Autopsy Revealed Alcohol, but No Sign of Sexual Abuse

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
July 28, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Thirteen-year-old altar boy Daniel Croteau of Springfield had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit at the time of his death in 1972, according to an autopsy report.

The autopsy found no evidence of sexual assault on the body of Croteau, who was found bludgeoned to death in the Chicopee River.

The autopsy was among several of the items that Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett released yesterday to The Republican after a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision ordered the release of impounded files in the Croteau murder investigation.

Bennett also released a laboratory report and a 1958 Chicopee city termination notice of Richard R. Lavigne, a defrocked priest who is the only publicly identified suspect in the unsolved murder. The notice stated Lavigne is an "undesirable person to be around children."

Additional materials, including investigators' reports and witness statements will be released, possibly as soon as next week.

Two Hampden County Superior Court clerk officials said yesterday the release of documents would have to wait at least until Aug. 4, when Judge Peter A. Velis returns from vacation. It was Velis' October 2003 decision to end the impoundment order on the files that was upheld by the state's top court.

Croteau's blood alcohol level was .18 percent, according to a laboratory report that found no evidence of drugs in the boy's body. The legal blood alcohol level for driving now is .08 percent, according to Bennett.

Lavigne often allegedly gave alcohol to children before allegedly sexually abusing them, according to many of the more than 40 people who have accused the former priest of abusing them as minors.

Croteau's 5-foot, 5-inch, 160-pound barefoot body was found face-down and floating in the Chicopee River April 14, 1972. Lavigne, who helped police search for Croteau's body the night before, was never charged.

Bennett reopened the case in 1991, but blood tests conducted in 1993 failed to conclusively link Lavigne to the crime. Bennett closed the case in 1995 but said last year it remained open and he planned to resubmit evidence for more sophisticated DNA testing methods.

The case remains open and active, Bennett said yesterday.

The autopsy details "the multiple blunt injuries of the head with fractures of the skull and lacerations of the brain" that killed him and that have been previously reported. The autopsy and laboratory test were done by forensic pathologist George C. Katsas.

A state Department of Public Safety report provides laboratory results of at least some of the items that were submitted for testing by state and Chicopee police. Listed items were Croteau's clothing, soil "from probable location of struggle," soil from tire imprints, soil from location of body, stones, decomposed blood from south side of river, plastic straw and cotton rope from river bank, "Certs" gum and piece of newspaper.

Blood was detected on most items.

An Aug. 4, 1958-dated termination notice states a 17-year-old Lavigne was discharged from his job as an assistant recreation leader by the Chicopee Parks and Playgrounds Department because they determined he was an undesirable person to be around children. However, the notice doesn't detail the event or events that may have precipitated the termination.

The newspaper reported in 1991 that Lavigne was fired in Chicopee for allegedly fondling a young boy, according to the alleged victim.

The incident came to light after Lavigne's arrest in 1991 on molestation charges.

At the time, the alleged victim said he was at a park on a summer day with his mother and a sibling when the molestation occurred.

He said Lavigne took him into some bushes near a pond.

"He touched me in a private area and wanted me to do the same with him. He was not threatening and no force was used," the man said. "I was little, but I must have known it was wrong. I told my parents."


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