Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Daniel Croteau Murder, Part 5

Blood Pressure


After his sentencing, Richard Lavigne (pictured above) was at the St. Luke Institute, a Maryland facility known for treating clergy with a predilection for children and teens. He was getting treatment. He was also getting bored. He wrote a letter to two brothers, aged 12 and nine, who later accused him of sexual abuse. “I miss you all very much,” he wrote. “It’s not the same here in Maryland.” He also sketched a flower in the letter, complained about the weather, and likened the Institute to “summer school.” While at the Institute he also phoned 19-year-old Dana Cayo, who was on his way to turning from supporter to accuser. “He wanted to know if I missed him,” said Cayo, who answered “no.” The priest ignored the reply and began talking about getting together when he was released. “He talked about going back to Mount Washington on a camping trip,” Cayo said. “I got scared.”

Lavigne was released on January 28, but his dealings with the legal system were just beginning. A day after he walked out of the Institute, 11 alleged victims, including a cousin of Lavigne, came forward. They said the priest assaulted them between 1967 and 1990.

Among the accusers were former Circle Gang members Brian and Michael McMahon—nephews D.A. Matty Ryan. Thirty-six-year-old Brian McMahon wrote that their mother “would allow him to take us on weekend and overnight field trips. It was one of those field trips to his parents’ house when I awoke to being molested by Father Lavigne. The shock and confusion over this experience caused me to say nothing to anyone. Not my parents. Not my brothers. No one. This recollection was suppressed until the fall of 1991, when I became aware of recent charges of child abuse against Father Lavigne. The suppression of this experience has impacted my life in many ways, from outright rebellion and drug abuse as an adolescent to the inability of maintaining trusting relationships as an adult.”

Michael McMahon wrote from his Los Angeles home about playfully wrestling with Danny Croteau during a camping trip. “At one point I pushed Danny Croteau to the floor of the cabin,” he wrote. “Father Lavigne saw this and struck me in the face so hard it knocked me down. I was shocked, hurt, embarrassed, and confused, for I had never seen him exhibit such behavior. He seemed enraged with me. I went to sleep that night without really saying anything to him. I was awakened in the middle of the night by Father Lavigne, who had gotten into bed with me. He molested me that night.”

The latter McMahon brother kept the secret for more than two decades. “I buried the memory of this humiliating event,” he continued. “At that time in my life I began to look at things much differently. I looked at the church differently. I looked at authority figures differently. I looked at my parents differently and my respect for them changed. I began abusing drugs and alcohol and indulged in violence and vandalism on a weekly basis. I found that I could not trust anyone. I felt that I really wasn't a good person.”

He also told State Trooper John Daly that he remembered something else from that camping trip in Goshen, MA, in 1967 or 1968. He recalled Lavigne joining a group of boys in teasing Danny Croteau. “More than once Danny threatened Lavigne with the words, ‘I’ll tell! I’ll tell,’” he said. “This had an obvious effect on Lavigne. He began to pay more attention to Danny and ordered us to stop the name-calling… I think the change in Lavigne’s behavior on that summer weekend . . . was a direct result of Danny Croteau threatening to tell. At the time, I thought, ‘I wonder what he has on Lavigne.’ That night I was molested by Lavigne, and I then figured that Lavigne must have molested Danny, too.”

Max Stern, Lavigne’s lawyer, pointed out that when Michael McMahon originally gave his statement in 1991, he didn’t mention the “I’ll tell” memory, holding onto it for two more years. An investigator involved in the case countered that molestation victims often remember additional details about the incidents in subsequent interviews.

Is it presumptuous to assume that the “secret” was abuse, rather than something more trivial? Not to McMahon.

If Danny Croteau had begun threatening Lavigne with exposure as early as 1967 or 1968, “who knows how serious these threats became by the time he was murdered in 1972?” Michael McMahon told police. “I believe they became too much for Lavigne to handle. I believe the violence he displayed in striking me in 1968 was displayed again in 1972 when he lost control of it and murdered Danny Croteau. Only God and Richard Lavigne know for sure.”

It seemed that Father Lavigne’s “outreach” to the Circle Gang in the late 1960s extended much further than “moral” and spiritual guidance.

The tree where the Circle Gang hung out is pictured today, minus the earthen mounds, benches, and brick walkway surrounding it.

