The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Court records show Druce's troubled, deviant life

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 8/28/2003

Darrin Smiledge was an unplanned child, his mother said, and his birth process was "a disaster and I should have died." By age 9, Darrin was obsessed with sex and violent fantasies, often picking on smaller children, and his mother blamed his frequent misbehavior on his hatred for her, according to court records released yesterday.

Smiledge, who changed his name in 1999 to Joseph L. Druce, grew up to be a murderer, killing an older man because he was "bored," according to a psychologist who testified on his behalf at the 1989 trial for the slaying.

Druce is now accused of strangling John J. Geoghan, the defrocked priest authorities say was killed Saturday in a prison cell.

A fuller picture of Druce's life emerged yesterday in psychiatric testimony and documents entered into evidence during his 1989 murder trial. They painted him as a man given to deviant behavior, a hatred of authority, and the inability to deal with boredom.

Though mental health professionals, writing in reports submitted to his elementary school, indicated that Druce suffered from a personality disorder as a child, a psychologist who testified on his behalf in the murder trial said he suffered from severe attention deficit disorder.

Mark S. Greenberg testified that the disorder heightened Druce's thrill-seeking nature and prompted his violent reaction after George Rollo allegedly made a sexual advance toward Druce in 1988. He shoved Rollo into the trunk of a car, picked up some beer, then strangled him in a parking lot.

"The boredom, sensation-seeking behavior and inability to control his impulses" caused the attack, Greenberg said, adding, "My opinion, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is because of the mental disease or defect he lacks the substantial capacity to conform his behavior to the law."

Druce was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Certain details of that crime 15 years ago are quite similar to the circumstances of the alleged attack on Geoghan. Both men were strangled. Both were considerably older and vulnerable to the 37-year-old Druce. Rollo was 51; Geoghan 68.

Bullying people half his strength was a pattern that apparently started when Druce attended the Lakeside School in Peabody, an alternative facility for children. "If there is a child in a group who is weaker than Darrin he will focus his provocative behavior and teasing toward that child," a psychologist wrote in a report that was entered into evidence during the 1989 trial. But as a youngster, Druce "was more careful with youngsters who are equal to him in strength."

A series of school reports from the late 1970s indicate that Druce's behavior problems started when he was very young. All his problems, said his mother, Donna Lee DuHaime, were because of his "hate for me." Earlier this week, she told the Boston Herald that her son is "a very nice person. Kind, sweet, gentle, and generous." But as a child, the reports said, Druce had a fierce rivalry with his brother, and often blamed his father for the unkept promises of his youth.

"His fantasy life is replete with sexual images and he particularly likes to regale youngsters with sexual jokes and comments," one report said. Another report said "his very accurate and detailed knowledge of both sexual behavior and anatomy" often left other youngsters "quite disturbed." Druce was "obsessed with frightening fantasies," the reports said. He was "highly manipulative and quite easily avoids taking responsibility for his behavior and wants to project the difficulties onto the people around him."

One psychologist didn't see much hope, writing in a report: "I remain pessimistic about the possibility or usefulness of further therapy or the success of transitioning to a public school setting."

More than a decade later, Greenberg testified at the murder trial that Druce "cares very much about the consequences, and the more dangerous, the more negative, the more painful, the more stimulating, the stronger his impulse and the weaker the control."

Dr. John J. Ratey, a psychiatrist, supported Greenberg's findings. "As he says of himself, his prime goal in life is to remain on the edge, whether it be taking drugs, flying down [Route] 128 against the traffic on his motorcycle and then in his car, or other forms of thrill-seeking danger," Ratey testified.

Testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Martin Kelly said Druce was not suffering from attention deficit disorder, but had a personality disorder -- specifically "an antisocial personality." However, Kelly said, Druce "does not have a major mental disease or defect which results either in the lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his act or results in the lack of capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

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