Thursday, 4:30 PM
Death of accused Maynard teacher leaves unanswered questions
By Melissa Beecher, Globe Correspondent
The death of former high school teacher Joseph Magno has sent shock waves through Maynard, a town that was anxiously awaiting his trial on charges that he sexually abused students.
For some, it ends a painful episode after a torrent of allegations surfaced about the man who taught at Maynard public schools for 43 years. Others, however, feel that through death, the 66-year-old Magno cheated justice.
"I am not happy that I won't be able to stare him down in court," said Walter Trachim, 44, in a telephone interview. The New Hampshire man has filed a police report accusing Magno of molesting him repeatedly beginning in 1974, when he was 12-years-old.
"I am not happy he escaped justice by dying," said Trachim, who transferred from Maynard High School before graduating. "Those who rely on faith may say that he is already facing judgment."
Magno faced 18 counts of child rape and indecent assault and battery after a 17-year-old accused him last year of sexually assaulting him over a three-year period, beginning when he was 13 years old in 2001. Since then, prosecutors say 14 other men have come forward alleging similar sexual abuse dating back four decades.
A judge had been scheduled to decide today if the 14 other people who have accused Magno of abuse would have been allowed to testify at trial. A jury was to be impaneled in the Middlesex Superior Court on Friday.
The case will be formally dismissed after prosecutors receive a certified death certificate, Assistant District Attorney Michael Chinman said today in court. An autopsy today by the state medical examiner found that Magno died because of heart attack.
Magno was suspended last February from the Maynard public schools amid the abuse allegations. As word spread that he was found dead in his Hudson home Monday night, students and parents gathered at WAVM, the high school radio station studio that he helped launch.
"In some ways, this leaves a lot of mystery that will never be explained," said John Lent the Maynard High principal who has worked with Magno since 1968.
"Personally, I never saw anything but Joeís best, but others have come forward with stories, horrible stories," Lent said. He added: "The saddest part is that this will continue to leave so many questions and doubts. Itís a sad, sad event for the town."
According to defense attorney Donald DeMayo, Magno had been suffering from heart problems, diabetes and the complications of having one kidney, which were only compounded by the stress of his looming trial.
"The tragedy for us is that no one will ever know how much we had going in," said DeMayo. "We were prepared, incredibly prepared, to take this thing to trial. The jury was finally going to hear it all."
Police Chief James Corcoran said: "I have known Joe a long time, and he hasnít been well."
Another defense attorney, Mark Shea, said in court this morning that both he and DeMayo were concerned about Magno's health. On Monday, Magno had trouble rising to his feet and was breathing heavily throughout the proceeding. He frequently bowed and hung his head.