January 14, 2006

Druce confession described

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Hours after killing pedophile priest John J. Geoghan in his prison cell, Joseph L. Druce confessed to the slaying, telling a state police detective his actions were “honorable” and he had no regrets, a jury was told yesterday.

“I think, now, that the number one pedophile has been taken out of the picture,” Trooper David Napolitano said he was told by Mr. Druce on the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2003, about four hours after the 68-year-old Mr. Goeghan was beaten and strangled to death in his cell in a protective custody unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, on the Lancaster-Shirley line.

“He was talking about getting out and skinning more children and I just couldn’t let that happen,” Mr. Druce reportedly said of his victim, a defrocked priest who was serving time for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy.

Mr. Druce, 40, who was serving a life sentence for murder at the time of the slaying, is on trial in Worcester Superior Court on a charge of murder in the killing of the former priest. His lawyer, John H. LaChance, has raised an insanity defense on Mr. Druce’s behalf.

Trooper Napolitano said Mr. Druce, who was housed with several sex offenders in the J-1 unit at Souza-Baranowski, related to him that he intended to cut off Mr. Geoghan’s testicles and “throw them on the tier” to “make a statement to the other pedophiles,” but was unable to carry out that part of his plan after slipping into the victim’s cell unnoticed.

According to the detective’s account, Mr. Druce told him Mr. Geoghan pleaded for his life once he realized his assailant meant to kill him.

Mr. Druce said he responded, “Your days are over. No more children for you, pal,” according to Trooper Napolitano’s testimony.

Trooper Napolitano said Mr. Druce told him he had been plotting the killing for more than a month and had asked a chaplain what “the person upstairs” would think if someone in the prison’s general population were to murder the defrocked priest. When asked what he meant by “the person upstairs,” Mr. Druce responded, “my higher power, God,” Trooper Napolitano testified.

“I wouldn’t change anything. This had to happen,” Mr. Druce reportedly said when questioned by the detective.

“It was honorable. I don’t know if it was justified. I’m sure I’ll find out when my time comes,” the trooper said Mr. Druce added in reference to the killing.

A hearing was held outside of the jury’s presence yesterday afternoon to determine whether several prison inmates on Mr. LaChance’s witness list would be testifying at trial. Among them was convicted child killer Lewis Lent Jr., who was housed with Mr. Geoghan in a protective custody unit at the state prison in Concord before the ex-priest was transferred to Souza-Baranowski.

Mr. Lent, who is serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of 12-year-old Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield and was also convicted of the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl in 1994, was asked by Mr. LaChance if Mr. Geoghan ever talked to him about molesting children while the two were imprisoned together.

Mr. Lent denied ever having such a conversation with Mr. Geoghan. He said the former priest “refuted the charges that were against him in court” and maintained that if he ever touched a boy’s buttocks at a swimming pool, it was inadvertent.

He acknowledged writing letters to administrators protesting Mr. Geoghan’s treatment by some correction officers during his stay at Concord and said Department of Correction officials never spoke to him about his concerns.

Mr. Lent has also admitted to killing 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood in upstate New York in 1993. Her body has never been found.

Convicted sex offender Jesus Quintana, who was in the same housing unit at Souza-Baranowski as Mr. Druce and Mr. Geoghan in 2003, said Mr. Geoghan spoke during card games among inmates about having molested children and also indicated he planned to continue to assault children upon his release. Mr. Quintana said he told Mr. Druce about the ex-priest’s comments and Mr. Druce became “angry.”

In his opening statement to the jury, Mr. LaChance said the evidence would show his client overheard Mr. Geoghan and other convicted sex offenders talking about child molestation prior to the slaying.

Charles Jaynes, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1997 killing of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley of Cambridge, was also expected to testify at yesterday’s hearing, but refused to enter the courtroom from an adjacent holding cell, according to a source.

After returning to the courtroom after a lengthy morning recess yesterday, Mr. Druce turned to reporters and indicated he had been suspected of harboring weapons.

“They’ve disrupted these proceedings by saying I had weapons. They’re nuts,” Mr. Druce said.

Testimony in Mr. Druce’s trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday. The jury of 10 men and 6 women, including 4 alternate jurors, was excused early yesterday after one of the jurors became ill.

Posted by kshaw at January 14, 2006 07:54 AM