She couldn’t bring herself to read the copy of Black Mass her parents bought her. Not while her team of investigators were pulling the bodies of Whitey Bulger’s victims out of the ground, anyway.
It was all too close to the heart, the same way that her time spent in Gloucester made images of the waves tossing George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg to their doom in The Perfect Storm reignited old horrors.
“Books are based on facts,” she said. “There’s a layer of protection between the raw emotions and the depiction. My heart is with the victims, not with the glorifying of Bulger’s actions.”
With the release of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the infamous Southie Irish mobster-turned-FBI informant, Dr. Ann Marie Mires shuddered at the sight of the actors standing on the muddy banks of the Neponset River under the T tracks in the trailer. She knew that scene all too well, having spent about three and a half weeks looking for Debra Davis and Tom King.
“We moved a football field’s worth of dirt 15 feet deep looking for these bodies,” Mires said. “We had a source who wasn’t sure where they were. Construction had changed the landscape, so we had to dig down to the old beach. We found the train tracks from the original train line from the 1860’s before we found them.”
These were the last two of the six bodies she would testify about years later in front of the man who became a mythological figure in the world of organized crime and perhaps the biggest black eye on the FBI’s reputation.
On January 13, 2000, Mires was called to a scene at a vacant lot across from Florian Hall in Dorchester. Unbeknownst to her, former Bulger muscle Kevin Weeks told authorities where to look for a grave 8 feet deep where three bodies were stacked. Her team worked from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m., painstakingly pulling the bodies of Debra Hussey, Arthur Barrett and John McIntire out of the frozen ground. The three had been buried in separate graves in the basement of a South Boston home, but when the house hit the market, those bodies had to go. In 1984, Bulger instructed Weeks to dig a hole for them.
“They weren’t intact, but they were complete,” Mires said.
The next excavation took place at Tenean Beach, where the team had to work against the tides for two days to find Pat McGonigal, whose remains had endured 20 years worth of tidal shift and had the DNA dried out of him. Finally, they dug up Debra Davis and Tom King. Her 7-hour-long testimony made the 83-year-old gangster cringe.
“We are talking about a psychopath,” Mires said. “There’s no glamor in the terror he created in Boston. He felt no remorse about the multiple lives he ruined.”
But a lingering question has Mires perplexed: Whitey Bulger never took the stand and never spoke for himself. Why should famous actors speak for him in the form of entertainment? Her family came from New York and would never watch “Goodfellas,” “The Sopranos” or “The Godfather” because of the humanizing element of maniacal criminals.
“There is a huge difference when comes to distinguishing the horrible realities of organized crime versus the glorification of the blood and gore in Hollywood,” Mires said. “The survivors can’t undo what has been done.”
Mires is the director of the Molly Bish Center at Anna Maria College. There, she hosts lectures on preventing horrific acts of violence.
“We may never be able to stem the violence in our society,” Mires said. “But through education and community engagement, we can work to reduce it.”