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Authorities Arrest Suspect in 1984 Boston Killing Linked To Mobster Whitey Bulger

A suspect linked to the 1984 murder of a South Boston man is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday. Authorities say the man was linked to notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s control of the drug trade in the neighborhood.

According to the statement from the Suffolk district attorney’s office, Michael Lewis, 61, faces a first-degree murder charge in Suffolk Superior Court in connection with the fatal shooting of Brian Watson.

There has yet to be a defense attorney appointed for Lewis, the district attorney’s office said. 

Watson, who was 23 at the time, was last seen alive on July 16 or 17, 1984, and was reported missing by his mother on July 28 that same year, authorities said. Watson’s body was found hidden by trees and bushes by a motorist who had pulled over on Interstate 93 in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Sept. 16, 1984.

The body was found about 40 feet from the road and was eventually identified as Brian Watson through dental records, the DA said. 

24-year-old Lewis and another man involved in the drug trade drove around the neighborhood in July 1984 looking for a drug dealer they thought had told Bulger that Lewis’ associate was selling angel dust in South Boston, according to the prosecution’s account of events. 

Bulger then demanded a $5,000 payment and an additional $1,000 per week from the man, whose name was not disclosed by prosecutors. Bulger was known to shake down drug dealers doing business in South Boston.

The two men encountered Watson, who agreed to help them find the other dealer, and got in their car, prosecutors said. 

“While the three men drove around South Boston, Lewis suddenly turned, shot, and killed Watson,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. 

Authorities do not allege that Watson or Lewis were directly tied to Bulger, who was killed at the age of 89 in a federal prison in West Virginia in 2018. 

Bulger spent 16 years as a fugitive and was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 killings. 

In 2009, federal authorities developed a “significant break” in Watson’s case, but not enough to secure an indictment, the district attorney said. However, Friday’s new information was developed within the past year that led to Lews’ indictment. 

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden expressed appreciation to New Hampshire law enforcement agencies and federal authorities for their efforts in securing an indictment. 

“This was a true team effort to help indict and charge a homicide that hearkens back to a very different Boston,” he said. “Brian Watson was a young father cut down seemingly on a whim. A remarkably cold-blood whim. Mr. Watson’s family has endured many, many years of loss and heartache. At the very least, they now have some answers.”

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