Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

Warning, Ladies - Life on the Lam Isn't a Bed of Roses

A mass murderer and the women who loved him

One of these people is accused of mass murder; the other of dating him

The focus in the capture of Whitey Bulger, the notorious Boston hit man implicated in 19 murders, has actually been more on his girlfriend, Catherine Elizabeth Greig.  I mean, how loyal can a woman be, running from authorities with a grumpy old man (Whitey was more than 20 years older than Catherine -- we'll get to the grumpy later) for 16 years?  You know that dang old FBI surveillance on those top-ten most-wanted criminals -- Christmas visits with your twin sister are out!

Let's start with Whitey's and Catherine's history of romantic involvements (although, especially with Whitey, "romance" -- as in flowers for special occasions -- does not seem to be an operative concept).

Catherine had been married before to Bobby McGonagle, a Boston firefighter who doubled as a mob member.  Eventually Bobby was shot -- and his brothers Donald and Paul killed -- engaging in such extracurricular activities.  And guess who Bobby blamed for these assaults and murders?  None other than Whitey Bulger! 

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(Bulger himself came from a much more upstanding family.  His brother William was president of the Massachusetts state senate, after which he became president of the University of Massachusetts.  So much for genetic theories of criminality -- I'd be looking for a power gene instead!  Unfortunately, William was brought down before his brother when he was forced to resign from UMass by then-governor Mitt Romney after he pleaded the fifth before a congressional committee investigating the FBI’s ties to his brother.  I admire family loyatly -- don't you?)

But, back to Catherine.  I know divorces can be ugly, and Catherine and Bobby were divorced a few years after he was shot.  But dating the guy who shoots your husband and kills your brothers-in-law?  Catherine may be one of those women who admires take-charge men -- wherever that may lead.

Bulger strangled Stephen Flemmi's stepdaughter

As for Whitey's history with women -- oy vey.  Two of the murders for which he was being sought involved beautiful young women -- Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey -- both sexual objects of Whitey's partner in crime, Steve Flemmi (Hussey was also Flemmi's stepdaughter).  Although Flemmi pleaded to the murders, for which he is now in prison, he and another mobster witness claimed Bulger actually strangled the women with seemingly no compunctions.

Ms. Davis was Mr. Flemmi’s girlfriend for almost 10 years, beginning when she was 17. According to testimony, when she wanted to end the relationship in 1981, he brought her to the house of Mr. Bulger’s mother and watched Mr. Bulger crush her windpipe with his forearms. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s girlfriends. In 1985, again with Mr. Flemmi looking on, Mr. Bulger murdered Ms. Hussey. That happened just months after she told her mother that Mr. Flemmi had abused her sexually as a teenager.

Do any alert PT readers sense an anger issue here, particularly concerning women?

Which brings us to the issues faced by Catherine in dating a man on the lam.  You don't really get to go out much.  The couple didn't have a car.  They dined with no one.  Whitey sat on a couch watching television day after day for the 15 years they lived in a small apartment in Santa Monica.  That this is what was left of Whitey's life after he stopped killing people, and that a younger, attractive woman like Catherine accepted this as a lifestyle actually tells us practically all we need to know about these two people.

Pehaps you might believe that Catherine Greig was a hardened gun moll, like Bonnie Parker.  But nothing seems to have been further from the truth.  People who met her report an outgoing, extremely nice person with a weakness for animals.  She kept two pet poodles.

Bulger shunned contact -- for himself and Greig.  According to a Santa Monica neighbor, "I got the feeling from several encounters that he was a rageaholic. [Greig] was a lovely person, and when I would say hello, he would say, 'Don't talk to her!'"

But Catherine always accepted Whitey's directions: “When he called out to her, she acted as if he did this wonderful thing and God had called to her,” according to another neighbor. 

Catherine and Whitey displayed different demeanors in court (try to figure out which of the two people being described is wanted for multiple murders):

Mr. Bulger appeared confident in court, even jocular. Ms. Greig, by contrast, seemed timid, drawn and older than her years. She looked uncertainly to her court-appointed lawyer before answering questions. But she did have a smile for her twin sister, Margaret McCusker, who sat in front in the crowded courtroom. (Although Bulger, too, nodded at his brother.)

Does this paint a picture of the two personalities?  One might be termed a psychopath, the other. . . a person very unsure of herself.  (Bulger, of course, has had much more experience with the judicial system.)

And perhaps this is relevant, Greig appeared in court -- as several Santa Monica neighbors said she always did -- impeccably dressed with manicured nails.

After all is said and done, what is most amazing about the relationship is how Whitey Bulger didn't lack for female companionship.  Catherine was not his only woman.  While simultaneously living with Greig near Boston, he had another home with Theresa Staney, a single mother of four, with whom he lived for about 20 years.  (Watch for the next post in this series: "Whitey as father figure.")

Ms. Stanley learned only in 1994 "that throughout most or all of the time she had been Bulger’s girlfriend, Bulger had also been romantically involved with Greig,” according to the F.B.I.  As Ms. Stanley said, “He was leading a double life with me and a double life with the F.B.I.”

In fact, Whitey first went on the run with Ms. Stanley.  Despite their more active life together than Bulger had with Greig (Whitey was not yet under indictment), Stanley apparently wearied of her itinerant lifestyle with a withdrawn former killer.   After traveling around the country and abroad, "Stanley was bored with sightseeing and tired of being alone with the aloof Bulger and his long silences, according to the Black Mass book. 'In the last couple of weeks Stanley had hesitated to even ask simple questions like, where are we going now? It would only start an argument.'"

Soon after Bulger learned he was facing a racketeering indictment, "He drove back to Boston with Ms. Stanley and dumped her off in a parking lot, according to Black Mass. Bulger said, ‘I’ll call you,’ as he roared off forever. She never heard from him again.”

Bulger then turned to Ms. Greig, a woman who apparently had an even greater tolerance level than Stanley, ignoring that she was only Whitey's second choice as a moll, and putting up with a life in a mausoleum.

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! and developer of the online Life Process Program. He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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