Defendant Dead but Lawsuit Continues

Associated Press
September 25, 2002

Nashua, NH - The Roman Catholic brother accused of molesting a former Bishop Guertin High School pupil has died, but a lawsuit against him will continue.

Roger Argencourt, who died this week, worked at Bishop Guertin until January, when the school learned of the accusations against him by a former pupil who now is in his 40s.

Lawyer Peter Hutchins said the death doesn't affect the focus of the case against the school and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the religious order that owns and operates it.

Hutchins represents Jeffrey Linton of Afton, Va., who sued in April at Hillsborough County Superior Court.

Police in Burrillville, R.I., where the order is headquartered, said Argencourt appeared to have died of natural causes. The Rhode Island medical examiner ruled the cause of death high blood pressure and heart disease.

Argencourt was born in Lewiston, Maine, and given the name Joseph George Roger Argencourt. He went to Catholic school and reported that a neighbor once abused him when he was 10 or 11, according to court documents.

At Bishop Guertin, Argencourt taught history, was head of the social studies department, student activities director and adviser for the yearbook. He was well-liked by many former pupils, who said he was the type of person they would return to the school to visit.

Hutchins said many religious officials accused of having sex with children seemed to lead double lives of virtue and good deeds and deplorable acts against children.

"Even though the man was a perpetrator, he was a human being," Hutchins said. "It's another part of a large and ongoing tragedy."

Hutchins was looking forward to getting Argencourt in court.

"I wanted to take his deposition, look in his eyes and figure out how he could have done this," Hutchins said.

According to court records, Linton came forward to police in January with accusations that Argencourt molested him between 30 and 40 times in 1973, after the teacher approached Linton's nephew, who attended the school.

Linton said Argencourt asked his nephew if he was related to him, according to a statement by Nashua Police Detective Douglas Dunham included in a court file.

"He did not wish to see anyone else assaulted by (Argencourt)," Dunham wrote after interviewing Linton for the first time.

Linton told police he was confused and scared and ashamed about what was happening to him when he was a high school freshman. He felt he might even get in trouble or "bring shame upon himself" if he told anyone when he was younger, he told police.

Bishop Guertin President Leo Labbe did not return phone calls Tuesday, and Linton could not be reached for comment.


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