The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Lawyer says mail is deluging accused in Geoghan slaying

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/12/2003

Joseph L. Druce, the inmate accused of killing defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, has received piles of mail -- ranging from laudatory to condemning -- since he allegedly beat and strangled Geoghan in a prison cell, Druce's lawyer said.

Druce is "well aware" of the worldwide news coverage of Geoghan's death, but he disputed reports that depict him as hating homosexuals, said his lawyer, John H. LaChance.

"He has very strong feelings about pedophiles and the harm and emotional problems they cause to little kids, to 8- and 9-year prepubescent boys, screwing up their lives," said LaChance, who has spoken to Druce several times. "But as far as he is concerned, he is not homophobic."

LaChance, who was appointed to represent Druce on Aug. 26, said he has not asked Druce, 38, if he was sexually abused as a child.

"I have not discussed it with him," he said. "Obviously, it is an extremely private issue and something we will talk about."

An insanity defense is likely, said LaChance, who to date has interviewed Druce only over a phone while separated from him by a plexiglass partition at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

LaChance said he may seek a court order to gain better access to his client.

"We're doing a complete investigation of his background and his state of mind" at the time of Geoghan's death, LaChance said.

Druce was under the constant watch of correctional officers after returning to the prison Saturday night, LaChance said. Druce swallowed two small pencils while in his cell Friday and was taken to UMass Memorial Healthcare medical center in Worcester to have the objects removed from his stomach by endoscopic surgery.

LaChance said he did not know why Druce swallowed the pencils, which he described as the kind used by golfers to keep scorecards, but said his client was not attempting suicide.

Justin Latini, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, declined to comment on Druce's mail or the conditions of his current imprisonment.

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.

Druce was convicted in 1989 in the North Shore murder of George Rollo. He told authorities Rollo made a sexual advance toward him.

According to psychiatric testimony and documents from his trial, Druce, who changed his name from Darrin Smiledge 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 of her. He was prescribed Ritalin and Thorazine as a teenager, records show.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at

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