracle” he survived. I asked Bobby why Spike shot him. Bobby said, “Because I insulted his dog.” I hope my comments are helpful. Everyone in Savin Hill has heard lots of different stories about those times. The story we first heard from eyewitnesses was that three guys in ski-masks tried to kill Spike the first time.

    1. Billy:
      That stuff is helpful since it confirms what I believe that Murderman had nothing to do with either Spike’s hit or the murder of Eddie Connors. What people fail to understand when Murderman was being debriefed he had one goal which was to make a sweetheart deal for himself. He had to make Whitey look real bad because the prosecutors believe he was the real bad guy. (It’s a story for another time how Billy’s success hurt Whitey as much as Whitey hurt Billy.) This was one of those rare times where the more a person admitted his involvement in crimes, the better off he would be. Murderman had to involve Whitey in as many murders as possible so to do it he had to involve himself in some he did not do.
      Murderman and Howie Carr have Spike coming out of Bulldog’s. It’s not possible he left Bulldog’s and walked to Gavin’s since both say Murderman was waiting outside Bulldog’s. They don’t know the area so they think Bulldog’s is at Savin Hill and Dorchester Avenue. Spike is by himself and no one is walking with him. I’m suggesting that they made up the story because Murderman needed to bring Whitey into some murders. No one who killed Spike would have confused the Bulldog with Gavin’s.
      I don’t know Spike’s connection to Billy Kelly who I believe is on death row in Florida but it is more likely Kelly did it than the Winter Hill Gang.
      I also don’t think Winter Hill was involved in Eddie Connors’s killing since I can’t find a reason for them to kill him. Howie and Murderman needed the Bulldog connection to give Winter Hill a reason, but if Spike was at Gavin’s that reason evaporates.
      I have a vague recollection of Bobby Noonan being shot. I don’t remember exactly but I heard they had some sort of beef at the Adelphia. I finish by saying there can be little doubt the guys who shot Spike on Linda Lane were the ones who eventually got him. Martorano knew nothing about that shooting so that again shows he had no involvement in the killing.

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