Ex-Dover Priest Abused Two Boys

By Brian Dekoning
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
March 4, 2004

DOVER -- A former Seacoast priest admitted in court yesterday to sexually abusing two altar boys in Dover in the late 1970s and early 1980s just a week after he pleaded guilty to molesting a third boy during the same period.

During a bench trial in Strafford County Superior Court, former priest Joseph T. Maguire acknowledged abusing boys as young as 9-years old by performing anal, oral and other sex acts on them in Dover hotel rooms, during overnight trips and at the St. Joseph's Church rectory.

Maguire sexually abused one victim from 1977 to 1981 and a second victim from 1978 to 1980. Both victims, now adults, were in court with family members yesterday but declined to comment.

Maguire did not enter a plea to 28 counts against him. He instead agreed to the facts of his crimes as presented by prosecutors N. William Delker and Peter Odom of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office. Superior court Judge Peter Fauver must now render a verdict.

The unusual move allows Maguire to appeal statute of limitations issues in the case to the state Supreme Court.

Maguire's lawyers say 28 charges against him should be dropped because he maintained his connection to the state, through the Diocese of Manchester, and the statute of limitations ran out.

If the lawyers convince the Supreme Court that the statute of limitations ran out before Maguire was indicted in February 2003, the charges against him could be dropped.

At the time Maguire abused the boys, the statute of limitations was six years for a felony and one year for a misdemeanor.

However, prosecutors said Maguire lived in Massachusetts, Ireland and Maine after leaving New Hampshire and returned during the early 1980s for sporadic visits. He sometimes picked up one of his victims and took the boy to a Dover hotel where more sexual abuse occurred, Odom said.

Maguire's absence from the state "would stop the clock" from running on the statute, Delker said.

The Legislature has since changed state law to make the statute of limitations for a sexual assault of a minor 22 years from the victim's 18th birthday.

Maguire, 72, was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1973 and served in Dover at St. Joseph's Church from 1974 to 1981 after stints in Hudson, Manchester and Whitefield.

Maguire was indicted in 2003 on 36 abuse counts, including eight that he sexually abused a third altar boy. Maguire pleaded guilty to those eight charges last week.

During his service in Dover, Maguire developed a large following as a "faith-healer" who would lay hands on the afflicted to remedy their ills.

It was that reputation that endeared him to his victims' families, according to Odom.

"He was one of the most revered and popular priests in the area," Odom said. "He was seen as God's instrument on earth."

Odom said Maguire became almost a member of his victims' family. Odom showed one picture with Maguire dressed as Santa Claus with two of his victims as young boys and said Maguire asked the children to become altar boys.

"It was an honor no devout Catholic boy could ever refuse," Odom said.

Odom said Maguire "groomed" the boys for sexual abuse by buying them gifts, bringing them to the mall and letting them play with his computer at the church.

The two victims in court yesterday did not reveal Maguire's abuse until an investigation began in 2002. Odom said one of the victims had attempted suicide because of the abuse.

The charges against Maguire likely mean he'll spend the rest of his life in prison. The punishment for his crimes totals 244 years.


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