Inmate on trial in priest's prison slaying considered himself a savior

Saturday, January 14, 2006

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The inmate on trial for strangling a child-molesting defrocked priest, John Geoghan, considered himself a savior of abused youngsters, an investigator testified Friday.

Lt. Edward Hammond, an internal affairs investigator for the state Department of Correction, interviewed inmate Joseph Druce after Geoghan's slaying in August 2003.

He said Druce told him he had been ordained as a minister through the mail and used to sit with Geoghan in their cell block talking about religion.

Geoghan was 68 when he died while serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy. He had been accused in lawsuits of molesting 150 youngsters and was a central figure in Boston's clergy sex abuse scandal.

Druce's lawyer, John LaChance, doesn't dispute that Druce strangled, beat and stomped on Geoghan at the Souza-Baranowski prison but argues Druce shouldn't be held criminally responsible because he was mentally ill.

Under cross-examination by LaChance, Hammond said Friday that Druce told him he thought he was doing the right thing.

"He was portraying himself essentially as the savior of the kids for having killed Geoghan?" Druce's attorney asked.

"He was boastful of his actions and said he did it for the kids," Hammond said.

"He thought what he was doing was morally right?" said LaChance.

"Right," Hammond replied.

Hammond also testified about a diary found in Druce's cell after Geoghan's death. Reading from one entry dated four days before the killing, he said: "Mind racing. Can't read and concentrate. Can't write a letter. Subjects jumping back and forth."

Earlier, Hammond testified that Druce appeared "pleased with himself" as he gave a confession shortly after guards pulled him from Geoghan's cell.

"I killed the child molester," Hammond said Druce boasted. "He won't touch any more kids."

Joy Charon, a nurse's assistant in the prison hospital unit, testified Friday that Druce received "lots of fan mail" after Geoghan's killing.

Druce, 40, unsuccessfully used an insanity defense during his 1989 trial for the killing of a man who allegedly made a sexual advance toward him after picking Druce up hitchhiking.

Geoghan's case helped set off the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church after court records were unsealed showing that Boston Archdiocese officials allowed him to continue having contact with children even after the abuse allegations surfaced.

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