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Joseph Lee DRUCE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Claimed he was severely mentally ill and under the delusion that God had chosen him to kill Geoghan and send a message to pedophiles around the world
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 1988 / August 23, 2003
Date of birth: 1965
Victims profile: George Rollo, 51 (allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking Druce up hitchhiking) / John J. Geoghan, 68 (the former Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of sexually abusing children, and who had also been at the center of the Catholic sexual abuse scandal)
Method of murder: Ligature strangulation
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1989. Sentenced to a second life imprisonment on January 25, 2006

photo gallery


Incident reports on John Geoghan's death


John Geoghan: abuser, inmate, victim (The Boston Globe)


John Geoghan's final minutes


Joseph Druce (b. 1965) as Darren Smileage, is a convicted murderer best known for having killed John Geoghan - the former Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of sexually abusing children, and who had also been at the center of the Catholic sexual abuse scandal.

While in protective custody at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, Geoghan was trapped in his cell by Druce, who jammed the door closed so that guards could not reach him. Geoghad was strangled and stomped to death by Druce. An autopsy revealed Geoghan's cause of death to be "ligature strangulation and blunt chest trauma."

The state immediately began an investigation into procedures at the prison. There have been questions raised about the wisdom and propriety of placing these two men in the same unit, since prison official had been warned by another inmate that Druce had something planned.

It was noted that while two guards are normally stationed in the unit where Geoghan and Druce were being held that there was only one guard in the unit at the time - one had left temporaily to escort another inmate to a medical station. Union officials had noted that there were staffing cuts previously at the prison, which they feel led to the prison being a more dangerous and volatile place.

It has also been suggested that Druce had been offered money to kill the priest, or that Druce thought he would gain prestige from fellow prisoners for doing so. A Worcester, Massachusetts jury found Druce guilty of first-degree murder on January 25, 2006. This was after the Jury rejected his insanity defense.

During the trial Druce was seen with a black eye he received from an individual who surprised him in his cell. The man who had surprised Druce was reported to have been wearing corrections officer pants, suggesting a reprisal by prison staff for the embarrassment sourrounding Geoghan's murder.

In June of 2007, the Boston Herald received a handwritten letter signed "Joseph Lee Druce", stating ""The truth about officer involvement in John Geogan's (sic) death," along with the address The address contained a video taken by security cameras inside of Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, made during the murder.

The 10 minute video shows the attempts made by correctional officers to open the cell door (as many as 5 pulling at one time). Eventually the door is opened, officers extract an individual, presumably Druce, and medical personnel enter the cell. However, inmates at Souza-Baranowski do not have Internet access. Department of Correction officials are currently investigating who posted the video, as it is from an internal security camera.

At that time Druce had killed Geoghan he was already serving life without possibility of parole for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking Druce up hitchhiking.

In the interim between the two above crimes he had become a small sensation for sending fake anthrax to lawyers with Jewish names from prison. He has been said to be a neo-Nazi.


Jury Finds Druce Guilty In Geoghan Murder

Jan 25, 2006

A jury on Wednesday found prison inmate Joseph Druce guilty of first-degree murder in the strangulation of pedophile priest John Geoghan, a central figure in Boston's clergy sex abuse scandal.

Druce admitted sneaking into Geoghan's cell in August 2003. He jammed the door shut with a book, then beat and strangled the 68-year-old Geoghan before the guards could stop him.

But Druce claimed he was severely mentally ill and under the delusion that God had chosen him to kill Geoghan and send a message to pedophiles around the world.

Testimony in the case largely centered on whether Druce was insane, or whether the killing was the work of a "calculating" murderer, as prosecutors alleged.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching the guilty verdict early Wednesday afternoon.

Druce arrived in court Wednesday sporting a black eye and welt on his face that his lawyer said was the result of a jailhouse beating on Tuesday night.

The Department of Correction disputed the claim, saying prison surveillance video shows no evidence of such a beating and that medical personnel saw Druce afterward and didn't notice any injuries. They noted, "Druce has a long history (of) self-injurious behavior."

Prosecutor Lawrence Murphy told jurors that Druce was a conniving killer who planned the murder for weeks so he could be a "big shot" in prison.

