- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

BOSTON (AP) — The suspect in the prison cell slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John Geoghan hated homosexuals and planned the killing weeks in advance, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Joseph L. Druce, an inmate in the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., even tore apart a book to make a tool for jamming the door of Geoghan’s cell, Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte said.

Druce “has a longstanding phobia, it appears, toward homosexuals of any kind. … He is filled with longstanding hate,” Mr. Conte said at a news conference in Worcester.

Druce is serving a life term for killing a homosexual man 15 years ago.

Geoghan, 68, was killed Saturday in his cell while serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. He had been in protective custody since being transferred to Souza-Baranowski in April, officials said.

The former priest was accused of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades and became a catalyst for the clergy sex-abuse scandal that shook the foundations of the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Conte said Druce had confessed to the crime. Asked if Druce seemed proud of having killed Geoghan, Mr. Conte replied: “Absolutely. No question about that.”

He also said authorities would investigate why the safeguards supposedly in place for inmates in protective custody weren’t enough to save Geoghan.

Druce entered Geoghan’s cell undetected some time before the cell block was closed at 11:52 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Conte said. He jammed the book into the track of the cell door to prevent guards from opening the door. He had precut the book to fit into the track.

Druce then tied Geoghan’s hands behind his back with a T-shirt and used socks, which he had been stretching for some time, Mr. Conte said. He also brought in a razor “to do further harm” but wound up not using it, Mr. Conte said.

The guard on duty tried to respond, but found the door was jammed. By the time a nurse arrived to treat Geoghan, seven or eight minutes had passed. Geoghan was taken to Leominster Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:17 p.m. An autopsy found he died of strangulation and blunt chest trauma, and suffered broken ribs and punctured lungs, Mr. Conte said.

“No question he had been planning [the attack] for well over a month,” Mr. Conte said of Druce, who he said has been very cooperative with investigators.

Gov. Mitt Romney on Monday appointed a panel to conduct an independent investigation into the death.

Druce, 37, a reputed member of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nation, was convicted in the June 1988 murder of George Rollo, 51, a homosexual bus driver who had picked Druce up hitchhiking.

According to court documents, a fellow hitchhiker told investigators that Druce, who then went by his birth name, Darrin E. Smiledge, attacked the bus driver when Mr. Rollo made a sexual advance. An insanity defense failed and Smiledge was sentenced to life in prison.

The suspect also pleaded guilty to sending fake anthrax from prison to lawyers with Jewish-sounding names and was sentenced to an additional 37 months in prison.

Geoghan’s abuses cut a wide swath through parishes in the Boston Archdiocese — and he came to symbolize the horrors of pedophile priests and the exhaustive steps church hierarchy would take to keep the accusations under wraps.

“Geoghan personified the pedophile priest,” said Jim Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, a lay reform group formed in the wake of the abuse scandal.

Victims of Geoghan expressed mixed emotions about his sudden death.

“He’s never going to hurt anybody again, and at the same time, he still had a lot of penance to do on Earth,” said Michael Linscott, 45, who has said he was abused by Geoghan from 1967 to 1972.

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