Former priest John Geoghan murdered in prison

Former priest, John Geoghan, who reportedly molested dozens of boys over three decades, was murdered in his prison cell Aug. 23, while serving a nine to 10-year sentence for assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. Ongoing investigation into his death, revealed that his killer might have plotted his murder for over a month.

According to authorities, Geoghan, 68, was attacked by John Druce, 37, a fellow inmate, in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, just before noontime.

Druce reportedly followed Geoghan into his cell after lunch and jammed the electronic cell door to prevent guards from opening it. He then tied Geoghan’s hands behind his back and gagged him before repeatedly jumping onto his body from a bed. He also beat him with his fists before strangling him with a stretched out sock.

Geoghan was pronounced dead at 1:17 p.m., shortly after he was taken to UMass Memorial Health Alliance, a Leominster hospital. According to an autopsy released Aug. 25, he died of strangulation and blunt trauma, his ribs were broken and his lung punctured.

Geoghan’s attacker, a reputed racist and member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nation, was serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of George Rollo, a bus driver from Gloucester. At the time of the murder, Druce was still going by his birth name Darrin Smiledge.

When Rollo made what Druce felt was a sexual advance, he reportedly attacked and beat Rollo, who had picked him up hitchhiking, before stuffing him in the trunk of the car. Druce then drove to a wooded area in Beverly, where he strangled Rollo.

According to Worcester District Attorney John Conte, Druce has “a long-standing phobia, it appears, towards homosexuals of any kind.” He said Druce appeared proud of what he had done and “looked upon Geoghan as a prize.”

Robert Assad, an inmate who was in the same unit as Geoghan, claims that he warned prison guards twice that the former priest was in danger, but his warnings were ignored.

Assad alleges that Druce tried to enlist his help in a fake hostage situation so that Druce would be moved to a federal prison. When Assad refused, Druce reportedly told him that Geoghan was his other option.

Jim Pingeon, litigation director of the prisoners’ rights group, Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said that a “culture of indifference to the safety of prisoners” seems to exists in the protective custody unit where Druce allegedly killed Geoghan. “Our view is that this information suggests at least a significant possibility that this murder could have been prevented.”

Reports have also surfaced that another inmate may have offered to pay Druce to kill Geoghan.

Geoghan had been moved from the state prison in Concord to protective custody at the Shirley facility in April because he feared for his safety. He had reportedly told prison officials that inmates had been urinating and defecating on his pillow and tampering with his food.

On Aug. 25, Gov. Mitt Romney appointed a panel to conduct an investigation into Geoghan’s murder. Surveillance cameras are also being reviewed for details into the murder.

The Archdiocese of Boston released a statement Aug. 23 concerning Geoghan’s death.

"Upon hearing of the news of the tragic death of John Geoghan, the Archdiocese of Boston offers prayers for the repose of John's soul and extends its prayers and consolation to his beloved sister Cathy, at this time of personal loss."

Monsignor John Abruzzese, a priest from the archdiocese currently serving as the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, called the death “a tragic end to a tragic life.”

"I am outraged both at what he did and what was done to him," he continued.

Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, stated that he prayed for the souls of both Geoghan and Druce.

"We Christians must pray for the souls of the deceased," he said. "We cannot judge souls; that is the prerogative of God."

"This does not, in any way, mean justifying sin," the archbishop continued. "We cannot ignore sin. The world does that too often and too easily... The greater the sin, the greater the need for our prayers, especially when it involves people in the Church."

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who was the lead lawyer in a $10 million settlement deal between the archdiocese and 86 of Geoghan’s victims, explained that victims are “not happy about this. This is not going to help victims heal.”

Geoghan served as a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston for over 30 years. He was ordained in 1962 and defrocked in 1998.

Materials from the AP and the Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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