"He was not a mentally ill person, raging out of control," Murphy said. "He's a calculating individual who waited for his opportunity."

The 40-year-old Druce is already serving a life sentence for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking Druce up hitchhiking. He unsuccessfully used an insanity defense during that 1989 trial.

With the conviction, he'll face another life sentence without the possibility of parole.

When Druce took the witness stand, he described a troubled childhood in which his father beat him and his mother. He said he was physically and sexually abused as a preteen at a residential school for troubled children.

"This is a kid who never had a chance," his lawyer, John LaChance, said in his closing argument.

Druce said he killed Geoghan to avenge the innocent children the defrocked priest was accused of molesting.

He said he was driven to kill after hearing Geoghan advise other inmates on how to molest children and say he planned to move to South America after prison so he could resume working with children.

"I had seen myself as the designated individual who had to put a stop to the pedophilia in the church," Druce said.

At the time of his death, Geoghan was in prison for fondling a 10-year-old boy, but he was accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing some 150 children.

His case helped spark the clergy sex abuse scandal worldwide after church personnel records released under court order revealed that the Boston Archdiocese transferred Geoghan from parish to parish even after allegations of abuse surfaced.

Murphy, the prosecutor, focused his closing argument on the planning that allegedly went into Geoghan's killing. Druce told investigators he spent two hours stretching socks into the rope he used to strangle Geoghan, and he made friendly visits to Geoghan's cell so the defrocked priest wouldn't suspect anything when he came to kill him, the prosecutor said.

He urged the jury not to let Geoghan's notoriety as a pedophile influence their decision.

"No one likes pedophiles, but we can't go around grabbing pedophiles and killing them," Murphy said. "The law doesn't give Mr. Druce that right."

A defense psychiatrist testified that Druce suffered from several mental illnesses, including severe attention deficit disorder, dissociative disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and a personality disorder with symptoms of paranoia and anti-social behavior.

Keith Ablow of New England Medical Center said Druce suffered greatly during his childhood and was unable to control his rage.

When Druce allegedly overheard Geoghan talking about his plans to get out of prison and leave the country so he could molest more children, it brought back painful memories of Druce's own rapes, Ablow said.

"He came to see himself as an avenger of those acts," Ablow said, "and that led directly to (Geoghan's murder)."



Court hears the details of Geoghan's murder

By Franci R. Ellement - The Boston Globe

January 12, 2006

While a Worcester County prosecutor described the choking death of former priest and convicted pedophile John J. Geoghan as calculated, the accused killer's attorney countered that his client's mental illness made him believe he would be the savior of children.

''This is not a case about what happened, so much as why and how it came to be," said defense attorney John LaChance during opening statements yesterday in Joseph L. Druce's murder trial in Worcester Superior Court.

''This case is about a lack of criminal responsibility -- because of a mental disease Joseph Druce had developed and that had progressed almost throughout his entire life."

But prosecutor Lawrence Murphy described the slaying of 68-year-old Geoghan and said Druce, now 40, who was serving a life sentence for killing a North Shore man, confessed to state Department of Correction investigators and State Police how he carried out his plan to kill the former priest.

On the morning of Aug. 23, 2003, as inmates were returning their lunch trays in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Druce allegedly slipped into Geoghan's cell and jammed the door shut with a set of nail clippers and the book ''The Cross and the Switchblade," lawyers for both sides said.

Geoghan, who was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence at the maximum-security facility for fondling a young boy, said nothing. ''Druce talked fairly nicely with him at the beginning," Murphy said. ''He said he was going to take John Geoghan hostage so he could get transferred back to Walpole."

Geoghan said nothing.

Druce began to tie his hands with a T-shirt. Then he wrapped a sneaker into a noose made of a pillowcase and socks, and wrapped it around Geoghan's neck, turning it tighter until Geoghan's face turned purple and ''he was basically dead in his cell," Murphy said.

Druce allegedly also jumped from the bed onto a downed Geoghan, breaking several ribs, after he thought his victim was dead, Murphy said. Geoghan was pronounced dead nearly an hour later at Leominster Hospital.

