Officer Says Druce Boasted about Killing

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]
September 10, 2005

WORCESTER— A "boastful" Joseph L. Druce seemed "very pleased with himself" as he confessed to the prison slaying of pedophile ex-priest John J. Geoghan, a state Department of Correction official said yesterday.

Testifying at a Worcester Superior Court hearing on a defense motion to suppress Mr. Druce's alleged admissions to prison authorities and police, Lt. Edward T. Hammond said the suspect later told him he expected to be "famous" for killing the 68-year-old defrocked priest and that "the pope would know him."

Mr. Druce is awaiting trial on a charge of murder in the Aug. 23, 2003, strangulation and beating death of Mr. Geoghan, which happened in the victim's cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line. Mr. Druce's appointed lawyer, John H. LaChance, is raising an insanity defense to the charge.

The motion to suppress is based on claims that Mr. Druce was beaten by correction officers after being extracted from Mr. Geoghan's cell and was "in pain, suffering from a major mental illness and in a manic state" when he spoke to investigators.

Lt. Hammond said he was working as an inner perimeter security officer at Souza-Baranowski on the day of the killing when he received word of a problem in the prison's J-1 protective custody unit. He said he went there and found several officers struggling to open the door to Mr. Geoghan's cell.

Lt. Hammond, a sergeant at the time, said he saw Mr. Druce inside the cell and the bound, lifeless and discolored body of Mr. Geoghan on the floor.

Mr. Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, was serving a sentence of 9 to 10 years for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Mr. Druce, 40, who says he was sexually abused as a child, was serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a man he believed was gay.

Lt. Hammond testified that the door to Mr. Geoghan's cell had been jammed with a book and nail clippers and that it took correction officers several minutes to force it open. Mr. Druce was removed from the cell, thrown face-first onto the floor and restrained with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to the officer.

Lt. Hammond said he saw Mr. Druce about 10 minutes later in the prison's health services unit, where he had been taken for medical clearance before being placed in segregation. He said Mr. Druce blurted out, "I killed that child molester. He was going to rape kids when he got out."

The officer said Mr. Druce agreed to continue talking about the slaying after being advised of his Miranda rights. He said Mr. Druce signed a Miranda waiver form "Rev. Joseph Druce" and "seemed to find humor in that."

During the conversation that followed, Lt. Hammond said, Mr. Druce told him that he had overheard a telephone conversation in which the ex-priest spoke of working with children at a mission in South America after his release from custody.

"I couldn't let him do that," Lt. Hammond said the suspect told him.

Mr. Druce then explained to him in painstaking detail how he carried out the killing, Lt. Hammond testified.

He said Mr. Druce told him he sneaked into the victim's cell without being seen when all the cell doors on the unit were opened to allow the inmates to return their food trays. The suspect allegedly said he "conned" Mr. Geoghan into believing he did not intend to harm him and was simply staging a hostage-taking to get transferred back to the state prison in Walpole.

Mr. Druce explained how he jammed the cell door to prevent anyone from intervening, tied the victim's hands behind his back with a T-shirt, and struck him in the face, knocking him to the floor, Lt. Hammond testified.

He said Mr. Druce told him he got on top of Mr. Geoghan, punched him in the face several times and strangled him with a pair of socks tied together until he saw blood coming from the victim's nose and ears. He said he then wrapped a pillowcase around Mr. Geoghan's neck and tied it in a knot to make sure he was dead, according to Lt. Hammond's account.

The officer said Mr. Druce told him he intended to castrate his victim, but couldn't find the disposable razor he had brought into the cell for that purpose.

Lt. Hammond said Mr. Druce told him he had also planned to kill two gay inmates if he had been able to escape from Mr. Geoghan's cell. He said Mr. Druce volunteered that he had no assistance in the commission of the crime from Correction Officer David Lonergan, who was on duty on the unit at the time of the killing. Mr. Druce has since said in court that a correction officer allowed him into the victim's cell.

Under cross-examination by Mr. LaChance, Lt. Hammond acknowledged that he did not take notes during his interview with Mr. Druce. The officer agreed with Mr. LaChance's suggestions that Mr. Druce appeared animated, talkative and excited during the questioning and that some of his comments seemed "grandiose."

Correction Officer Travis Canty, one of three officers who accompanied Mr. Druce from Mr. Geoghan's cell to the health services unit, denied that the suspect was struck, pushed against a wall or otherwise abused while en route.

Asked by Mr. LaChance about photographs showing bruises on Mr. Druce's face, Officer Canty said the injuries could have occurred when Mr. Druce was taken to the floor after being removed from Mr. Geoghan's cell. The officer acknowledged injuring his hand while escorting Mr. Druce and said he accidentally struck it against a door frame.

Once at the health services unit, Mr. Druce "stated that he did it for the children" and spoke freely about the killing for about 20 minutes before Sgt. Hammond arrived, Officer Canty said. He did not begin the narrative, however, until someone asked him, "Why did you do it?" Officer Canty said.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Friday.