On Friday, officials received an arrest warrant for Richard R. Lavigne, who died in hospital that evening, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said in a statement on Monday. Lavigne had some physical ailments, Gulluni said at a press conference, and was not doing well for a while.
13-year-old Daniel Croteau was found dead on April 15, 1972 in the Connecticut River in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He was wearing the clothes he had worn at the local Catholic school the day before.
Daniel and his four brothers served as altar boys for Lavigne at Saint Catherine of Siena in Springfield, the DA office said. The priest also took Croteau and his brothers on excursions several times without their parents, and the priest had invited Daniel and his brothers a couple of times to stay with his parents in Chicopee, Gulluni said.
According to Mark Dupont, spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield, Lavigne was debased by the Catholic Church in 2004 for receiving numerous sexual complaints against him.
“Danny’s parents, Carl and Bernice, told reporters they just wanted answers. Given the accumulation of historical evidence, evidence gained last year, and Richard Lavigne’s concessions, I believe we have those answers now,” Gulluni said in one Opinion.
“While formal justice may not have met Richard Lavigne here on this earth, we now hope to give Danny’s family answers and some degree of closure,” he added.
The riddle letter was examined
In March 2020, Gulluni’s office turned back to the Croteau murder, working with the Massachusetts State Police’s detective and unsolved cases.
Investigators searched thousands of documents, decades of evidence, and focused on a letter Lavigne shared with investigators, which he received in 2004 from the teenager’s killer, who Gulluni’s office said admitted guilt. The letter wasn’t signed.
An expert in forensic linguistics examined the letter on March 5, 2021 and compared it to other letters from Lavigne, prosecutors said. The May 21 audit report states that “the language patterns in the document in question match the language patterns in the known Lavigne documents, to the point that Richard R. Lavigne cannot be excluded as a possible candidate for authorship. ”
In the meantime, the investigators surveyed Lavigne for about eleven hours on several days in April and May 2021, the DA office said. The debilitated priest refused to admit he killed Daniel and tried to mislead and distract investigators, Gulluni’s office said.
However, Lavigne also made statements that he took the Croteau to the riverside on April 14, 1972, physically assaulted it, and returned a little later to discover the teenage boy lying face down in the river, the prosecutor said.
Lavigne had not notified the police or Croteau’s parents, Gulluni’s office said.
Croteau’s brother is grateful to the investigators
Joe Croteau, Daniel’s brother, said he was grateful to investigators for bringing this case to a close.
“I also want to thank all of those people who went forward when it wasn’t a good time to give the prosecutor, his staff and the state police the information they needed to get to this point,” said Croteau at a press conference.
“We are disappointed that he will not be tried, but just like the prosecutor, we believe that there is a higher power and he will have to face that higher power.”
Lavigne was arrested in 1991 for sexually abusing children and was on leave from the Church, according to Dupont, the diocese’s spokesman.
According to the police investigation, Lavigne received a 10-year suspended sentence in 1992 for indecent assault and bodily harm to a person over the age of 14, and for indecent assault and assault to a child under the age of 14. Both were acolytes, it said in the police statement.
The Diocese of Springfield Bishop issued a statement following Gulluni’s announcement, apologizing to the Croteau family.
“It is incredibly disheartening to learn that a priest, a person destined to care for God’s people, would have committed such an evil crime and then took no responsibility for his actions,” said Bishop William D. Byrne. “All of this contradicts the doctrines that we as Catholics believe and hold to be sacred.
“It is also another reminder of our past failures as a church and diocese in protecting children and young adults from such terrible predators among us. While we have made great strides in improving our child protection efforts, this is of no consolation to the victims Richard Lavigne and the numerous other sexual predator clerics who hunted our youth. “