The Whitey Bulger Murders: The Passing of the Savin Hill Boys

(1) savin HillJames “Spike” O’Toole lived in Savin Hill all his life except for the time he received free room and board while residing in one of the state’s prisons. As I kid I was in a coffee shop across from St. William’s Church and one of my friends indicated to a guy and told me that was Spike O’Toole. I have no idea whether it was but we were aware of him as kids and knew that he was not a nice guy.

I knew little about Eddie Connors although he seemed to be well known to guys a few years younger. He bought a bar in Savin Hill which he called the Bulldog. When I lived there things were different. Next to where the Bulldog went in was a local bar called J & K’s (Joyce and Keane’s) and across the street on the same side of the entrance to Savin Hill Station was Moakley’s.

The corners opposite the bars had drug stores: Carl’s on one corner and on the other was Irving’s. Carl’s was new;  Irving’s had been in Savin HIll for a long time. It used to be “over the bridge” until the Southeast Expressway was constructed tearing away all those businesses along with several three-deckers where some friends lived.

Eddie like Spike was a hoodlum. I went into the Bulldog a couple of times and found the crowd was not to my liking. Too many wise guys seemed to be in the place.

Although Whitey probably had no beef with Spike others in Winter Hill did. He was in the 1960s gang war on the McLaughlin side. He was said to have tried to kill one of the Bennet brothers who was in the Roxbury gang and that he did a good job shooting down Steve Flemmi’s brother Vinny who badly wounded survived the attack on him. He was said to have hit some others. He was one of the few survivors from the McLaughlin side which lost to the Somerville gang under Buddy McLean and Howie Winter. If my memory serves me right Spike had been shot at several times by others which had no relation to that gang war.

In December 1973 the gang wars were over but the memories lingered. Winter Hill knew he was capable and was not to be trusted. Spike had sought to make peace with it.

Spike liked his alcohol. He drank at the Bulldog. One night Winter Hill was tipped off that he was tipsy and planning to walk home. They waited and followed him from Bulldog to Dorchester Avenue where they did him in. The story told is that Whitey was driving the car but was unarmed.

That would make sense. Whitey would be familiar with the area in that it was adjacent to Southie where the other guys on the hit team were from the other side of the Charles River or Milton. This was probably the first murder that Whitey participated in so closely. Tommy Sperrazza a vicious killer who turned federal witness and got out of prison early said: “once you’ve murdered your first person the rest are easy.”  Whitey had felt the rush and the power and now had his credentials even though his particpation was only that as a driver.

Eddie Connors would be murdered at what the kids from Savin Hill called the Eddie Connors Memorial phone booth located on Morrissey Boulevard. It was a stand alone phone booth outside of a business establishment. Eddie went there one night to receive a call from Howie Winter on what he believed was a “safe line.” By that he figured no one from the law would have a tap on it. The phone was probably a five minute ride from Bulldog. The line might have been safe but the booth was not. Whitey and Stevie were waiting for him to show up and gunned him down as he stood in the booth.

The reasons for his murder are many. He was talking about the O’Toole murder, he was being intercepted talking at Bulldog’s and was going to turn state’s evidence, he was in an armed robbery and getting ready to deal with “the man,” and on and on. The true reason will never be known; the participants will.

Again because it was in Whitey’s area — he knew Morrissey Boulevard like the back of his hand — he would be driving. This time though he wanted to have a greater part of the action. He had only been present when Spike O’Keefe and Paulie McGonagle were murdered. Now he would up his game and become one of the gunmen.

Whitey put himself in the jackpot on this one. He was talking on a recorded telephone from the jail to his nephew. He referred to Connors’s murder in the call and to refresh his nephewis recollection made a machine gun sound: “rat-a-tat-tat-tat- rat-a-tat” which any listerner would be convinced he imagined himself back at the scene firing his burp gun at him. What  a moron!

After Eddie got killed I’m told that the word on the street in Savin Hill had Whitey as one of the guys who did the hit. You would think that if the kids knew who did it the cops might have had an idea. Apparently they never did for it took until John Martorano testified in 1998 for the full story to come out.  You do have to wonder during all these murders what the cops were doing?  Again like in the gang war of the 1960s they seemed to be clueless.

Add two more notches onto Whitey’s belt. He has now done six of the fourteen we have examined.