Another former member of the Circle Gang, 36-year-old Raymond Chelte Jr., met Lavigne as ten-year-old altar boy at St. Catherine. The priest “expressed a lot of interest in me as a person, always asking me to go places,” he wrote from Little Rock, AR, where he lived. “Then the molestations began. It was always in private. It occurred at both the rectory and the church. There was no one I could talk to about it. I felt dirty, used, and damned. Father Lavigne intimidated me by telling me he was God’s worker and if I ever told anyone God would send me to hell.” Chelte wrote that he had been through two marriages “and lost the affection of two children because I could not get close to people. I was scared of affection or letting anyone get close to me. I turned to drugs to hide the hurt and attempted suicide because I did not care to live.”

In an interview with Tom Shea of the Union- News, Danny Croteau’s brother Greg talked about time in the gang—and his experience with Lavigne. “I grew up drinking, fighting, stealing cars—all the crazy things kids did in the Sixties,” he said. “I’m no stranger to violence. My nose has hit everything but the lottery…I’ve done some bad things, but I'm not a bad person. I am grateful I'm not spending my life in jail.”

Greg Croteau (lower left) and members of the Circle Gang sit on a bench at the oak tree behind the Sixteen Acres Library. He is also pictured on the lower left below with fellow Circle members at “Bud Hill” in the woods behind The Circle.

Greg never liked Lavigne. “He never seemed priestly to me,” he said. “I just had a bad feeling about the guy.” That feeling turned to rage after Danny’s murder. He said that in 1988 he told the Most Rev. Leo O’Neil of his obsession with killing Lavigne and of the night in the motel the priest laced his orange juice with vodka and tried to persuade him to sleep in the same bed. He knew O’Neil because the priest had become a curate at St. Catherine in 1968, shortly before Lavigne was transferred to St. Mary’s, and was close to his family. O’Neil, then auxiliary bishop of Springfield, seemed surprised to hear him say that Lavigne was a child molester. “He told me it was the first he’s heard of it,” said Greg. “He said he would look into the matter and looked me in the eye and said if there was any evidence that Lavigne was involved with children, he was going to personally make sure Lavigne would never harm another child in his position as a Catholic priest.” 

This “surprise” seems to contradict the fact that Rev. O’Neil had heard complaints about the molestation of Paul Babeu two years earlier and “the result of that evaluation was that Father Lavigne was not a threat to re-offend and he could, with counseling, continue his duties,” according to a diocesan statement.

In 1993, there were claims that O’Neil even knew about abuse allegations against Lavigne in the late 1960s: Maurice DeMontigny, a longtime lay religious officer at St. Catherine and an uncle of two other accusers, asserted that in 1968 he, St. Catherine pastor Thomas Griffin, and Rev. O’Neil “were disapprovingly talking about Father Lavigne’s close activities with boys. I recall Rev. O’Neil saying, ‘You won't be seeing any boys coming into my room,’ or something to that effect. I had the distinct impression from Father O’Neil that he did not want to come to St. Catherine’s parish because of Father Lavigne.”

But according to the diocese, O’Neil had denied that he ever discussed Lavigne’s activities with boys after he arrived at St. Catherine’s in 1968.

Bishop Leo O’Neil (above and below)

Nonetheless, O’Neil certainly knew of Lavigne’s tendencies by 1972, because Carl told him right after the murder. O’Neil had come to the Croteau house for dinner and was “nervous and trembling” and “white as a sheet” after Carl informed him that Lavigne had molested some of his sons and was the prime suspect in Danny’s murder. “Father O’Neil was sitting in the front room, and I remember how he slumped in a chair when I told him, and he asked me if I thought Father Lavigne was capable of murder,” said Croteau. “At the time, it was all so unbelievable. We lost our son. One of our best friends is accused of his murder. It was just too much.”

O’Neil’s response, a month after Danny’s murder, was to give Carl $700 for the family to visit Bunny’s sister in California. Carl saw it “as a kind gesture.” But a month after O’Neil’s gift, diocesan lawyer James Egan showed up at the Croteau home unannounced. “After identifying himself as an attorney for the diocese, he asked me point-blank, ‘What do you want out of this? Is there anything you want?’ We were stunned by this question and didn’t realize at first what he was talking about,” Carl stated in an affidavit. “I said something like, ‘What do you mean, what do we want?’ There was an awkward silence, and, then he said, “Well, if you ever decide you need something, let us know.’…We never heard from him or the diocese again.”

