The FBI's Most Wanted Mob Boss James "Whitey" Bulger Was My Neighbour
When I found out that one of the FBI's most wanted criminals had been arrested, I didn't have far to go to cover the story.
The quiet Santa Monica apartment James "Whitey" Bulger had been living in for a decade was a short stroll from my quiet Santa Monica apartment. Just a couple of blocks away.
Yep. The South Boston mobster wanted on 11 murder charges -- who was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed -- had moved from America's east coast to the west, and was living an apparently normal life just down the road from me, and four blocks from the beach.
It was June 2011. I had been posted to Los Angeles as Ten's US Correspondent. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I loved walking around our new neighbourhood to get to know the area.
We'd walked past Bulger's home many times. We'd even remarked on the unusual grass-green coloured "outdoor carpet" leading up the stairs from the street, to the block's front door.
"Who'd want to live there?"
We never could have imagined that inside the two bedroom unit, Bulger was hoarding US$822,000 cash, and had hidden away more than 30 guns -- many of them inside wall cavities.
When a cameraman and I arrived at the home, there was a large media pack posted outside. Our usual practice is to interview neighbours. There were plenty out on the street, and we had lots of questions. Had you seen him? Was he friendly? Did you have any idea who he really was? None of them wanted to be interviewed on camera.
It was understandable. This was a guy who had been right up there with Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's most wanted list. He was wanted on 11 murder charges, but was suspected of involvement in countless more. There was the racketeering, the money laundering, extortion, and so much more. He was a bad, bad man.
In the weeks that followed, it emerged Bulger had frequented Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade - where we did our shopping.
There was even a story about him convincing a homeless man in Palisades Park to hand over his social security number. That park was one of our favourite spots to watch the sunset.
Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., warned him he was about to be indicted.
He'd been living in Santa Monica with his girlfriend Catherine Greig -- who may have unwittingly brought his "quiet" life to an end.
She was a dental hygienist and liked to have her teeth whitened frequently.
The FBI knew this, and launched a new publicity campaign with TV ads showing photos of her and asking women in beauty salons to report any sightings.
It took only a few days for the pair of them to be locked up.
James "Whitey" Bulger was beaten to death overnight by fellow inmates in a prison in West Virginia. He'd only just been transferred to the jail, and was five years into a life sentence.
The investigation into his death will no doubt look at Bulger's enemies. And there were many.
But not in the pleasant seaside city of Santa Monica, where - like many new arrivals to LA life - the deadly mobster simply blended in.