''Druce was talking to people, saying, 'I killed him because he was a pedophile priest. I didn't want him getting anyone else,' " Murphy said during his opening remarks.

Druce also allegedly told authorities that he had heard Geoghan talking on the phone with his sister, Catherine Geoghan, telling her of his plans to go to Costa Rica to work with other children, ones Druce believed would be the former priest's next victims.

LaChance in his statement said few of the details of the actual slaying are in question.

''He began to see himself as essentially the savior of the kids," LaChance said. ''He thought if he did it, he would be someone."

But LaChance said Druce should not be held responsible because he has been diagnosed with a disassociative disorder and is treated with medication.

LaChance said his client, who was born Darren Smileage but changed his name while serving time in jail, had been abused as a child, starting when his mother was pregnant with him. His father beat his mother and later focused his anger on Druce, LaChance said.

Druce was a troubled child who would bang his head against walls and rock himself in place, LaChance said. He also was sexually abused by several people beginning when he was an adolescent, said LaChance.

''The evidence will show that Joseph Druce never really had a chance in this world," LaChance said. ''There is reasonable doubt that Mr. Druce was sane, that he could control his condition to the standards of the law."


Druce hospitalized again after swallowing object

By Sean P. Murphy - The Boston Globe

September 27, 2003

Three weeks after he swallowed two pencils, Joseph L. Druce, who is accused of beating and strangling defrocked priest John J. Geoghan while in prison, was back in the hospital yesterday after swallowing pieces of the stem of a pair of eyeglasses.

Druce, 38, was taken to the state-operated Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston Thursday afternoon and was expected to be returned to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley soon, according to Justin Latini, a state Department of Correction spokesman.

Latini said the injury was not life-threatening and declined to provide other details.

Druce's lawyer, John H. LaChance of Framingham, said he knew little about the episode, but called the two events a demonstration of Druce's need for a prompt psychiatric evaluation.

At Druce's arraignment last week, a judge granted a request by LaChance for funds to pay for an evaluation. LaChance is investigating an insanity defense for Druce, who was convicted in 1989 of murdering a man in Gloucester. He has pleaded not guilty to murder in Geoghan's death.

Druce swallowed two small pencils while in his cell Sept. 5 and was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester to have the objects removed from his stomach by endoscopic surgery.


Druce beaten as child, inquiry finds

By Sean P. Murphy - The Boston Globe

September 24, 2003

Joseph L. Druce, charged with murdering defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, was severely beaten by his father as a child and was sexually abused, beginning at age 8, by three other adult men, including a neighbor and a man with a religious affiliation, according to an investigator hired by Druce's lawyer.

"His problems stem from his abuse as a child," Joseph Guidetti, the investigator, said of Druce. "He didn't have a chance in life from Jump Street."

Guidetti declined to release the names of the three men he said sexually abused Druce, saying the three -- who were not family members -- will be key witnesses for the defense when Druce goes on trial.

John H. LaChance, Druce's lawyer, has said he is investigating an insanity defense. Guidetti said that for such a defense, the alleged abusers are needed to corroborate Druce's assertions that he was sexually abused as a child.

Druce's father, Dana Smiledge, declined to comment yesterday at his home in Byfield.

Authorities said Joseph Druce, 38, beat and strangled Geoghan on Aug. 23 at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. Druce was serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for the 1987 murder of George Rollo, 51, of Gloucester, who Druce contended made a sexual advance after picking up Druce, who was hitchhiking.

Geoghan, 68, was serving a nine- to 10-year prison sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Allegations that Geoghan sexually assaulted nearly 150 children, mostly boys, helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

In a court appearance Friday and in a Sept. 5 letter to the Catholic Free Press newspaper of the Worcester Archdiocese, Druce called on the public and lawmakers to step up protection of children and to "hold pedophiles accountable for their actions."

Guidetti said that when Druce was teenager, he told therapists about the sexual abuse he suffered, and that records now being reviewed will bear that out.

The investigator said he was in the process of contacting the three men who allegedly abused Druce. One of them lured Druce into his home in Druce's childhood neighborhood, Guidetti said. As a child, Druce lived in Danvers and Salem, Guidetti said, who added that he did not know without consulting his notes in which community the alleged abuse occurred.