Carl always felt that the trip to California was a “gift from the heart” from O’Neil and Father Griffin, not a payoff. So did O’Neil’s family (see below). But Carl also asserted that the diocese’s overture through its lawyer was an attempt to settle any wrongdoing by Lavigne with the Croteaus. 

In the years after Danny’s murder, according to Carl, on several occasions O’Neil told him of disturbing reports he had received from the late Annie Sullivan, the housekeeper at St. Catherine. Sullivan had told O’Neil that Lavigne had many times persuaded kids to skip school and to stay with him in his private bedroom. “She told him stories that would raise the hair on your head,” said Carl. “But the Church covered it all up, and passed Lavigne from parish to parish, and he went on to abuse more kids.”

The St. Catherine Rectory on Parker Street

The Croteaus’ relationship with O’Neil was a complicated one. On one hand, he drew Carl and Bunny back to the church after the murder, telling them that no man—meaning Lavigne—should come between them and God. On the other hand, he refused to comment to the press about Carl’s allegations that the diocese knew Lavigne was an abuser at least since 1972.

“I have no idea if Bishop O’Neil told anyone” about being informed in 1972 that Lavigne was suspected of molestation and murder, said Carl in a 1993 newspaper interview. “He’s my friend. I’m sure he tried to do what was right. He was a great comfort to Bun and I back then—a great comfort. We wouldn’t have made it through without him.”

“I’m not going to talk about it,” said O’Neil when approached by a reporter the same year. Shortly afterward, Carl said that he understood O’Neil’s uncomfortable position. “I know Bishop O’Neil is caught in the middle of a really messy situation,” said Carl. “He has to take the Church’s side, but I know he’s praying for us, and I hope he knows we’re praying for him.”

O’Neil’s reluctance to talk wasn’t just limited to the media. In 1991, he had refused to meet with State Police regarding Babeu’s 1986 claim of abuse against Lavigne. The newspaper reported that State Police Lt. Edward Harrington wanted O’Neil subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury, although then-Northwestern District Attorney Judd J. Carhart backed down, saying the move would have been ill-perceived by the grand jury and the public.

The diocese countered that O’Neil did meet with the Northwest Assistant District Attorney and the chief state investigator, agreeing to testify before the grand jury, but that he signed a statement that investigators could use instead of a personal appearance if they so chose.

Bishop Leo O’Neil: what did he know, and when did he know it?

* * * * * * * *

Shortly after Lavigne was released from the Institute he was greeted with the news that blood found at the site where Croteau was killed had been brought to a laboratory in Richmond, CA for testing. And, according to a source in the D.A.’s office, District Attorney Bill Bennett (pictured below) was seeking a court order requiring a blood sample from the priest.

In April of 1993, Lavigne received more bad news: two more men claimed sexual abuse by him when they were children, bringing the total to 13.

Months passed and there seemed to be no progress on the murder investigation. But then, on September 3, 1993, state police took Lavigne from his Ashfield home to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where they drew a blood sample from him. Judge John F. Moriarty had ordered the sample, but delayed a ruling on whether or not it could be compared to blood found on a piece of rope and a plastic drinking straw at the murder scene.

The judge said he would rule simultaneously on the D.A.’s motion to test the blood and Lavigne’s motion for the return of his sample. Bennett was confident that Judge Moriarty would rule in his favor. “We have the blood of the suspect,” he said. “We want to test it to find out if he was or was not the donor of the blood at the crime scene. It’s a murder and this is very pertinent and highly valuable evidence.”

Carl Croteau Sr. wondered why Lavigne was fighting the DNA test. “If he’s got nothing to hide, why is he hiding?” Croteau asked. “If I knew a blood test could clear me of a murder, I know I would bring a gallon of it in.”

Police had found two types of blood at the scene: Type O, which was Danny’s type, and Type B, which is found in only twelve percent of the population—including Richard Lavigne. When Lavigne was notified that the blood found was his type, he chose to fight having his blood tested. 

