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 Latest coverage

October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Suspect's '88 crime had similarities

Victim was older, perceived as gay

By John McElhenny, Globe Correspondent, 8/25/2003

Joseph L. Druce in a 1986 arrest photo.

 Related stories
Geoghan killed
Geoghan's sister criticizes guards

Geoghan's sister to speak

Victims protest conviction erasure
Druce is hospitalized again
Guards' ad seeks understanding

Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

Report describes Druce in a rage

Letter says Druce abused as boy

Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

Expanded Geoghan panel sought

Druce is returned from hospital

McNamara: A back-page death

Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

Conflict issue raised on consultant

Bias concerns are raised in probe

No new members seen for panel

Geoghan panel will be expanded

Group assails prison guards
Geoghan is buried in Brookline
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

Priest in 'aggressive' case unit
Records show Druce as deviant
Voiding of record is challenged

Bid to keep Geoghan at Concord
Geoghan's death voids conviction
Prison units see volatile mixes
US attorney won't rush decision

Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
Similiarities in suspect's '88 crime
Priest seen as a prison target

Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

Church allowed abuse for years

Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

Geoghan receives 9-10 years

Law recalls little on Geoghan case

Geoghan victims settle for $10m

 Complete coverage
The John Geoghan case

The man accused of strangling defrocked priest John J. Geoghan in prison was serving a life sentence for a similar act: He strangled an older man in what veteran investigators yesterday called one of the most brutal crimes they had ever seen.

In that 1988 case, Joseph L. Druce, who was known then as Darrin E. Smiledge, attacked and killed a man who had picked him up hitchhiking. Smiledge punched and kicked his victim until the man was near death, then tied him up with rope and threw him unconscious into the trunk of the man's own car before driving to a wooded area in Beverly, police said.

The victim, George Rollo, a bus driver from Gloucester, awoke as they drove, barely clinging to life and pleading from the trunk not to be killed, said Gloucester Police Lieutenant Joseph Aiello, who investigated the case.

Smiledge stopped near the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, where he dragged Rollo to some woods, untied him, and made him strip naked. He then led Rollo to believe he would be freed before using the rope to strangle him, Aiello said. A witness described the details to police.

"He was definitely one of the most vicious murderers I've ever seen," said Aiello, a police officer since 1977 who arrested Smiledge in his room in a Gloucester boarding house shortly after Rollo's murder. "He was just a savage, savage person."

Smiledge was convicted of Rollo's murder and was sentenced to a life term at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster. For an unknown reason, he changed his name to Joseph L. Druce while in prison.

It was there, in the protective custody wing, that authorities say Druce strangled Geoghan on Saturday. The defrocked priest was accused of molesting nearly 150 children. His crimes triggered the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.

The similarities in the two killings are striking. In both cases, Druce, now 37, was about 30 years younger than his alleged victims; Geoghan was 68 when slain, and Rollo was 51 in 1988, when Druce was 22. Both victims were strangled, and in both cases, Druce apparently had reason to believe his victim was gay.

Geoghan was in jail for fondling a boy in a swimming pool, and many of the 147 people who say Geoghan abused them are male. Druce, who was hitchhiking in Gloucester with another man when Rollo picked them up the night of his death, believed Rollo was gay, Aiello said.

"Smiledge viewed it as a gay-bashing," Aiello said.

Druce's father, Dana Smiledge of Byfield, said Saturday his son had a longstanding animosity against homosexuals, in addition to a hatred of Jews and blacks. Dana Smiledge could not be reached yesterday to elaborate.

Druce also pleaded guilty last year to mailing anthrax hoax letters to 39 lawyers around the country with Jewish-sounding names. Dana Smiledge, who hasn't spoken to his son in eight years, said Saturday that Druce had also threatened to kill his family. Aiello, the Gloucester police lieutenant, said Druce also had sent letters from jail threatening him and the Gloucester police department.

John Bianchi, a retired Beverly police detective who was also among those who arrested Smiledge, said he had investigated plenty of rough crimes in 32 years as an officer, but Rollo's murder stands out in gruesome detail: the harsh beating, the panic-stricken ride in the trunk, and finally the deceitful strangulation.

"All murders are brutal, but this murder was particularly brutal," he said.

During Smiledge's trial in Newburyport, Aiello said, he and Bianchi were so convinced that the defendant would kill again if let free that they walked to a church while the jury deliberated. It was the only time in 26 years of fighting crime that he had ever asked for such divine justice, Aiello said yesterday.

A few minutes later, the jury returned with a guilty verdict.

"We thought once this guy went to prison his crimes were over," said Aiello. "But apparently we were wrong."

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