HAZELTON, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney for Northern West Virginia Bill Powell confirmed Wednesday the investigation into the death of one-time Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger at the federal prison in Preston County is indeed a homicide investigation.

Whitey Bulger 2011 mugshot

“To protect the integrity of the investigation, no further details will be released at this time,” Powell said.

Bulger, 89, was found dead in his general population cell Tuesday morning. He had been at the Hazelton prison for less than 24 hours.

Boston Globe investigative reporter Shelley Murphy has reported two inmates are under investigation for the death including Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 51, a West Springfield, Mass. Mafia hit man.

During an appearance Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Murphy said the big question is why Bulger was transferred to Hazelton.

“It’s very strange that he was sent to that prison. We know there were people at that prison, not just the guy now suspected in the murder, but others that have Boston ties there,” Murphy said. “It’s just a little strange they would put Whitey in a place with known adversaries.”

Murphy said Bulger had plenty of enemies after years of being an FBI informant in Boston while at the same time being a crime boss. He was convicted in a 2013 trial of convicted 11 murders including one where he strangled a woman.

Murphy said it’s possible Bulger’s age had caused him to let down his guard.

“We know his health was declining. We also know that he had apparently some disciplinary issues in Florida. It’s being reported elsewhere that he wanted to be in general population but clearly in some of the prior prisons that Whitey had been at I think he was lulled into a false sense of security,” Murphy said.

Sources have told Murphy Bulger was beaten and his eyes were gouged out.

“It was a brutal, brutal murder for a guy who really was a brutal killer himself,” she said. “Maybe getting up there in years he sort of underestimated the longtime grudges of people who felt he betrayed the mafia.”

Bulger left Boston in 1995 after being tipped off that authorities were going after him. He was on the run for 16 years. He was arrested in California in 2011. He was convicted on various charges in 2013 and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Murphy said considering Bulger’s life, maybe an end like this could be expected.

“This is a story that’s been so crazy, nothing about it has been ordinary, so I guess when you consider that, you know, that he would die in this way–it’s just a crazy, crazy story,” Murphy said.

Inmate murders at Hazelton have not been uncommon. Bulger’s murder was the third in the past seven months.

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