Patricia Garin, a Boston lawyer who along with Max Stern represented Lavigne, claimed in Lavigne’s motion to reclaim his blood that not enough blood was taken at the crime scene for a positive test. She argued that previous testing destroyed the sole sample, preventing a future expert for Lavigne from testing the sample. Bennett countered that the sample yielded results that could be compared with a known sample. He said that enough of the sample was left to enable Lavigne’s lawyers to have it independently tested if the samples were to match. 

After 20 days of deliberation, Judge Moriarty rejected Lavigne’s motion, adding that the defense had one week to appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals in Boston.

“It’s been a tense three weeks,” said Bunny Croteau. “But today it’s worth the wait. We’ve been waiting twenty-one years for the truth. Today we’re a little closer to it.”

Carl said that after more than two decades “of nothing, this is something. We’re still hopeful that someone out there who may know something will come forward.”

But the Croteaus’ satisfaction was short-lived: less than a week after the ruling, the judge extended his stay order until October 20 at the earliest to allow Lavigne time to appeal.

On November 1, Appeals Court Judge Charlotte Anne Perretta continued the order prohibiting investigators from conducting DNA tests on Lavigne’s blood. Stern, who claimed the search warrant to take his client’s blood was in violation of his rights, would have forty days to file his brief for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the state Appeals Court, or the Judicial Court, which could happen in a week—or in a year. 

So the three vials of blood would sit chilling at Baystate Medical Center because it had not been taken voluntarily, but with a search warrant—an issue not addressed in state statutes or in case law. Stern and Garin insisted that Lavigne should have been allowed a hearing to protect his constitutional rights before his blood was seized because he hadn’t been arrested or charged with the crime.

Meanwhile, another rape charge was leveled at Lavigne—this one from a Pittsfield man. As a result of the mounting court costs, Lavigne claimed indigence, submitting an affidavit to the Public Counsel’s Services. In response, the Public Defender’s Office appointed Stern to defend him. Lavigne remained on the diocesan payroll, but he stated, “I am unable to pay the fees and costs of this proceeding without depriving myself of the necessities of life, including food, shelter, and clothing.” 

Then Daniel Croteau’s brother Joe field suit against Lavigne, charging that the priest molested him when he was thirteen years old. “Joe gave a statement to Chicopee detectives and to the District Attorney's office in August, 1972,” said Carl Croteau. “Nothing ever came of Joe’s statement from what I can see.”


In January of 1994, the church agreed to pay between $1.3 and $1.4 million to seventeen alleged victims of Lavigne. The diocese, in a panic, sent a letter to be read at every Mass stating that the settlement would not be derived from parishioners’ gifts or the upcoming Stewardship Appeal.

* * * * * * * *

In a stunning announcement, on May 3, Patricia Garin said her client may offer his blood for testing if prosecutors would promise to drop him as a suspect in the murder if his DNA didn’t match the blood found at the scene. She insisted that she was sure a blood test would clear Lavigne, and that the only reason he was hesitant to go through with it was because there were no guarantees that the Commonwealth would cease the investigation. “We want this case to be over,” she said.

So did members of the Croteau family. But they had to wait. On September 13, after the Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments for four months, the state’s highest court waived its rule to decide cases in 130 days, meaning there was no deadline for its opinion on whether or not to let investigators try to link Lavigne’s blood to the killing of Danny Croteau.

“It seems like I've spent my life waiting,” commented Bunny Croteau, “and I’m sick of it. I’ve found myself getting moodier, more depressed and I cry more than I used to. It’s like the pressure keeps mounting. I get my hopes up and it’s more waiting. Get my hopes up and wait even more. I’d like some answers. It’s not like I’m being pushy. I’ve waited more than 22 years.”

On November 16, the Croteaus found out that they would have to wait some more. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Lavigne’s blood had been illegally seized by the court order. As a result, the priest would get back the three vials of blood drawn from him in September. It was now up to Hampden County prosecutors to schedule evidence hearings before a blood sample could be ordered. 

This happened because, in a split-decision, a four-judge majority—with two justices writing separate dissents—the court ruled that the state violated Lavigne’s rights because he hadn’t been charged with a crime. Neither side claimed victory. Garin said, “We’re very pleased by the decision.” At the same time, prosecutors were encouraged by the fact that there was still a way for investigators to properly obtain Lavigne’s blood. Bennett, unsure of what type of hearing was necessary in the future, said he would review the decision before figuring out how to proceed. The court required probable cause findings at a future hearing, even though Judge Joseph R. Nolan pointed out in writing that Judge Moriarty had already found probable cause earlier.

