Ex-Priest's Home Raided by Police

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Chicopee MA]
April 9, 2004

CHICOPEE - State police confiscated computer equipment during a search of the home of defrocked priest and convicted child molester Richard R. Lavigne yesterday.

State law enforcement officials would not specify the reason for the search, which occurred on the religious feast day celebrating the priesthood in the Catholic Church. But a computer removed from the home was placed in a vehicle with New Hampshire license plates, according to abc40, which aired footage of the raid last night.

When Lavigne was asked by a reporter for The Republican to comment, he said, "I wouldn't talk to you if my life depended upon it."

Lavigne, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to two counts of molestation and was given a 10-year probation sentence, was accused by a then Hawley youth of sexually abusing him and taking him to New Hampshire. In 1993, then 19-year-old Dana Cayo said Lavigne once brought him to Mount Washington in New Hampshire for a week.

Lavigne has been accused by about 33 people of molesting them as minors when Lavigne served as a priest in the Springfield diocese.

The raid comes as Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett investigates the overall handling of clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Bennett has already handed over to a grand jury allegations of sexual abuse against former bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre.

Dupre's accusers, one of whom was a 12-year-old refugee and the other around 14 when the alleged abuse began, are now 39 and 40.

Bennett's office has confiscated more than 10,000 pages of records from diocesan offices since the investigation was initiated in February.

Massachusetts State Police Lt. Peter J. Higgins, who is heading the district attorney's investigation, refused to comment on the search of Lavigne's home. He referred questions to Bennett, who didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Higgins headed yesterday's search and the March 5 search of Dupre's residential suite at 68 Elliot St., in which computer equipment and files were confiscated.

Chicopee Police wouldn't comment on yesterday's search.

Lavigne's lawyer Max Stern of Boston didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

A diocesan spokesman said diocesan officials had no knowledge of the Lavigne search.

Shortly after the raid, the registered sex offender took pictures of a reporter for The Republican talking to one of his neighbors in the street in front of his 86 Haven Ave. home, a white one-family dwelling in a residential neighborhood within a mile of Elms College.

Lavigne was also the only publicly identified suspect in the 1972 unsolved murder of Springfield altar boy Daniel Croteau. DNA tests about a decade ago failed to conclusively link him to the murder. The Republican and a lawyer for abuse plaintiffs are still trying to unseal documents in the 32-year-old murder case in a suit that will be heard by the state's Supreme Judicial Court.

Lavigne was also classified last year by the state as a sex offender with a likelihood of offending again.

Lavigne's defrocking was announced by the diocese in January, at which time diocesan officials said that Lavigne's $1,030 monthly stipend and health and dental benefits would continue until May 1.

At that time he can seek financial support from a fund established by donors for the financial support of priests who have been taken out of ministry for sexual misconduct. The fund was set up when Dupre was bishop; his successor, the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell has initiated a fund for alleged victims.

The feast of the priesthood is celebrated on Holy Thursday and is recognized as the day Jesus Christ established the priesthood.


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