HOLDEN, Mass. — In the middle of the night on June 23, 2011, former Massachusetts State Police Col. Tom Foley received a phone call with the news that the sixteen-year search for the one of the most notorious gangsters was now over — James J. "Whitey" Bulger had been caught.
A year after that news first swept the nation, Foley will visit the Holden Public Safety Building to talk about his new book, "Most Wanted: Pursuing Whitey Bulger, the Murderous Mobster Chief the FBI Secretly Protected" at 7 p.m. at the Holden Public Safety Building on Aug. 23.
Hosted by the Holden Police Department and Gale Free Library, Foley will discuss his own investigations into Bulger, which led to the first charges ever filed against the gangster since he became involved in organized crime in 1967.
Yet for Foley, Bulger's capture by the FBI was almost bittersweet, as the very organization that could now claim victory with apprehending the fugitive had just decades earlier been responsible for his escape.
"The truth is finally coming out about what actually occurred, and Foley's book is the latest chapter in this whole episode," said Holden Police Chief George Sherrill. "When it gets down to the nitty gritty, Bulger was an FBI informant, and it raises questions about how much string you give an informant to break the rules and commit crimes — in this case all the way up to murder. For the public or police, everybody is somewhat aware of the slippery slope of using informants, and some of the pitfalls that occur when your rely heavily on them."
A career officer with the Massachusetts State Police, Foley rose to become superintendent, its highest ranking officer, in 2001. Starting in 1984, he was a member of the State Police’s first task force against organized crime, helping to create the Investigative Unit that was dedicated to bringing Bulger to justice.
Foley’s investigative efforts resulted in criminal convictions of a half-dozen of Boston’s most notorious gangsters, many of whom are still in prison today.
His work also led to the conviction of John Connolly, one of the FBI agents who aided Bulger. Connolly is now serving a 40-year prison sentence.
Though far removed from Winter Hill and the epicenter of Bulger's activity, Worcester area people and places have been tied to the saga since the beginning.
According to Sherrill, many of the police that were involved in the investigation in the 80's and 90's were from the Worcester area, "and a lot of them started out as troopers in the Holden Barracks, so a lot of the members on the department here know these people, and find it interesting that they're now involved in such a national case."
Familiar local venues also played the backdrop for police and FBI tensions during the investigation, and Foley's book recounts a confrontation at the Wachusett Country Club in West Boylston for a retiring FBI special agent.
A voracious reader of mystery and crime novels himself, Sherrill has been following the Bulger case throughout the years.
"I've read probably all of the books about Bulger as they come out," he said.
With Foley's latest entry on the saga, Sherrill says "he doesn't hold back any punches. He names names and even in the back of the book he has his complete letter to the U.S. Attorney Donal Stern saying 'something's not right here.' It's all there in black and white."
In fact, Sherrill and Foley go back nearly 30 years.
"He's a stand-up guy," said Sherrill. "I've seen him go up the ranks from trooper all the way to colonel, and he's a very credible standout individual. So when I heard he was writing a book I said it was going to be a winner, and sure enough it is."
Copies of Foley's book are available for borrowing at the Gale Free Library, and will be for sale at the talk and signing on Aug. 23 as well.