However, in a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Paul J. Liacos wrote, “It appears from the record that the Commonwealth does not have the probable cause to arrest or to indict him at this point. Absent a change in circumstances which would support a finding of a probable cause to arrest or indict Lavigne, the Commonwealth should not be permitted to proceed in this matter.”

That meant investigators would have to reapply for a search warrant to get another blood sample, and schedule a court hearing, where Lavigne’s lawyers could challenge any evidence showing probable cause that: the priest murdered Croteau, that blood found at the scene is relevant to the investigation, and that determining the source of the blood would aid the investigation. Prosecutors would have to prove that the importance of the investigation outweighed Lavigne’s constitutional protection from bodily intrusion.

On November 18, the Supreme Judicial Court approved the use of DNA evidence in trials. At the beginning of the battle over Lavigne’s blood, the analysis of genetic material wasn’t admissible in state courts, but Bennett was confident the technique would be used soon because of recent scientific improvements. It turned out that he was right. Still, the judicial roller coaster ride over Lavigne’s blood seemed to have no end in sight—until four days later, when Lavigne offered his blood to be tested!

Stern said the move was to end any speculation that his client was hiding something. “We have decided, having established that his rights were violated, and in order to demonstrate that he has nothing to fear from this test, that we would go forward,” said Stern on November 22. “Father Lavigne is innocent of this crime, and he wants to establish his innocence. Hopefully, this investigation will be at an end in very short order.”

Stern revealed that tests he ordered on the genetic composition of Lavigne’s blood found no link to the sample on the drinking straw recovered at the scene. He said he had it tested before the May 3 hearing in which Garin offered the priest’s blood for testing in exchange for investigators ceasing their scrutiny of him if the test indicated his innocence. Stern, who didn’t reveal where he had the DNA testing performed, said the defense test was possible because the D.A.’s office had provided him with evidence, including the results from the blood testing in a California laboratory.

Bennett said he was happy with the offer and would soon have Lavigne’s blood tested. “We will release the results, and hopefully that will bring the matter to a conclusion for the Croteau family,” said Bennett. “Without evidence from the blood, there is insufficient evidence to proceed with charging anyone in this investigation. That would conclude our investigation.”

There were drops of blood, not Danny’s, on a drinking straw found at the murder scene. They were type O, Richard Lavigne’s type. (From the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office files)


On January 13, 1995, Judge Moriarty signed a new order allowing three vials of Lavigne’s blood to be sent to a lab for DNA testing. The process had been delayed for nearly two months while lawyers from both camps decided the process of handing the blood over to the D.A.’s office. Lavigne finally signed an affidavit releasing the blood on January 10.

The blood would be tested by Dr. Edward Blake, a highly regarded DNA expert best known for being hired by O.J. Simpson’s defense team. He warned that even if there is a match, it could not definitively link the priest to the murder scene. “DNA can only eliminate a suspect to an absolute degree of certainty,” he said.

DNA testing on the straw had isolated a gene that occurs in a range of one in ten and one in 200 people. Combining that with Type-B blood, found in twelve percent of the population, a match would mean that no more than one in 100 people could have the same characteristics.

The waiting game went on for five excruciating months. The stress took its toll on Lavigne, who suffered a heart attack earlier that summer. “He has been hounded from one end of the Commonwealth to the other,” said Stern. Because of the “constant inflammatory media coverage. His health has been destroyed.” 

And then results of the tests came in.

Originally, the tests showed the priest’s blood was consistent with the blood recovered on the straw. A second round of tests was performed showing DNA similar to Lavigne’s, although Bennett called them inconclusive. But when a more advanced form of testing was employed, Lavigne’s blood did not match the blood on the straw. Still, Blake could not rule out that the blood on the rope might be a match.

Type O blood, possibly the murderer’s, was also found on a piece of rope near the bank of the Chicopee River where Danny Croteau was killed. (From the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office Files)

Because of the age of the blood sample, only a small portion of the DNA chain could be identified, so a positive match would have merely meant the priest could have been among eight percent of the population with similar blood profiles.

Stern called the results proof that Lavigne was innocent. The D.A.’s office labeled them inconclusive.

