Seventy-two-year-old William Camuti looked frail, walking into the courtroom with a cane on Thursday.
But on the first day of his murder trial, prosecutors painted him as a calculating killer, desperate to get out of more than $100,000 in debt owed to his business associate Stephen Rakes of Quincy.
"Mr. Camuti’s house of cards was falling apart," Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch said. "He chose to eliminate his largest creditor."
Prosecutors say back in the summer of 2013, Camuti lured Rakes into his car at a McDonald's in Waltham, Massachusetts, and poisoned his iced coffee with cyanide, before dumping the body. As police closed in a few days later, prosecutors said Camuti tried to commit suicide, and from his hospital bed confessed to the murder.
But Camuti's lawyer attempted to cast doubt on that hospital confession.
“None of the three interviews conducted at Mass. General Hospital were tape recorded,” defense attorney Brad Bailey said.
He added that his client is innocent and this case lacks key pieces of physical evidence.
“You will not hear from any eyewitnesses to this alleged murder," Bailey said. "Nor is there any evidence of my client's DNA found on any element of Mr. Rakes's clothing."
Rakes had hoped to testify against Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger about an alleged shakedown scheme. Rakes blamed Bulger for seizing control of his South Boston liquor store to use as a headquarters for Boston's Irish mob in 1984. He learned just before meeting with Camuti that he wouldn't be called as a witness in the trial.
Bulger's trial was going on at the same time that Rakes's body was found, so there was speculation the death was connected, although that ended up being untrue.