The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Druce returned from hospital to Shirley prison

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/8/2003

Twenty-four hours after being rushed to a hospital, Joseph L. Druce, the convicted murderer who allegedly strangled and beat defrocked priest John J. Geoghan to death, was returned to the same cellblock where he triggered a medical alert on Friday night by swallowing pieces of a pencil.

Druce had no lasting injuries, but prisoners' rights advocates questioned whether he continues to present a threat to himself and therefore should be evaluated for placement at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Justin Latini, spokesman for state Department of Correction Commissioner Michael T. Maloney, said the department's medical staff is responsible for deciding whether Druce is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization.

"If an inmate harms himself, that's going to alert the medical staff that something may need to be done," said Latini. "But it's the medical staff that has total discretion over an evaluation, not the prison superintendent or corrections commissioner."

Latini provided few specifics about Druce, 37, other than that he was returned to the prison in Shirley at 11 p.m. Saturday from UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Druce allegedly told investigators after Geoghan's death on Aug. 23 that he killed the former priest "to save the children" while the two were in a protective custody unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

Geoghan, 68, was serving six years of a nine- to 10-year sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Allegations that he molested 150 youngsters helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church and led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.

Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said the legal standard for determining whether an inmate belongs at Bridgewater State Hospital was when the inmate "presented a serious threat to harm himself or harm others." A judge must make the determination of the existence of a threat.

Walker said there appeared to be evidence that Druce needed an evaluation.

Druce's lawyer, John H. LaChance, said he was quite likely to pursue an insanity defense in the murder of Geoghan, according to an Aug. 27 story in The New York Times. LaChance could not be reached yesterday.

Druce has not been charged with Geoghan's murder, thus he has not appeared in court for an arraignment. An arraignment before a judge is often the occasion for criminal defendants to be ordered to Bridgewater State Hospital for evaluation.

Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte has said he will present evidence against Druce directly to a grand jury this month. A court appearance would follow an indictment.

Druce was convicted in 1989 of the North Shore murder of George Rollo, who allegedly had made a sexual advance toward Druce. According to psychiatric records from his trial, Druce was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and put on Ritalin and Thorazine as a child and teenager.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at

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