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Ex-Priest Dies Just Right before Experiencing Costs in 1972 Killing of an Altar Boy

Virtually 50 yrs back, the human body of Danny Croteau, a 13-yr-outdated altar boy, was identified floating in the Chicopee River in Springfield, Mass. His head experienced been crushed with a blunt item.

Richard R. Lavigne, a Catholic priest who was close to the boy’s household, presided around his funeral Mass at Saint Catherine of Siena Church in Springfield and comforted his mother and father.

But the law enforcement began investigating the priest pretty much straight away right after the boy’s loss of life. Quickly, the mom and dad of Danny, the youngest in a relatives of five boys and two girls, grew to become suspicious as very well.

About the many years, investigators regularly interviewed Mr. Lavigne and searched his property for evidence. A reporter at The Boston World confronted him in 2003 and questioned him about the circumstance.

“My silence,” Mr. Lavigne replied, “has been my salvation.”

On May 21, prosecutors and investigators in Hampden County resolved they ultimately had adequate evidence to arrest Mr. Lavigne, who had been defrocked in 2004 for molesting two boys and was being in a hospital in Greenfield, 40 miles north of Springfield.

But just hrs after they experienced begun planning a request for an arrest warrant for murder, investigators acquired that Mr. Lavigne, 80, had died, stated the Hampden County district legal professional, Anthony D. Gulluni.

The cause of Mr. Lavigne’s death was respiratory failure linked to Covid-19 issues, in accordance to the Each day Hampshire Gazette, which cited his demise certification.

“The investigation into the murder of Danny Croteau is now formally closed,” Mr. Gulluni stated on Monday, when he announced the advancement at a news meeting. “While official justice might not have befallen Richard Lavigne listed here on this earth, we hope to now provide solutions and some evaluate of closure to Danny’s family members.”

Mr. Gulluni mentioned Michael T. McNally, a trooper with the Massachusetts State Law enforcement, interviewed Mr. Lavigne over five times in April and Might.

Mr. Lavigne under no circumstances admitted to killing the boy but said that he had shoved him the night time of April 14, 1972, as they stood by the river lender. Mr. Lavigne explained when he returned to the river later on that night time, he saw Danny in the h2o.

“I just bear in mind remaining heartbroken when I noticed his body going down the river knowing I was dependable for offering him a good shove, you know?” he reported, according to a recording Mr. Gulluni performed for reporters.

“He was a wonderful small kid,” Mr. Lavigne stated. “I’d quicker forget about the total issue, frankly.”

The Croteau family achieved Mr. Lavigne in 1967, when he was assigned to Saint Catherine, where Danny and his brothers served as altar boys.

Mr. Lavigne took Danny and some of his brothers on outings and right away outings.

“Things were hard,” Carl Croteau, Danny’s father, advised The Boston World in 2003. “I’d get laid off from time to time. Lavigne would raid the freezer at the rectory and carry us steak or a roast. He presented to glance immediately after the little ones.”

In a assertion, William D. Byrne, the bishop of the Springfield Diocese, apologized to the Croteau household and explained he was “angered and sickened to listen to Lavigne’s unapologetic admissions.”

“It is also a further reminder of our past failures as a church and a diocese to shield kids and youthful grown ups from these kinds of horrible predators in our midst,” Bishop Byrne claimed.

The police found Danny’s overall body on April 15, 1972.

Mr. Gulluni reported that when investigators questioned Mr. Lavigne two times later, he questioned them, “‘If a stone was made use of and thrown in the river, would blood nonetheless be on it?’”

In 1991, a witness who stated he experienced served as an altar boy with Danny explained how the priest inspired them to consume from the wine chalice right after Mass, in accordance to a assertion Trooper McNally wrote.

Mr. Lavigne would push up to a road the place Danny was enjoying hockey with other boys, the statement explained.

“Without warning, Danny would prevent taking part in, get started crying” and would operate to Mr. Lavigne’s car or truck, the assertion stated.

“They realized that Danny was not likely residence as the auto drove absent in the reverse course,” Trooper McNally wrote.

In January, Carl Croteau Jr., Danny’s brother, told investigators that a thirty day period in advance of the killing, his brother had appear residence immediately after investing the working day with Mr. Lavigne “sick to his stomach from consuming alcohol.”

An autopsy uncovered substantial ranges of alcoholic beverages in Danny’s blood.

In an job interview on Friday, Mr. Gulluni claimed that Mr. Lavigne was constantly the “primary suspect.”

But Mr. Gulluni’s predecessor said the lack of strong actual physical evidence against Mr. Lavigne would make it difficult to secure a conviction. DNA tests of the blood discovered at the criminal offense scene had been inconclusive.

In 2020, Mr. Gulluni stated he assigned investigators to analyze the case yet again.

DNA take a look at results remained inconclusive but investigators concentrated on other proof, like a letter they mentioned Mr. Lavigne had published to himself in 2004 that described “terrible compulsions” and “unbearable” torment about a boy he fulfilled together the Chicopee River.

Investigators made a decision to check out to converse to Mr. Lavigne once again.

“Given the time that has handed, and his age, there was some hope that he would have interaction,” Mr. Gulluni explained on Friday. “And certain enough, he did.”

When Trooper McNally questioned him why he strike the boy, Mr. Lavigne mentioned he only remembered shoving him “for the similar cause you possibly drive your possess son.”

Carl Croteau died in 2010. Danny’s mother, Bernice Croteau, died in 2016.

Joe Croteau, one of Danny’s brothers, who listened to the recording through the news conference, explained he was “awfully glad that my mother and father will hardly ever listen to this.”

Joe Croteau mentioned the spouse and children was upset that Mr. Lavigne would not facial area a demo.

“We think there is a increased energy,” he reported. “And he will experience that greater electricity now.”

James Scahill, a retired Catholic priest who urged church officials to defrock Mr. Lavigne, satisfied with Danny’s parents close to 2002.

He reported Ms. Croteau told him, “‘God and my religion is the a single issue the church just can’t take absent from me.’”

Mr. Gulluni said he had talked to the Croteau relatives about exhuming their brother’s body so they could keep a 2nd funeral services, one particular that would have “nothing to do with Richard Lavigne.”

Susan Beachy contributed study.

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