Life on the Lam
One of the areas of curiosity about Whitey Bulger is how he spent sixteen years eluding the authorities. During his years as a fugitive rumors arose from time to time, especially in the south Boston neighborhoods which regarded him as their own. One rumor had him fleeing to Ireland, where his former allies in the IRA were sheltering him from the prying eyes of the authorities. Another had him in Brazil. Clearly Bulger had prepared for the day he needed to run and was ready when it finally came. Nearly all of the time he spent on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list was idled away in Santa Monica.
Lindsey Cyr, Bulger’s former girlfriend and the mother of his son received annual visits for interviews with the US Marshals during Bulger’s absence, and reported hearing from him from time to time, the last time being in 2003. She was not told his location, and when the Marshal’s informed her that Bulger was running out of money she indicated that she doubted the assertion. Cyr claimed that Bulger had millions of dollars in cash stashed at various locations, and several passports. When he was found Bulger did claim to be nearly out of money, until investigators found several hundred thousand dollars hidden in the walls of his apartment.
Bulger did travel extensively during his first few years on the run, at first accompanied by Theresa Stanley, a girlfriend at the time of his flight. After she tired of life on the run he returned her to Boston and was joined by Catherine Grieg, whose former husband had been Bobby McGonagle, brother of Donald McGonagle, killed by Bulger years earlier. During their travels they visited Alcatraz as tourists, and Bulger had a photograph of the couple taken while they posed in prison garb. He told authorities once captured that they traveled to Europe and Mexico before settling in Santa Monica as a retired couple.
Grieg did all of the shopping, which was not an unusual sight in the area, where there were several elderly couples and retirees. A convalescent home was across the street from their Santa Monica apartment, which was rent controlled. In short, Bulger wasn’t seen very often by other than his immediate neighbors, and over time even that was less and less. Usually when Grieg left the apartment it was very early, and the couple presented themselves as sedentary retirees, asking few questions and avoiding social settings where they were likely to be asked.
In the end it was Grieg who led the FBI to Bulger. From interviewing her family and former friends the FBI learned that she was fastidious about her appearance, including her teeth, and had had cosmetic surgery in the past. The FBI focused its search for her using trade magazines and newsletters from the American Dental Association. It also produced a public service announcement which it ran just before receiving the tip which led them to Bulger. The PSA asked viewers to be on the lookout for the couple, and after sixteen years of hiding, Bulger was found following a tip received from a former neighbor.