Guidetti said Druce learned as a child that the man who sexually abused him had also sexually abused one of his friends.

Druce also was sexually abused by a man who had an affiliation with the church Druce's family attended, Guidetti said. However, that man was not a priest. Guidetti said he did not know without reviewing notes the church affiliation of the Druce family and the alleged abuser, but said the man had a supervisory role at the church.

Guidetti declined to provide any details about alleged sexual abuse by the third man. He described the three episodes of abuse as varying in duration when Druce was between ages 8 and 12. The three men were not connected, Guidetti said, and the abuse incidents were separate and independent.

Dana Smiledge, Druce's father, told the Boston Herald on Aug. 23, the day of Geoghan's murder, that his son had been a longtime victim of sexual abuse by adult men.

Last week, after Druce was arraigned on murder charges in Worcester Superior Court, his lawyer told reporters that Druce wanted to send a message to his father. Quoting his client, LaChance said: "If you knew about my being sexually molested, why didn't you do anything to protect me?"

LaChance did not return a call to his office yesterday.

In 1988, Druce's lawyers unsuccessfully attempted an insanity defense in the murder of Rollo. There was no evidence presented at that trial of Druce as a victim of sexual abuse, but there was testimony that Druce was prescribed pyschoactive pharmaceuticals since the time he was 5 or 6 until his middle teens.


Report said to describe Druce in rage

Verbal account says inmate was furious after plea denied

By Sean P. Murphy - The Boston Globe


One day after he allegedly beat and strangled defrocked priest John J. Geoghan inside a prison cell, Joseph L. Druce asked a prison nurse on her rounds for the antacid Tums and ointment for his chapped lips, according to a copy of a disciplinary report read to the Globe by a high-ranking state corrections official. When the nurse said no, Druce exploded into a rage.

''I saved your kids from being raped,'' Druce screamed at the nurse, along with an expletive, according to the report, a written copy of which was not provided to the Globe. ''I hope your kids get raped by a pedophile priest.''

Corrections officers and lawyers familiar with Druce's recent behavior say the alleged incident illustrates Druce's lightning-quick temper and his desire for recognition for allegedly killing Geoghan.

John H. LaChance, Druce's attorney, did not return calls Friday seeking comment on the reported outburst. A Department of Correction spokesman said he was not authorized to comment on disciplinary matters.

But in interviews last week, LaChance said he is investigating a likely insanity defense and plans to interview inmates who lived with his client in the protective custody unit of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley in the weeks before and after Geoghan's murder Aug. 23.

''We are looking at all the facts and circumstances involved,'' LaChance said Thursday. ''We are doing our own investigation on the unit. I requested a list from the Department of Correction of all the inmates on the unit and the names of their lawyers, and I said I want access to them.''

LaChance said he is also examing documents detailing Druce's mental health history, including records from his 1989 trial for murder, during which Druce's attorneys unsuccessfully presented an insanity defense.

An insanity defense may be based on showing a defendant was mentally ill at the time of the crime, and thus not criminally responsible, or attempt to show that the defendant is now mentally ill, and thus not able to assist in defending himself at trial, LaChance said.

LaChance said Druce faces additional punishment. His client is serving a life sentence without parole for the strangulation and beating murder of George Rollo of Gloucester in 1988.

If found not guilty because of insanity, Druce could be committed to Bridgewater State Hospital, which is considered preferable to prison, LaChance said. Such a commitment, however, would probably be challenged by Department of Correction officials because of Druce's life sentence for the murder of Rollo, he said.

If convicted of Geoghan's murder, Druce may face a harsh punishment, LaChance said. Inmates convicted of crimes in prison can be held in the corrections department's disciplinary unit in solitary confinement for as long as 10 years. That unit, inside the maximum-security Cedar Junction prison in Walpole, keeps inmates locked in their cells for all but a few hours a week.

Druce had spent nine months in the disciplinary unit before he was transferred to the Souza-Baranowksi on May 27. LaChance said he did not know why Druce was in the disciplinary unit, and the Department of Correction declined to provide information.