Nonetheless, Bennett officially closed the case. “It’s certainly more frustrating for the family that’s had to live with this uncertainty for twenty-three years,” said Bennett. “We felt the obligation to pursue it. I feel we've kept faith with the family. But there’s nothing more that we can do at this point. The state police did an exhaustive review of the materials that were available from 23 years ago. A lot of people came forward with new information. I'm gratified with the effort everyone put into it.”

Carl Croteau said of Lavigne, “He might have beaten man's law for now, but he hasn't beaten God’s law.”


FromTheAcres said...

I find it suspicious that some of Lavigne's supposed prey were son's of the District Attorney and Charles Shattuck. I think Lavigne was indefinitely involved, but their may have been certain factions who were pinning him to the murder and others who were pushing to get him off (probably the arch diocese). I think the case is so unsolvable because you have three spheres (the arch diocese, the court, and a network of pedophiles) all involved and attempting to cover their own a**es. Who knows how many pay offs were involved and quiet discussions?

Hell's Acres said...

Hi FromTheAcres,

They were Ryan's nephews, not his sons.

I think if victims came forward to the police in 1972, there was nothing Bishop Weldon could have done to stop both that scandal and the murder investigation, which would have no doubt produced an indictment. More victims, emboldened by an arrest, publicity, and fellow victims, would have spilled the beans. The resulting public pressure would have led to a more thorough investigation.

But that didn't happen. And if a sex ring of priests had been exposed, it probably would have led to Weldon's forced resignation, so he would have had motivation to keep this quiet, especially when the investigation started to die down after several months.

Weldon was highly respected, but had a priest pedophile ring been exposed in 1972, the public would have come down hard on him.

FromTheAcres said...

My mistake on that. It's still weird to me.

Hell's Acres said...

I think if Ryan knew AT THE TIME (late 1960s) that the molestations involved family members, something would have happened. Perhaps the murder would have been prevented. But, as is so often the case, the victims soldiered on in silence. Understandably, pre-teens and teens have a hard time processing these kinds incidents. Sometimes they act out. The behavior of some Circle Gang members is a perfect example.

FromTheAcres said...

Certainly, I agree with what you are saying here. Still, you don't find it suspicious that the younger Shattuck was a victim? The son of a guy who took over a cult? A group who apparently had a vendetta with Lavigne? I'm not getting hostile here or making Lavigne out to look like a good guy, I just get too into this at times. Thanks for covering this topic and the blog in general. Also for answering comments

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Rev. Richard J. Ahearn, CSS or Stigmatine Joseph E. Flood from Sacred Heart in Agawam were part of this ring. This whole situation just shows how Eastern Mass sends their problems out here to Western Mass, no respect!

Hell's Acres said...

Who knows? There were a bunch of abusing Stigmatine Fathers at their seminary in Wellesley. Hard to imagine these two Stigmatines weren't at least acquainted with them: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2002_08_10_Carroll_AbuseAlleged.htm.

FromTheAcres said...

I guess you don't answer all comments or post them. Thanks anyway.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey FromTheAcres,

I answered your comment from August 3. Did you send another one? If you did and I didn't get it, maybe there was some kind of glitch. If that's the case, feel free to send it again. Sorry.

Hell's Acres said...

OK, I just found your comment. The notification got buried under spam. I'll get back to it in a bit--gotta go to a meeting!

Hell's Acres said...

OK, I'm back!

I see your point, but Joseph Shattuck's account, by far the most extensive of the victims in the released files, is very believable. I read it all and I would have a hard time discounting any of it. The details are so incriminating because they really do paint a picture of a preferential child molester and none of it rings false. It was a really sincere victim statement, and he was reluctant to go forward until his sister prodded him. Stern was going after the cult angle, but he would have had a very, very difficult time defending Lavigne if it had gone to trial.

FromTheAcres said...

Either way, the Shattucks had a vendetta with Lavigne. I don't think that should be ignored. We have a history of political corruption in this city. This case didn't escape the tentacles. Lavigne would've done the time for murder, but he had dirt on his superiors. Lavigne sensed he was being used as a patsy and probably threatened to snitch and bring people down with him. This was a plea bargain made in the shadows. That's why none of it makes sense.

FromTheAcres said...

What I'm theorizing is that Croteau was somewhat comfortable with Lavigne, but as Croteau was introduced to other predators he became uncomfortable and threatened to speak. The greater group of pedophiles caught wind of Croteau's rebellion and decided to off him. They knew Lavigne would be the only natural suspect.