34 thoughts on “The Whitey Bulger Murders: The Passing of the Savin Hill Boys

  1. One last thought along these lines: I remember visiting Bobby Noonan in the hospital. He had been shot five times by Spike O’Toole on Dorchester Avenue outside the Adelphia near Freeport Street. I asked Bobby why Spike shot him. Bobby said, “Because I insulted his dog.” I talked to the doctors who said it was a miracle Bobby survived: three bullets hit him in the chest, one off his chin, one off his wrist, and one missed. Spike fired six bullets at close range. Bobby Noonan was one of my favorite guys in Savin Hill. I remember working with Bobby and Charlie Westfield at Maughn O’Shea’s house in Charlestown, doing some carpentry and painting. We grew up with some great guys. We were blessed to have known so many good people. The bad guys were few and far between.

  2. It is indeed awful how Cathy was hammered. Chasing Billy is also a pointless endeavor overtaken by events. Like many others n the edge of the tale conditions have changed with the passing of time. A new guard assumes the task. I do however still believe the tale is not yet concluded. As I mentioned Jim can still play a part should be he has a choice. But he is not alone in having new choices. As to Newfoundland… Newfies are an interesting people. They are famous for not doing what is Expected of them. Very unpredictable. Anyways… Today mark a closing of a chapter. A new chapter soon begins.

    1. Yes, and hopefully it is in his “autobiography,” “My Life in the Irish Gang Wars.”

      If I’m correct, the final curtain can not drop on the entire production without him having the last word. I’m counting on Whitey’s ego to come through. He spent too long cultivating and caring about his image to let it’s final iteration be solely defined by those who wish to blacken it.

  3. Spike’s reputation was that of a killer. He told a Savin Hill guy he worked construction with that the only reason he didn’t kill him was that he liked the guy’ mother. One time in Connors tavern a patron named Rica asked Spike how many people he had killed. Spike said he stopped counting at fourteen. According to one of the gangster books Spike walked into the Somerville garage of Winter and proposed a peace. Winter was taken aback at how easily Spike could have shot him. So to solve the problem they decided to kill him. Spike watched a Bruins game at a friend’s apartment and when he exited three ski masked men shot him. He was hit five times but survived. Some in Bulldogs think a phone call was made to set him up. No one could i d the shooters and no arrests were made. Later Spike told a Savin Hill guy named Eddy that he knew the gangsters were still going to kill him. Yet after recovering from his wounds he stayed in the area. On the night he was killed as he left Bulldogs a phone call was made. Several people suspect Connors made the call. He was beholden to the Winter Hill gang. They helped him dispose of Robichaud. He owed them so he helped them with Spike. When Connors was arrested on an armored car robbery he became a great risk to Winter Hill. If he co operated he could have linked them to two murders. He was in the same spot Halloran was in after his murder arrest. No one had to be tipped off that Halloran was co operating because he got out on bail. No organized crime goon makes bail on a first degree case without a deal. One of Connors old gang wrote someone from Bulldogs that he had warned Connors not to go to Winter Hill to settle the Robichaud matter. He claimed he told Connors that he would regret it.2. It is a sad commentary on BHO and the FBI when Putin and the Russians are more truthful about terrorism. BHO sounds like Baghdad Bob every time he mentions the subject.

  4. Before Bibby many were defined as criminals. Definitions matter. I’m not be redefining themselves properly is true progress possible. A simple lessonJim should ponder.

  5. The Irish have been defined by their foes for hundreds of years and truth is this lies at the heart of the struggle. Indeed Bobby Sands died simply to force a redefinition. Jim needs to tell his tale. He needs to stop letting fors define his life struggle. It’s desperately needed. Cheers.

    1. Jim:

      I heard he was dealing with a New York writer – not T.J. English – to tell his story. The problem is few will believe it.

  6. Jimmy has been made out to be a monster if the highest order. Only by saving Cathy can he redefine the turns of his life. This self redefinition is greatly needed in today’s world. It can only be done properly by him. The truth of his tale is of course coming. Soon. But if others reveal we will lose the essence of his humanity and deep struggle.

  7. hi Matt and who in the Winter Hill Gang ordered the murder of Spike O Toole?

    What is your understanding of the relationship between Bobby Deluca and Cadillac Frank?

    1. David:

      Uncertain who ordered the hit on Spike. Some say it was Howie because O’Toole was on the other side during the gang war; others say it was Martorano doing a payback for O’Toole shooting Steve Flemmi’s brother Jimmy. There were a lot of people who wanted O’Toole taken down. You can take your pick. A strange thing about the hit was that Whitey was supposedly there but he did not have a weapon which seemed strange that someone would do that. The story goes that a passerby approached the car and Whitey wanted to scare him off and all he could do was point his index finger at him as if it were a gun.

