BOSTON -- In the waterfront federal courthouse here, prosecutors this week started building their case that James "Whitey" Bulger was the violent leader of a lucrative criminal empire, allegedly willing to kill rivals with his own hands.
But across the country, Josh Bond, the manager of the Princess Eugenia complex in Santa Monica, knew Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, as his neighbors Charlie and Carol Gasko, a kindly older couple living together in a simple apartment. Bond recalled meeting Bulger in 2007.
"First time I can remember meeting him," Bond said in an interview with CBS Evening News broadcast last night, "he actually came to my door and knocked on my door one day and introduced himself and gave me a cowboy hat. Said he thought he didn't need it anymore and thought I could use it.
"He was very nice to me," Bond said.
Bulger, now 83, settled into the Princess Eugenia in an attempt to elude capture by federal authorities, who in 1994 indicted him for 19 murders and other racketeering charges. A corrupt FBI agent helped Bulger to flee Boston by tipping him off that officers were out to arrest him.
Bulger was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives for 16 years until his arrest in 2011. Bond and another neighbor played an important role in Bulger's capture.
The FBI got a call in June 2011 from Anna Bjornsdottir, an ex-model who split time between Santa Monica and her native Iceland. She recognized Greig from wanted posters and told the FBI what alias she was using.
Soon after, an agent knocked on Bond's door at the Princess Eugenia and enlisted his help to catch Bulger. At the agent's request, Bond called Bulger and Greig's apartment, saying that their storage locker had been burglarized.
When Bulger came to check on the locker, he was arrested by dozens of waiting agents. His life as a fugitive was over.
"I called my family," Bond told CBS, "and I was like, 'I just helped the FBI arrest the most wanted man in America.'"
Bond, a 30-year-old musician, considered Bulger a friend and had been reluctant previously to discuss their relationship. He told NBC News recently that he won't pay attention to the trial, which is expected to take at least three months.
Bulger exchanged letters with Bond after his arrest, ABC News reported.
The friendly old man who lived next door to Bond is unrecognizable to many in Boston who knew Bulger as a vicious, mean-spirited man. Friday morning, ex-bookmaker James Katz testified about the peril of not paying "rent," or a monthly fee, to Bulger's gang for operating on their turf.
"You could wind up in the hospital, let's put it that way," Katz said in response to a question from the prosecution.
In court on Thursday, prosecutors showed dozens of weapons allegedly stockpiled by Bulger's gang.
"Now you see all the guns he had. We had good reason to be afraid," Steven Rakes told The Huffington Post.
Bulger and a partner forced Rakes at gunpoint to sell them his South Boston liquor store in 1984. "People don't understand the fear that was on the streets."