DA: Priest Who Died Friday Killed Altar Boy in 1972

Richard Lavigne was about to be arrested for murder of 13-year-old Danny Croteau
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2021 6:25 PM CDT
DA: Priest Who Died Friday Killed Altar Boy in 1972
Carl and Bunny Croteau, now deceased, stand in front of a portrait of their slain son, Danny, in their Springfield, Mass., home in this Feb. 26, 2008 photo.   (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Defrocked Catholic priest Richard Lavigne died before he could face justice for the murder of 13-year-old altar boy Danny Croteau almost 50 years ago—but the victim's older brother believes Lavigne is now facing a higher power. Danny was found dead in a Springfield, Massachusetts, river on April 14, 1972. The boy, who was still wearing his Catholic school uniform, had been bludgeoned to death. Lavigne died Friday, and Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said Monday that the case is now closed, WCVB reports. He said that hours before the 80-year-old Lavigne's death, he had authorized investigators to present evidence to a judge and obtain an arrest warrant. "Danny Croteau died at the hands of Richard Lavigne," Gulluni told reporters.

Lavigne, long the only suspect in Croteau's death, was found guilty of molesting boys in 1992 and was sentenced to probation and sex-offender counseling, the AP reports. He was defrocked in 2003. Investigators believe the priest killed Croteau because the boy had threatened to disclose sexual abuse, MassLive reports. Lavigne was interviewed in a hospital bed by a state trooper in April and early May. He admitted bringing the boy to the river and assaulting him but stopped short of a full confession. Gulluni said other evidence included a bizarre typewritten letter speaking of "terrible compulsions" Lavigne claimed to have received anonymously from the real killer. The DA said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield didn't share the letter with authorities until 2004, when they were subpoenaed as part of a separate investigation. (More Massachusetts stories.)

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