LaChance said he noticed a deterioration in Druce's condition between the time he first interviewed Druce on Aug. 27 and Thursday, when he last saw him.

But if LaChance goes ahead with an insanity defense, a letter apparently written by Druce to the Catholic Free Press of Worcester may not help his case, according to a criminologist who reviewed the letter.

In the letter, Druce said he was ''a victim of sexual abuse as a child'' and expressed anger at sex offenders he said he overheard in prison ''gloating'' over their crimes. The letter calls for an end to ''violence toward children.''

Department of Correction officials say they are convinced the letter was written by Druce, though they are unable to authenticate it beyond a doubt.

Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist, said the letter ''on a superficial level looks very rational. If he is trying for an insanity defense, this is not going to help.''

A spokesman for Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte declined to comment on the case Friday.

LaChance said Druce on Thursday ''kept skipping around, and it was difficult to keep him focused'' in their conversation, and that Druce spent most of his time complaining that his ''rights were being violated.''

He complained that he was sleep-deprived because correctional officers kept waking him at night as part of a 24-hour ''mental health watch'' and that he hadn't been allowed to shower in three days or to have enough drinking water, LaChance said. Druce also said he was given coarse, itchy clothing.

''He looked sleep-deprived, dirty and dehydrated,'' said LaChance.

Druce had been in solitary confinement at Souza-Baranowski for fighting until Aug. 22, the day before Geoghan's murder. Authorities said Druce beat Geoghan and used a bed sheet to gag, bind, and strangle the former priest after getting into Geoghan's cell.


Letter says Druce was abused as boy

By Sean P. Murphy - The Boston Globe

September 13, 2003

In a letter authorities say is almost certainly authentic, a writer identifying himself as Joseph L. Druce says he was sexually abused as a child. Druce is the convicted murderer accused of killing defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan in prison.

In the letter, which was addressed to the Catholic Free Press of Worcester and published by the weekly newspaper yesterday, the author portrays himself as a vigilante for sexually abused children.

Full of spelling and grammar errors, the handwritten letter reads, in part:

''I'm the alledged murdered of Defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, and a victim of Sexual Abuse as a Child.''

''This was'nt a crime to committe a crime, but to let the world no that all child predators must be dealt with with a more stryngent hand, and to stop focusing on Catholoism as the mainstream. Let's look at the crime and not the Church.''

''Joseph Druce says ''Leave the children alone.''!''

The letter-writer says he had overheard conversations in prison in which sex offenders expressed ''no remorse, only gloating and reminissing over past victims. This was my motivation.''

''To stop these tradegys and violence toward children we must come together and demand the house of legislaitors to re-enact stringent sentances and rehabilitations to cure this plauge on our children.''

In the letter, the author also makes a ''heartfelt apology'' to Geoghan's sister, Catherine.

Druce's lawyer, John H. LaChance, did not return messages left at his office yesterday asking for comment on the letter. In a previous interview, LaChance said Druce had spoken of ''avenging'' the victims of child sexual abuse.

LaChance said he was conducting an investigation into Druce's mental health in preparation for a likely insanity defense, but said on Thursday that he had not discussed with Druce whether he was a victim of sexual abuse because he had not yet had a private meeting with him.

Justin Latini, spokesman for the Department of Correction, said there was no way to determine the letter's authenticity beyond a doubt, unless Druce confirmed his authorship. But he said the department believes the letter was from Druce. He said the letter contained the prison commitment number that matches Druce's commitment number. He also said prison procedures require an inmate asking to have a letter mailed to hand it directly to a correctional officer, who must verify that the inmate handing over the letter is the author.

Latini said the corrections department does not keep records of pieces of mail picked up by corrections officers. ''Reasonably, the letter came from this inmate,'' he said.

Margaret Russell, executive editor of the Catholic Free Press, said she worked with Department of Correction officials in investigating its authenticity before deciding to publish it.

Russell said copies of the Catholic Free Press circulate in the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, where Druce is housed. She said the chapel at Souza-Baranowski is staffed with a deacon appointed by the Diocese of Worcester.

