January 13, 2006

Druce proud that he killed Geoghan, says prison officer

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Joseph L. Druce expressed a sense of pride as he confessed to the killing of fellow prison inmate and defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, a Worcester Superior Court jury was told yesterday.

Edward Hammond, a lieutenant with the state Department of Correction, testified that he took a statement from Mr. Druce on the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2003, about a half-hour after the accused killer allegedly beat and strangled the 68-year-old ex-priest in Mr. Geoghan’s cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line.

Lt. Hammond said Mr. Druce, who has raised an insanity defense to the murder charge, told him after being advised of his Miranda rights that he “killed the child molester.”

“ ‘He can’t touch any more kids,’ ” Lt. Hammond said he was told by Mr. Druce.

At the time of the slaying, Mr. Druce was serving a life sentence for the murder of a North Shore man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking him up hitchhiking. Mr. Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, was serving time for molesting a 10-year-old boy.

Lt. Hammond, who was a sergeant in the Inner Perimeter Security unit at Souza-Baranowski when the killing occurred, told the jury that Mr. Druce “seemed very pleased with himself” as he recounted how he slipped into Mr. Geoghan’s cell unnoticed, jammed the cell door with a book and a pair of nail clippers and beat and strangled the former priest.

Mr. Druce, who is now 40, said he had overheard a telephone conversation Mr. Geoghan had with his sister, Catherine Geoghan, in which he spoke about going to South America to work as a missionary with children after his release from prison, according to Lt. Hammond’s testimony. “ ‘I couldn’t let him do that,’ ” Mr. Druce reportedly said.

Lt. Hammond said Mr. Druce told him that once he was inside the ex-priest’s cell, he “conned” Mr. Geoghan by telling him he was staging a hostage-taking so he could get transferred back to the state prison in Walpole. According to Lt. Hammond’s account, Mr. Druce said he then tied Mr. Geoghan’s hands behind his back, struck him several times in the face and strangled him with a tourniquet consisting of a pair of socks and a sneaker until blood came out of Mr. Geoghan’s nose and ears and he appeared to be dead.

Lt. Hammond told the jury that Mr. Druce said he planned to cut off Mr. Geoghan’s penis, but couldn’t locate the disposable razor he had brought with him for that purpose.

“It should be noted that he appeared to be very pleased with himself and boastful about his actions,” Lt. Hammond wrote in his report of the interview.

Dr. Richard Evans, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy in the case, testified that Mr. Geoghan died from ligature strangulation. The forensic pathologist said blunt trauma to Mr. Geoghan’s chest that caused more than a dozen rib fractures was a contributing factor. In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy said the evidence would show that Mr. Druce jumped from a bed in Mr. Geoghan’s cell onto the victim’s chest.

The jury of 10 men and six women was shown a copy of a videotape yesterday depicting several correction officers struggling to get the door to Mr. Geoghan’s cell open, finally gaining access to the cell and forcibly removing Mr. Druce from within.

Testimony was scheduled to resume today.

Yesterday’s court session was suspended shortly after 2 p.m., about two hours early, because “one of the participants” had become ill, Judge Francis R. Fecteau told the jurors. Mr. Druce’s lawyer, John H. LaChance, later told reporters his client was experiencing pain related to surgery that he underwent in the fall after swallowing a piece of television cable and was also having difficulty concentrating and focusing. Mr. LaChance said Mr. Druce takes Ritalin for attention-deficit disorder, but that his medication schedule had been thrown off because of the trial.

In his opening statement to the jury Wednesday, Mr. LaChance said the evidence would show his client was physically and sexually abused as a child and was suffering from a mental illness, dissociative disorder, when he took Mr. Geoghan’s life.

Posted by kshaw at January 13, 2006 07:50 AM