June 20, 2013

Bulger trial witness: The hit man of Country Club Lane

By Bridget Murphy / The Associated Press

MILFORD, Mass. — He parks his silver Mercedes-Benz sedan behind his condo, below a deck decorated with white and pink flowers, where a couple of small dogs bark at the few passers-by.

click image to enlarge

John Martorano, shown in a 2008 photo, testified this week in the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger.

AP

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It's inside this wooded golf course community where neighbors of John Martorano learned this week that the 72-year-old they know only as a cordial fellow resident of a block called Country Club Lane is a former mob hit man.

"Well, it means I won't get into any arguments with him," one Milford resident said. "Whatever he says, he's right."

That resident and his wife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they fear for their safety if they are identified, were shocked to recognize their neighbor Monday while watching television coverage of the racketeering trial of James "Whitey" Bulger in Boston.

They said they'd had no clues that the pleasant, quiet man they know only as John, whose companion brings them cookies at Christmastime, had a past as a prolific killer.

"There has been nothing to indicate anything like that," the woman said Monday. "I hope no one is looking for him and comes here."

Martorano has admitted to 20 killings but served only 12 years in prison as part of a deal he made with authorities to testify against former cohorts.

The resident of Milford, about 30 miles southwest of Boston, got out of prison in 2007 and testified this week for the prosecution as the government tries Bulger, the reputed former Winter Hill Gang ringleader, for crimes that include his alleged participation in 19 slayings. Bulger, 83, fled Boston in 1994 and was a fugitive until his capture in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.

In the past, Martorano's cooperation with authorities bolstered a corruption case against a former FBI agent and helped them locate the bodies of six mob victims.

Before his 2004 sentencing, he apologized to the families of the people he killed, a sentiment that some didn't receive well. Martorano has said he decided to cooperate with authorities after learning Bulger and his other former partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, were FBI informants.

On the witness stand, Martorano talked Monday and Tuesday about a series of killings he carried out while a gang member in the 1970s. His cross-examination by Bulger's defense team continued Wednesday.

In Milford, Martorano's neighbor John Ferreira said he was surprised Monday to find out about his neighbor's past, but said it didn't bother him. The 60-year-old said he sometimes sees Martorano taking the trash out, and that he's always been nice.

"We just wave hi to each other. We don't talk to each other," he said.

At a shopping center near Martorano's condo, a convenience store clerk recognized a picture of him. She called him a nice gentleman she knew nothing about except that he bought $15 to $20 in lottery tickets about once a month.

Asked at the trial how he makes a living, Martorano answered, "Social Security." Later, he testified that he has made about $70,000 from Howie Carr's book "Hitman" and another $250,000 from a film company. He said he'll get another $250,000 if the movie is made.

Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said Monday that Martorano isn't on parole and can live wherever he wants, including in this town of 27,000 people. He said the former hit man's only brush with the law in Milford was a minor fender bender in April 2012 that ended with police writing him a warning for failure to use caution in slowing.

"He's been here a couple years," O'Loughlin said. "I've seen him about the town like anybody else. We've had no difficulties with him."

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