Latini said the deacon has contact with all inmates. Latini and Russell said they did not know if Druce had ever spoken with the deacon.

Russell said a receptionist in her office opened the letter of Sept. 5 and brought it to her. ''You're going to want to look at this one,'' the receptionist said, according to Russell.

Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence, said he interpreted the letter as ''an extremely manipulative'' attempt by Druce, if he is the author, ''to improve his image.''

''I think he very much resents the very widespread idea that he is evil, psychotic, and irrational,'' said Levin. ''This does not sound like a guy who wants to bring an insanity defense, not by giving a rational justification for his crime.

''On a superficial level he looks very rational. He wants to save the children. Who can argue with saving children?'' he said.

When he was killed, Geoghan, 68, was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Allegations that he sexually assaulted nearly 150 children, mostly boys, helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

Geoghan had been moved to the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski, from the medium-security Concord state prison in April after correctional officers cited Geoghan in numerous disciplinary reports for ''insolence'' in disobeying officers.

Geoghan's lawyers were also pushing for Geoghan's transfer -- though not to a maximum-security facility -- because of what they said was harassment and abuse of Geoghan by correctional officers.

Druce, 38, is serving a life sentence, without possibility of parole for the 1988 beating and strangulation of George Rollo, 51, who Druce contends made a sexual advance after picking him up hitchhiking in Gloucester. In that trial, Druce's attorney argued Druce was not responsible for the crime because he was insane.

Authorities said Druce beat Geoghan and used a bed sheet to gag, bind, and strangle the former priest after getting into Geoghan's cell in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski.

Druce was hospitalized last weekend after he swallowed two small pencils.

LaChance this week said Druce was ''well aware'' of the worldwide coverage of Geoghan's death, but that Druce disputed reports that depict him as hating homosexuals.

''He has very strong feelings about pedophiles,'' said LaChance. ''But as far as he is concerned, he is not homophobic.''

Druce's father, Dana Smiledge of Byfield, told the Globe after Geoghan was killed that his son had a longstanding grudge against homosexuals, in addition to a hatred of blacks and Jews.

According to psychiatric testimony and documents from his 1989 trial, Druce, who changed his name in 1999 while in prison, was obsessed with sex and violent fantasies as a boy, and his mother blamed his frequent misbehavior on his hatred for her. He was prescribed Ritalin and Thorazine as a teenager, according to the records.

Druce was indicted on a murder charge Thursday and is expected to appear in Worcester Superior Court at a later date.


Long Planning Is Cited in Death Of Former Priest

By Fox Butterfield - The New York Times

August 26, 2003

State and local officials opened investigations today into the prison killing of John J. Geoghan, a former priest convicted of child molestation, saying the suspect, a self-proclaimed homophobe, had been planning the killing for more than a month.

As officials began examining things like staffing levels and protective custody procedures at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center where Mr. Geoghan was murdered on Saturday, a lawyer familiar with the case said that another prisoner had tried to warn guards that the suspect, Joseph L. Druce, planned to kill Mr. Geoghan.

The lawyer, Jim Pingeon, director of litigation for Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, a prisoners' rights group, did not give details of when the inmate approached the guards but said they had taken no action. Mr. Pingeon said the inmate had also told him that Mr. Druce was standing outside Mr. Geoghan's cell door just before it was to be closed after the lunch break on Saturday, a violation of prison regulations.

John J. Conte, the Worcester district attorney who will be prosecuting the case, said at a news conference this afternoon that there was only one guard on duty at the time and that inmates from all 22 individual cells had been allowed out just before the incident. A second guard who should have been on duty was away helping a nurse give medication to an inmate, Mr. Conte said.

''This seems like something that shouldn't happen,'' Mr. Conte said of the number of guards and the prisoners being out of their cells.

Prison experts said officials appeared to have made a fundamental error in placing a vulnerable inmate like Mr. Geoghan, 68, in the same protective custody unit as Mr. Druce. Mr. Druce, 37, is serving a life sentence without parole for strangling a 51-year-old man in 1988 who he believed was gay.

''It's pretty unusual, pretty strange, to put people from such backgrounds together in protective custody,'' said Chase Riveland, a former secretary of corrections in both Washington and Colorado and now a prison consultant. ''I can't think of a logical reason for it.''