      DeLuca and Salemme were buddies as best I can tell. Their relationship is they both were capos in the Mafia who broke their oaths of Omerta.

  8. It’s a much better ending to his story if he finally saves his love. As an Irishman he will get this. And after all it’s an Irish tale not an American story.

    1. Jim:

      It is too late to save anyone. The only thing that Whitey could offer was to implicate his brother which has been what this whole story has been about. His problem in doing that is he has nothing to implicate him on.

      Catherine took the hit on the contempt because it would have opened the door to too many people being hurt who may have been in contact with her and would have prolonged this overly drawn out saga. The feds would like nothing better than to put her before a grand jury and solicit as much as they could from her so they could continue indicting Whitey related people. That brings them the news coverage that they like. She shut the door on them. She won in the end. They are fumbling around trying to look like they earn their pay when all they have done is to get an eighty year old guy and his girlfriend incarcerated while giving a pass to a half dozen murderers.

      1. Your last paragraph sums it up. Very hard to explain to someone with no prior knowledge of this decades long saga how so many men who murdered got very light time to get Jimmy Bulger one hundred percent behind bars.

        1. Norwood:

          Good to hear from you. It is hard to explain how many murderers are on the street and only one old guy is locked up with his girlfriend and his FBI handler. Somehow it makes no sense.

    2. Jim,
      The romanticism is nice, but the reality is a little more prosaic.
      What’s he waiting for? The clock is ticking.
      Or, any idea why he didn’t try to jump in recently, when they were hammering her with more time?

      Newfie is not Irish, either…… it’s Newfie.
      Only his mother was Irish.

        1. Ed,
          Point taken, but respectfully disagree.
          No disrespect meant to Newfoundland or Newfies.
          However, the island has been British, then French, then British again, and now independent.
          The Irish people that settled there and their descendants strongly cling to their Hibernian heritage.
          That’s a good thing. Here in Boston, we do too.

          Maybe his grandfather or great-grandfather emigrated from Ireland.

          1. Rather:

            I had no idea who the Newfies were. Thanks for the clarification or as the say the sun came up over marblehead.

      1. The southern part of the Avalon Peninsula in NFLD is sometimes called the “Irish Loop.” The old Irish accents are so strong in some places that they are indistinguishable from native Irish speakers. I had an acquaintance from Drogheda who was dead-fooled by the accent from an Irish Loop Newfoundlander. Other parts of the island have heavy French Canadian accents even though most speak absolutely no French.

        NFLD is very diverse with heavy Irish/English/French and even Portuguese influences. Beautiful spot to visit but expensive to get there!

  9. On the property line between the second Blinstrubs ( first burnt at Broadway I think) and a motel/arcade concern. As late as ‘ 98 that single booth remained and its handset was heavily scored on the back by a slug. It was … different …. to call from it. The phone company … Ma Bell in its traditions … gave the impression of perhaps understanding the booth was a memorial in its own way to Mr. Connors.

  10. Eddie Connors was very personable and a very well liked man in Savin Hill as were his brothers Billy (older) and Jimmy (younger). All three were bartenders at Connors’ barrooms, as were many neighborhood friends, Danny Ryan, Billy O’Shea, Billy Anderson, David Costello, et al. I remember staying at Eddie’s cottage in Falmouth one summer for free, and Eddie cooking hearty breakfasts for his guests. He was a generous man and contributed freely to neighborhood causes and events.
    Personally, I saw Eddie treat everyone courteously. He was friendly and had a good sense of humor. He treated people with respect; even drunks. I never saw him bully or intimidate anyone. I knew he was a great boxer; I saw the film of his bout with Champion Tony DeMarco, and the fight should have been called a draw or gone to Eddie, in my opinion. Eddie’s brother Jimmy was a pretty good boxer, too. We had fun times going to the fights in Portland Maine and Boston Garden, watching some local guys,, including friends, promoted by Eddie. Teddy Ryan, in his first fight, beat an old pro in Maine, but the Portland judges stole the fight from Teddy. Teddy called himself “Irish Billy Murphy” as I recall. Good memories!

