Witness Describes Mental Condition of Geoghan's Alleged Killer

January 20, 2006

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Convicted killer Joseph Druce took the witness stand Friday to defend himself against charges he beat and strangled pedophile priest John Geoghan in his prison cell.

Druce's lawyers don't dispute that Druce killed Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal, but they say he was suffering from severe mental illness and should not be convicted.

The 40-year-old Druce, who is already serving a life sentence for killing a man he suspected of making a pass at him, described a troubled childhood in which his father beat Druce and his mother. He said he was physically and sexually abused at a residential school for troubled children.

Druce told investigators he killed Geoghan to avenge the innocent children the defrocked priest was accused of molesting. Earlier Friday, as Druce he was being escorted out of the courtroom for a recess, he shouted "God save all the innocent kids."

At the time of his death, Geoghan was in prison for fondling a 10-year-old boy, but he was accused in lawsuit of sexually abusing some 150 children.

A defense psychiatrist testified Friday that Druce was suffering from several mental illnesses and was unable to control his rage.

Keith Ablow of New England Medical Center said Druce suffered greatly during his childhood, including beatings from his father and repeated rapes by several different people he trusted.

By the time Druce met Geoghan in prison in 2003, he was filled with rage, Ablow said.

When Druce allegedly overheard Geoghan talking about his plans to get out of prison and leave the country so he could molest more children, it brought back painful memories of Druce's own rapes, Ablow said.

"He came to see himself as an avenger of those acts, and that led directly to (Geoghan's murder)," Ablow said.

Druce suffers from severe attention deficit disorder, dissociative disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and a personality disorder with symptoms of paranoia and anti-social behavior, Ablow said.

Ablow said Druce told him he overheard a conversation between Geoghan and another pedophile in which the two discussed raping young boys.

"That's why I killed him," Druce shouted out in the courtroom, prompting a warning from Judge Francis Fecteau.

Druce's father, Dana Smiledge, also testified Friday. He said he was an absentee father who worked two jobs and had little involvement in his son's life.

He denied giving his son alcohol and cocaine as an adolescent, as Druce has claimed. He also said he didn't hear about Druce's claims that he was sexually abused at the school for children with behavioral problems until years later.

Prosecutors say Druce carefully and methodically planned the murder for five weeks, watching for the moment when he could slip into Geoghan's cell without being detected by guards and bringing a book with him to jam the cell door shut.

Under questioning from Druce's attorney, John LaChance, Ablow said Druce's planning skills had nothing to do with his sanity.

"The ability to plan a killing does not mean the person who planned it is not insane," Ablow said.

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