Forty years ago Diane Sussman de Tennen survived a violent gangland hit that left her boyfriend paralyzed and his friend dead.
Yesterday she choked back tears at James Whitey Bulger's trial as she recounted how she had dived for cover in the front seat of a Mercedes Benz when gunfire erupted all around her.
Sussman de Tennen was shot in the arm and yesterday she was the first witness to describe being wounded and losing a loved one in shootings allegedly orchestrated by Bulger and his gang.
According to ABC News family members of several victims gave their emotional testimony describing how they learned their relatives had been killed.
Sussman de Tennen said she was in a car driven by Michael Milano, a 30-year-old bartender, on March 8 1973, when a car pulled up next to them at a stop light in Boston's North End neighborhood.
'All of a sudden, there was this noise, a continuous stream of gunfire. It was just nonstop,' she said. After the shots ended she sat up and saw Milano was leaning forward into the steering wheel.
'I looked at him and I asked him if he was OK, and I got no response,' she said.
In the backseat she saw that her boyfriend Louis Lapiano was seriously wounded. He had been paralyzed by the gunfire and spent the next 28 years as a quadriplegic before he died in 2001.
Prosecutors say Milano was killed because he was mistaken for another man who was the intended target.
Under cross-examination by Bulger's attorney J.W. Carney Jr., Sussman de Tennen said she did not see who shot at the car. When Carney asked if she knows who shot Milano, she declined to answer, saying it would be speculation.
'In my mind, I do know,' she said.
Sussman de Tennen said she stayed with Lapiano for two years after the shooting. The shooting changed her relationship with Louie, she explained. No longer a couple, they remained lifelong friends.
She eventually married and had children, but kept in touch with Lapiano for the rest of his life. Lapiano moved out to the West Coast to be near her. He lived in the VA at Long Beach for 28 years. Diane learned how to clear his tubes and run his wheelchair.
'To this day, I am emotionally connected to Louis,' she told the court.
Relatives of several other victims also testified on Thursday.
Deborah Scully, who grew up in the same South Boston housing project as Bulger, said she was nine months pregnant in March 1973 when her boyfriend William O'Brien was shot and killed. Scully said she was unable to go to O'Brien's funeral because she had just given birth to their son.
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