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Former Priest Strangled With Sheet, Official Says

The child molester was reportedly bound and gagged after his cell door was jammed shut.

August 25, 2003|From the Washington Post

BOSTON — John J. Geoghan, the former priest and convicted child molester killed in a Massachusetts prison Saturday, was followed into his cell after lunch by a fellow inmate who bound and gagged him before strangling him with a bed sheet, according to a union representative for prison guards.

The attacker, whom authorities identified as Joseph L. Druce, jammed the electronically operated cell door to prevent guards from opening it, according to an account of the incident provided by Robert Brouillette, an executive of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.

Brouillette, who spent seven hours Saturday interviewing correction officers, said Druce tied Geoghan's hands behind his back with a sheet and gagged his mouth, then repeatedly jumped from the bed in the cell onto Geoghan's motionless body and beat the former priest with his fists.

There was one officer on duty in the "protective custody" unit at the time, Brouillette said. State and county officials involved in the investigation would not comment on his description.

Druce entered Geoghan's cell just before noon, Brouillette said, when the prisoners left their one-person concrete cells to return their lunch trays.

The solid cell door has a chest-high window that guards can look through as they pass by. When the officer on duty heard noises coming from Geoghan's cell but could not open the cell door from the control panel at his station, other officers were reportedly summoned by walkie-talkie, and it took several of them to pry open the door.

The 68-year-old Geoghan, who was being held in protective custody in a unit with 23 other inmates, ostensibly to keep him safe from the general prison population, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and pronounced dead at 1:17 p.m. An autopsy will be performed today.

Druce, 37, will be charged with murder, investigators said. Massachusetts does not have a death penalty, so it is unclear what additional punishment Druce could receive since he is serving a life sentence for strangling a man to death in 1988. He also was convicted while in prison of attempting to spark an anthrax scare by sending envelopes filled with white powder to Jewish lawyers across the country in 2001.

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