UPDATED with details of death: James “Whitey” Bulger, the one-time leader of the South Boston mob who became a controversial FBI informant and was played by Johnny Depp in Scott Cooper’s 2015 film Black Mass, was beaten to death this morning by fellow inmates in a high-security West Virginia federal prison. He was 89.
Bulger had just been moved on Monday to the U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, where he was found at 8:20 a.m. ET. The FBI is investigating his death, according to a statement released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (read it here). It added that no other inmates or staffers was injured.
Bulger ran the Irish mob for decades and was on the run from authorities for 16 years — and on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for a dozen of those — before being arrested in Santa Monica in 2011. At his ensuing trial, he was convicted of 11 murders in three states and sentence to life in prison
He inspired a number of characters in Hollywood films and TV shows. Along with the Black Mass film, Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello role in Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Departed was based on Bulger, as was James Woods’ Sully Sullivan in Ray Donovan. Another Showtime drama, Brotherhood, about a state politician whose brother was a crime boss, was inspired by Bulger and his brother Billy.
Other shows with characters tied to Bulger include NBC’s The Blacklist and TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.