Former Massachusetts priest has been found responsible for the 1972 death of a teenager found floating facedown in a river. He died Friday before he could be arrested, officials say.
The press release from Hampden District Attorney, Anthony D. Gulluni, states that the death of 13-year-old Danny Croteau was caused by defrocked priest, Richard Lavigne.
On Friday, the District Attorney authorized investigators to obtain an arrest warrant for Lavigne from a judge, they soon learned that he died that same day.
Incriminating admissions made by Lavigne in the 11 hours worth of interviews, have implicated him to Croteau’s death. While Lavigne never admitted to killing the boy, he did admit to seeing him on the night he died, as well as his body floating down the Chicopee river.
A clip of an interview was played on Monday at a press conference held by the District Attorney, where the defrocked priest says, “I just remember being heartbroken when I saw his body going down the river knowing I was responsible for giving him a good shove.”
“He made several statements to indicate that he was the last person to see Danny Croteau alive, that he brought him to the riverbank on April 14, 1972, that he physically assaulted him there,” Gulluni said.
Croteau’s body was found the next day, with the blood alcohol level of a drunk. While DNA testing was inconclusive, Croteau’s and Lavigne’s blood types were both tied to the scene of the crime.
One of Croteau’s brothers recalls a phone call he received after the death, of a man sounding like Lavigne saying “it was an accident” and that the boy had seen “something” he shouldn’t have. The voice did not identify himself.
Years after Croteau’s death, speculation circled around Lavigne when sex abuse allegations from former altar boys emerged. He pled guilty to child molestation in 1992 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was defrocked in 2003.
The District Attorney says that the case is officially closed.