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Man accused of killing priest faces evaluation

Saturday, October 4, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass. -- A judge Friday ordered a preliminary psychiatric evaluation for the prison inmate accused of killing of a priest at the center of the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

Joseph Druce is accused of beating and strangling defrocked priest John Geoghan in his cell on Aug. 23.

Geoghan, 68, a key figure in the clergy abuse scandal, was serving a nine- to 10-year prison term for groping a 10-year-old boy and was accused in civil lawsuits of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades as a Boston-area priest.

Druce, 38, has pleaded innocent in Geoghan's killing, and his lawyer has indicated he may seek an insanity defense. He is already serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a gay man.

Druce interrupted Friday's pretrial hearing several times, asking that he be allowed to display what he described as leg injuries from his shackles and alleging a prison official had threatened him.

His lawyer, John LaChance, said he is had trouble having confidential conversations with his client, who is being held under 24-hour observation and is allowed to talk to LaChance only over the telephone and through a transparent partition.

Judge John McCann ordered Druce to undergo a mental health evaluation -- the first step toward a more extensive 30-day competency evaluation.

The judge reissued a previous ruling instructing the Department of Corrections to allow private conversations between Druce and LaChance.

In letters to newspapers, Druce has identified himself as Geoghan's "exterminator" and said pedophiles should be castrated.

After he left the courtroom, Druce shouted an apparent criticism of the sentence given this week to another pedophile priest, the Rev. Robert E. Kelley, who was convicted of raping two young girls in the early 1980s.

"They had the nerve to give that guy five to seven (years)," Druce said.


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