Victims Watch as Maguire Admits to Molestations

By Bruno Matarazzo, Jr.
(Dover NH) Foster’s Daily Democrat
March 4, 2004

DOVER — When he arrived as priest at St. Joseph’s Church in 1974, Joseph T. Maguire brought something people in town had never seen before.

His charismatic approaches to the gospel and belief he had the power to heal people’s ailments brought parishioners to the church in droves.

But when he left St. Joseph’s in 1981, he left behind a secret history of sexual abuse involving a number of boys who belonged to the church during his ministry.

Two of his victims were in the courtroom on Wednesday’s bench trial, as Assistant Attorney General Peter Odom read before a judge the state’s case including 28 counts of sexual assault involving three former altar boys.

Maguire admitted to the state’s evidence, detailing specific sexual acts the retired priest committed on the three victims, two of which were brothers.

Even with Maguire’s admission, Judge Peter Fauver will now have to decide whether to find him guilty on 28 counts included in the 10 remaining indictments on the basis of whether the statute of limitations has expired. In an earlier ruling, Fauver denied a motion by Maguire’s attorneys to dismiss the counts on those grounds.

Defense Attorney Linda Slamon argued in court Thursday the remaining charges, which all occurred before Jan. 1, 1981, do not fall within the statute of limitations.

The statue of limitations in effect prior to that date said authorities had to charge an individual with a felony within six years after an alleged crime. In 1981, the statute was extended to 22 years after the victim’s 18th birthday in sexual abuse cases.

However the clock on the statute stops ticking once the suspect leaves the state to work or live.

Maguire left Dover in 1981 to join the Order of Stigmatines in Waltham, Mass. He also left the country to study in Rome and become a priest in Ireland.

When he returned, he spent his remaining years in the priesthood in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Kennebunk, Maine, but never returned to New Hampshire to live or work.

During that time, he was still a priest with the Diocese of Manchester. Because of this, Slamon argues, Maguire still had a place of employment in New Hampshire and so the clock on the charges against him ran out.

He pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual molestation charges last week because those abuses occurred in 1981 when the statute was extended, allowing it to still be in effect without any dispute.

Maguire spoke little during the trial. Dressed in orange prison garb and with a long, white straggly beard, he first spoke when he acknowledged to the judge his decision to waive his right to a jury trial.

He then told the judge he had no objections to the state’s case and affirmed everything that was read aloud in the courtroom.

What the prosecutor read was a narrative of Maguire’s time in the priesthood and the pattern of abuse involving the three victims.

When he arrived in Dover, Maguire was recently out of the seminary, which he joined when he was 39 years old.

As an associate pastor, his celebrations of Mass drew large crowds from a variety of people: the religious and not-so religious.

One family, which was not particularly religious, became enthralled in Maguire’s delivery of the gospel. The family, which is not being identified, sat in the front row and their sons became altar boys.

The victims were often invited to sleep-overs at Maguire’s rectory and on trips to places where Maguire would perform his healing sessions.

"Maguire became part of the family," Odom said, "When he began to invite the boys to the rectory, they did not hesitate."

The younger brother’s abuse began with their exchange of back massages with a handheld massager, escalating to gropings and to simulated sexual acts.

The simulated acts on the boy occurred methodically at least once every two months for years, with Maguire leaving the room after it was over and returning to apologize.

Odom said the boy didn’t know how to react and that he wanted to tell his mother but didn’t know she would react, since Maguire was revered throughout the community.

"He kept his mouth shut, he didn’t say anything," Odom the judge.

The boy’s older brother suffered more severe abuse, with Maguire sodomizing him on at least two occasions at the old Ramada Inn on Silver Street.

The older brother never discussed the abuse with anyone and never knew his brother was a victim, until a few years ago when the Attorney General’s investigation was under way.

The third victim lives out of state and was not in the courtroom Wednesday.

Maguire brought him to the mall shortly after the boy’s family moved to New Hampshire and joined the church. He would buy the boy candy, gifts and allowed him to play games on the computer.

Like the two other victims, Maguire would ask for a massage with the handheld massager and later switched places, with the boy giving Maguire a massage. The massages later turned to Maguire performing oral sex on the boy.

"He kept his secret until reading about (Maguire) on Foster’s Online and contacted the Strafford County Attorney’s Office," Odom said.

Allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against Maguire in 1986, when Dover police received an anonymous letter alleging the priest molested boys in the parish.

After an investigation, Dover police asked Maguire to come to Dover to interview him on the abuse allegations. The victims in that investigation were not the same as in the current case.

According to Senior Assistant Attorney General William Delker, Maguire admitted the abuse to Dover police. At that time, the Attorney General’s Office told Dover police the offenses were too old to prosecute because the statue of limitations had run out.

It was then Dover police met with former Bishop Odore Gendron, who told them Maguire would not be assigned to another church in the diocese.

About 15 years later, the state contacted the two brothers and launched another case following an investigation into the diocese.

The younger brother took part in a wiretapped phone call in which Maguire admitted to the abuse. The state admitted the nine-page transcript of the phone conversation into evidence.

That was not the first time the victim confronted Maguire on the abuse. Shortly before the victim married in 1994, he tracked the retired priest to his home on Cape Cod.

Maguire didn’t deny any of the allegations, asked for the victim’s forgiveness and gave him a check for $1,000 as a wedding gift.

The victim’s life had been hard following the abuse, Odom said.

He became an angry, volatile adolescent and adult, and suffered alcohol abuse problems. When he was 23 years old, the victim washed 30 sleeping pills down with alcohol with the intent to kill himself.

The two victims and their families listened to the details being read before the judge. Appearing relieved by Maguire’s admission in court, they walked out of the courtroom together. The victims declined to comment.

Democrat Staff Writer Bruno Matarazzo can be reached at 742-4455, Ext. 5311, or


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