Gov. Mitt Romney convened a three-person task force to review prison policies.

Edward A. Flynn, the Massachusetts secretary of public safety, who oversees the state Department of Correction, said, ''We must find out why and what lessons may be learned.''

Mr. Flynn said that the prison had 300 surveillance cameras and that tapes from them were being reviewed.

Mr. Geoghan, who was convicted in January 2002 of groping a 10-year-old boy, was in protective custody because he had complained that he felt threatened, Mr. Flynn said.

Mr. Pingeon, the lawyer, said Mr. Geoghan had told him guards and other inmates had defecated and urinated on his bed when he was in the protective custody unit at another prison at Concord before being transferred to Souza-Baranowski.

''What isn't clear,'' Mr. Pingeon said, ''is whether there was any complicity by the guards'' at the new prison.

David Shaw, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, said the investigation would ''look into any and all information.'' The corrections officers union did not return calls tonight seeking a reaction to Mr. Pingeon's comments.

Mr. Pingeon said the inmate who had observed Mr. Druce standing outside Mr. Geoghan's cell said that when another prisoner alerted the guard to the altercation several guards came running.

State prison guards and Mr. Conte, the district attorney, questioned the low level of staffing in the protective custody unit at the time of the killing. The Massachusetts prison guards' union has complained about staff reductions, as the state prison budget has been cut in recent months, like prison budgets in virtually every state.

Mr. Flynn said prison staffing was normal at the time of the killing. ''Whether or not normal staffing is appropriate or absolutely preventative is something we're going to have to take a look at,'' he said.

Mr. Conte said Mr. Druce had prevented guards in a control room from opening the door to Mr. Geoghan's cell electronically by jamming a book he had cut in two into the upper track of the door. He had disabled the bottom rail by putting a nail clipper and toothbrush in it, Mr. Conte said.

Mr. Druce used a T-shirt to tie Mr. Geoghan's hands behind his back then threw him on the floor, Mr. Conte said. Mr. Druce had also stretched socks to strangle Mr. Geoghan, and he used a shoe as a garrote.

Mr. Druce then jumped off the bed, stomping on Mr. Geoghan's chest, breaking his ribs and puncturing his lungs. An autopsy performed in Boston this morning by the state's chief medical examiner found that Mr. Geoghan had died of ''ligature strangulation and blunt chest trauma,'' Mr. Conte said.

Mr. Druce had a razor with him and Mr. Conte said that he had intended to ''do further harm'' to Mr. Geoghan. But Mr. Druce surrendered without a struggle and, Mr. Conte said, had given a long statement and been cooperating.

Mr. Conte said Mr. Druse seemed to have acted alone. But, Mr. Conte said, ''Our duty will be a very broad investigation to determine if this was intentional on the part of others.''

Asked whether Mr. Druce was proud of the killing, Mr. Conte said, ''Absolutely.'' He added, ''He looked upon Father Geoghan as a prize.''

Mr. Druce has not been charged, Mr. Conte said, because ''he is not going anywhere.'' He is serving a life sentence without parole.

Mr. Conte said he would present the case to a grand jury in September.

The investigation into the prison's procedures is likely to focus on how the state deals with protective custody. As Mr. Flynn said today, both Mr. Geoghan and Mr. Druce had requested protected status because of fears about other inmates.

Many other states would separate elderly child molesters, who are easy targets, from predatory inmates like Mr. Druce, Mr. Riveland said. But Massachusetts allows them into the same protective custody units. Mr. Flynn noted that Mr. Geoghan had not complained about Mr. Druce.

The danger of mixing these two kinds of inmates in the same unit has been compounded by a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which found that inmates in protective custody had not committed any infractions and were entitled to all privileges of regular inmates.

In practice, experts said, this means inmates in protective custody are allowed out of their cells into a common room to watch television or make phone calls and cannot be confined in solitary.

Mr. Druce was arrested for the murder of George J. Rollo by strangling and beating him to death, much the same way Mr. Geoghan was killed.