    Eddie first bought Moakley’s Tavern and renamed it Connors Tavern around early 1960s. Shortly thereafter, he bought Joyce & Keane’s and renamed it Bulldog’s, which I remember as Bulldog’s Lounge—it had great bands performing there on weekends and was always packed. Connors Tavern was also packed by neighbors and our friends; the “gangsters” were infrequent visitors, few and far between. I remember a guy named “Suitcase” from Charlestown and a reputed gunman named “Red”, once in a while, and I remember seeing Spike O’Toole sitting near the doorway in Connors Tavern, quietly drinking his beer. He used to play cards and watch Bruins’ games with some of our close friends. Connors Tavern was basically a typical neighborhood barroom. The bookie joint was on the second floor. There were great Christmas parties at Connors Tavern, where everyone got free ties or free cuff-links or free food, or free whatever from the latest haul. Our friends have many fond memories of both places.
    Savin Hill people killed by Martorano, Flemmi et al included Eddie Connors, Billy Sullivan and Tony Veranis. Tony was a lifelong resident of Savin Hill, Billy lived there a long time and raised his family there (moving from Southie) and Eddie operated his barrooms there for about 15 years. He had a home in Sharon, but I think he also had an apartment above the barroom. Anyway, it seemed from the times Connors Tavern opened, Eddie was always in Savin Hill and hanging out with Savin Hill people.

      1. I believe you will find some great stories about the ‘theft’ of a goat from the Marshfield Fair, taken back to Dorchester on a dare..maybe a double dare…tales of the longshoremen and of Cotter’s friend, Eddie Connors. I was lucky to stumble across your blog after playing alleged ‘golf’ at Ponkapaug with the bookie from Bulldog….and will remind you now that ATF’s Charlie McGrath used to say of Higgins and Friends of Eddie Coyle..all Higgins did was take my reports and punctuate them!…

  11. At a minimum I suggest that as of today Jimmy now has a few new choices to make. His court cases are basically over, if anyone assisted him they are free of arrest although not public commendation. Jimmy is an aging man. He has yet to tell his story. Soon he will pass. He still however has the opportunity to save his love, set the record straight and define his memory for history. He’s always had a twinkle in his eye. It’s a Newfie thing. My family roots on the rock lie near his. it will be interesting to see how he closes the book finally in his story. I for one hope he does so with a thunderous clap not a whimper. The world he cares for needs him to do one more service for his Cause.

    1. Jim,
      Thank you for the clarification.

      No disrespect, it’s too bad, but I think he missed his chance on helping Catherine. But, boy, will she have some kind of “street-cred” when she gets out…..she was the most stand-up guy of them all.

      The only other question mark left is his confiscated manuscripts. I have been commenting about hoping to see those for a few years now. I hope they see the light of day.
      Maybe they will be the “hot” item at the upcoming auction.

      1. Oh, and mark my words, as I’ve said this before on TTTT……………I bet there will be an “exclusive” book released, probably written by one of his nieces or nephews coming out eventually to give the home-town spin,…I mean side, of things.

  12. Matt,
    Knowing Morrissey Blvd. like the back of my hand also, I have tried to place the location of the phone booth in question from the two or three photographs floating around out there.
    Was it near the sidewalk at the property line between the where the gas station and the old florist shop on the southbound side between McKone and Bloomington St’s. used to be?

    1. RAther:

      Directions: Leave Whitey’s liquor store – drive along Old Colony Boulevard to Columbia (Kosciusko) Circle – get onto Morrissey Boulevard and drive past a newspaper building on your right. You continue over the cully (it is a small culvert that we used to swim at going under the road before the newspaper bribed some officials to build its plant on wetlands) and on past Rocky Malibu and Malibu. Over the bridge you come to Freeport Street. Go straight through the light and look to your left. You will see a Toyota dealer. At the entrance to that place is where the Eddie Connors Memorial pay phone booth was located.

  13. Tiday the statute of limitations kick in for anyone who aided Jimmy on the lam. The game changes.

    1. Jim,
      What are the possible implications and/or your predictions,… if you care to expound on the matter.


      1. My man. You captured who we called the white rat ever so well. Keep going & strip the bark off their asses

    2. Jim:

      Good point if things were on the level. Keep in mind the federals were able to walk around the statute of limitations in the case against John Connolly by alleging that in December 23, 1994, Connolly tipped off Weeks about the indictments coming down. That was considered part of the continuing conspiracy that took charges back to the mid-1970s. So that it has been five years since the capture, if the feds can have someone give them some evidence in exchange for a good deal that something happened after that they can allege the most recent thing was part of the conspiracy going back to the time of the escape. The federal trickery has never been impeded by statute of limitations.

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