Hell's Acres said...

That would explain the other DNA on the straw, but this still looked like a spontaneous act, not a premeditated one.

FromTheAcres said...

Maybe not experienced murderers? It is said that a struggle took place. Plus Danny was a good sized kid and not a wimp.

Hell's Acres said...

I can see a scenario in which Lavigne tried to pass him off to someone else in the ring, an argument ensues, Danny threatens to tell on everyone, and that someone takes a rock to Danny's head. That would explain Lavigne's "inconsistent" responses in the first polygraph test--he didn't do it but he was at the scene and felt responsible.

FromTheAcres said...

Perhaps he lured him there as others awaited. We should make a time line of events. You got one here with your coverage in the past months, but I get confused because the case spans the ages. It's hard to keep all the facts steady as I theorize.

Hell's Acres said...

Still think it was an unplanned act. It was likely a drunken argument that got out of hand quickly. Molesters are all about control and the murderer freaked out.

Then again, maybe it was a half-assed setup. Who knows?

Geoff said...

Hi there , my name is Jeff. I grew up in Hungry Hill but we move to the Acres in the late 80's. We lived a few house down from the Croteau's, my mom still lives there and I'm in the area quite a bit. I remember a time when you could drive your car to the spot on that river underneath the bridge. It was a creepy desolate place of it's own accord but adding in the knowledge that Danny was killed there made the place seem much more sinister. My only question is if the police knew that Lavigne molested Danny's brothers why was he not at least charged with that

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Geoff,

His parents were told by the DA to hold off on these prosecutions because they would jeopardize the murder case. They did as they were told but they should have gone to the media--maybe not the Springfield papers, because they were soft on Ryan, but maybe the Boston Globe.

Joe said...

That's ridiculous. The Springfield newspaper was brutal to Matt Ryan.

Matt knew his job and wasn't going to indict someone without evidence just to garner headlines.
Later when all the witnesses came forward, including his own nephews, Matt was mad as only Matt could be that they hadn't said a thing until settlements were in play.

I was hanging around the center the night Dan was murdered, he was all upset because someone else had backed out of going with him to go "roll a fag." He said he was going to go by himself and that's the end of it.

Every time I see Danny described as "Altar-boy Danny Croteau" it makes me remember how badly the press twists things to add drama. Danny was a little kid who constantly wanted to impress the older kids with how cool he was. He tried way too hard.
What happened to him was terrible, but he may have brought the first blow upon himself.

Hell's Acres said...

HI Joe,

Thanks for the comment. But I have to ask: when were the Springfield newspapers brutal to Ryan? It was the Boston Globe Spotlight Team that went after him in 1990 for his cozy relationship with the mob. The Globe's articles led to him not seeking re-election. The Springfield newspaper reporters, if anything, were embarrassed that they had given Ryan a free pass all those years, according to blogger Tommy Devine: http://tommydevine.blogspot.com/2009/07/journalism-fiasco.html.

The Republican newspaper did run an editorial that was critical of Ryan shortly after he died, but that's about all I can recall.

It's interesting that you bring up the "roll a fag" incident. In the book The Circle, a member of the gang indeed goes hitchhiking, is picked up by a man who offers him $50 to perform oral sex on him, and then the Circle guy grabs the $50 and runs.

I'm not sure if you had been interviewed by any detectives or private detective RC Stevens, but Stevens had been trying to assemble a timeline of Danny's whereabouts prior to his death, and this info would be invaluable. It places Danny in the Acres Center the night of his death, where some think he might have been heading. More importantly, the prospect of being "rolled" certainly gives a murderer a motive--or at least prompted a fight under that bridge that got out of hand.

You can reach Stevens at his hotline at 1-877-582-0497 or email him at psiiinc@cs.com. The scenario you describe certainly makes sense. It was obviously not a planned murder and hitting the boy in the head with a rock was an impulsive act. Maybe only Danny knew the person he was planning to "roll" that night. But I suspect others might as well. I'm wondering how many others knew of Danny's plans that night but were reluctant to talk to police in 1972 and when the case was reopened decades later.

Thanks again for your input. It does shed some light on things. Did Danny describe the guy he was going to roll or how he "knew" the man?