Mass. coffee poisoning suspect to stay in custody

AP News
Posted: Sep 10, 2013 10:04 PM
Mass. coffee poisoning suspect to stay in custody

CONCORD, Mass. (AP) — With just one sip of iced coffee, Stephen Rakes may have sealed his fate.

And on Tuesday, a judge ordered the man who faces an attempted murder charge in connection with Rakes' death to be held without bail.

A state police trooper testified at a dangerousness hearing Tuesday for William Camuti that Camuti told authorities he put poison in Rakes' coffee and Rakes only took one sip before he rejected the drink as too bitter. Authorities don't have an official cause yet for Rakes' death, as they await further autopsy results.

Trooper Michael Banks testified in Concord District Court that Camuti told authorities he then drove Rakes around for hours before the 59-year-old Quincy man succumbed to the poison.

Rakes had hoped to testify at the trial of Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, who was later convicted of numerous charges, involving 11 killings. On July 17, a jogger found Rakes' body in some woods.

Camuti has pleaded not guilty. Authorities say he owed Rakes a large debt and acted alone.

They allege Camuti lured Rakes with talk of a fake real estate deal, poisoned his iced coffee and drove him around before dumping his body in a wooded area of Lincoln.

Authorities said the two men met at a McDonald's in Waltham the same day Rakes found out he wouldn't get to testify against Bulger in federal court in Boston. Rakes had insisted that Bulger had forced him, in 1984, to sell his South Boston liquor store to Bulger.

Camuti was arrested Aug. 2 on charges that also included misleading police and unlawfully disposing of human remains.

Court testimony Tuesday showed Camuti, a 69-year-old Sudbury resident, had to be flown to a hospital after police investigating Rakes' death came to his apartment in connection with a search warrant and found Camuti bleeding in bed with his wrists slit open.

Banks testified that Camuti's story of his last interaction with Rakes changed over time, until he made admissions while recovering in the hospital from what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries.

Police found a recording of a phone conversation between Rakes and Camuti that Rakes made in which they set up their July 16 meeting. On the tape, Camuti mentioned that it would be hot that day, so he'd have to get something to drink.

Camuti kept the poison in a storage unit near the McDonald's, according to police. Testimony showed that inside the unit, they also found a transcript for a book about Bulger.

Defense lawyer Stanley Norkunas suggested during cross-examination Tuesday that the storage unit might have been used by Rakes, not Camuti. He argued that Camuti wasn't a danger to himself or others, but the judge said there was evidence he was.

Police also said they found a July 16 receipt for two McDonald's iced coffees at Camuti's home, retrieved emails about potassium cyanide, and tracked his movements to the area where Rakes' body was found after seizing the GPS in the car he was driving.