Joseph Aiello, now a lieutenant with the Gloucester, Mass., police department, arrested Mr. Druce after he killed Mr. Rollo.

''He's just a savage person,'' the officer said. ''After giving him the beating of his life he tied him up and threw him in the trunk of his car. All the way Mr. Rollo was pleading for his life.''

How Mr. Geoghan's murder will affect the nearly 150 people he was accused of molesting -- and the negotiations to settle lawsuits by 542 victims of sexual abuse by Boston-area priests -- is unclear.

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represents Mr. Geoghan's victims, said his death would not set back their continued lawsuits against the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese and some of its senior leaders in the 1980's and 1990's, including former Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

''I have such an incredible amount of data and information that I feel confident I can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the supervisors were negligent in supervising John J. Geoghan,'' Mr. Garabedian said.

But Seth Taube, a Newark lawyer who has defended Catholic schools and religious orders in sexual-abuse suits, said Mr. Geoghan's death had deprived the plaintiffs of a witness.

It is also unclear whether the state will take any further action to protect other former priests serving time in Massachusetts prisons. They include James Porter, who was charged with molesting more than 100 children in the Fall River diocese. Mr. Flynn said ''a few'' former priests were in with regular inmates, while at least one was in protective custody.


Alleged Geoghan killer led troubled life, records show

Addiction, theft prefaced murder

By John McElhenny - The Boston Globe


Joseph L. Druce, while being interviewed by a prison psychiatrist in 1989, declared that he expected to "go to Satan" and await the arrival of his enemies, and announced, "I'll die before I serve a life sentence!"

A more detailed picture began to emerge yesterday of Druce, a onetime truck driver and mechanic who authorities say beat and strangled John J. Geoghan at a maximum-security state prison Saturday.

Court records obtained by the Associated Press said that Druce had been under various forms of psychiatric treatment since about age 5 and had taken medication for his mental condition until his middle teens. By then, Druce had become addicted to various drugs, the records showed.

Druce was born Darrin Smiledge in Danvers in 1965, the son of a sheet metal worker. He finished the 10th grade before taking jobs as a mechanic and truck driver, according to court records. He changed his name in 1999, while in prison.

His criminal career began soon after he left high school. He was charged with more than two dozen crimes, from drug possession to larceny to forgery. It was in 1988 in Gloucester that Druce's life of crime took a violent turn. Druce was hitchhiking with a friend in Gloucester when a man who drove a bus for the elderly picked them up.

According to testimony during the trial, once they had arrived in a secluded section of Gloucester, the driver, 51-year-old George Rollo, touched Druce in the groin, and Druce reacted violently, beating Rollo, tying him up, and throwing him in the trunk of Rollo's car.

After Rollo's beating, Druce and his friend picked up some beer and Druce drove the car to a parking lot near the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, where he strangled Rollo with a rope, the prosecutor said.

He was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. While Druce was in prison, a psychiatrist noted his rage in explicit detail.

"Angry, frustrated, blaming, remorseless, intense, determined man, believes in Satan, unafraid, laughing as he declares his intent to kill himself," the psychiatrist's notes said.

In a May 2001 letter to prison officials, Druce offered to provide information on the unsolved murders of two Massachusetts girls, Molly Bish and Holly Piirainen, in exchange for a commutation of his life sentence.

Worcester District Attorney John Conte said investigators looked into Druce's offer but found that it wasn't credible.

In 1999, Darrin Ernest Smiledge formally applied to change his name to Joseph Lee Druce, according to court records. In the space marked "reason for change," Smiledge wrote, "Saftey and enemy issue's, very important to change identity."

Druce's father, Dana Smiledge of Byfield, said Saturday that his son has had a longstanding animosity toward gay people, Jews, and African-Americans. Druce also pleaded guilty last year to mailing anthrax hoax letters to 39 lawyers around the country with Jewish-sounding names. Dana Smiledge said Saturday that Druce had also threatened to kill his family.

Efforts to reach Druce's former attorneys were unsuccessful yesterday.

J. Martin Richey, who defended him in the anthrax hoax case, did not return two calls yesterday. Martin Gideonse, who defended him in the 1988 murder case, died several years ago.



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