Sunday, October 1, 2017
The Daniel Croteau Murder, Part 7
The year began with the another lawsuit against Richard Lavigne—this one from Lawrence Opitz, who said he was sexually assaulted in an incident in 1969 or 1970 when he was about fifteen years old and a parishioner at St. Mary’s.
During a press conference on March 6, 2003, two women filed molestation suits against Lavigne, joining more than 30 men who already had claims against him. Victims, their families, and countless others kept asking why he hadn’t been laicized.
Bishop Thomas Dupre (pictured above), reacting to much public pressure, had finally began taking steps to defrock Lavigne with the help of the Vatican’s recent approval of the U.S. bishops’ policy on sex abuse, which allowed for a more streamlined laicization process. St. Michael’s parishioner Warren Mason said Bishop Dupre’s actions were long overdue. “Until Lavigne is removed from the diocesan payroll, he will be the responsibility of the diocese and the lay people of the diocese,” he said.
But all of this soon took a back seat in the news with D.A. Bennett’s confirmation on March 25 that the murder of Daniel Croteau was once again not only open, but also active, with new DNA testing being done on evidence. Bennett said that advancements in DNA technology in the new millennium made testing methods far superior to those in the 1990s. “Tests can yield more results with less biology,” he said.
“Maybe finally luck will be on our side,” said Carl Croteau Sr. (pictured below), who had gone to Bennett’s office in 2002 to request further DNA testing. “We asked him to go the last mile, and they have been very good to us,” he added. “There are other things in this case, but I think the D.A. would like to have some DNA test results to go along with those things to make a hell of a case.”
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Many of the developments in the case during 2002 and 2003 concerned attorney John Stobierski’s attempts to obtain diocesan documents related to Lavigne as the lawyer was preparing ten civil lawsuits against the diocese. “What we are trying to determine is what the diocese knew and when they knew it,” said Stobierski.
Photo: John Stobierski
There was precedent: in 2002, Judge Constance M. Sweeney had ordered the public release of about 11,000 internal Archdiocese of Boston documents related to sixty-five priests accused of abusing children over 30 years. That case, which did not involve files related to the Springfield diocese, revealed an elaborate cover-up and led to the resignation of Cardinal Law—although Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly ultimately declined to file criminal charges against Law or any other official in the Archdiocese of Boston. Unlike Boston, however, there had yet to be a similar paper trail uncovered in Springfield.
Then Father Scahill revealed a jaw-dropper that offered a possible reason for the lack of documentation. On September 16, 2003, he said Bishop Dupre told him and other priests that Springfield diocese documents that might have involved details on clergy sex abuse were destroyed by the late Bishop Christopher Weldon in the mid-1970s.
Bishop Dupre denied making the statement, which Father Scahill said was uttered at a meeting of the Presbyteral Council, an advisory board to the bishop, several months after the national clergy sex abuse crisis began snowballing in early 2002.
“He (Bishop Dupre) announced that fortunately for the church of Springfield, upon his (Weldon’s) retirement, he destroyed many personal and personnel files,” said Scahill. “He said it with glee in his voice and glee in his eye, almost gloating about it.”
Photo: the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon
None of the church officials attending the council backed Father Scahill’s version of what Bishop Dupre said. However, they were bound by an oath to keep meeting business in confidence. Father Scahill said he broke the oath of confidence because the following week Judge Sweeney was scheduled to hear a motion by the diocese to dismiss five clergy abuse lawsuits. “I have to break my silence in light of the diocese’s statement that it had no knowledge until 1986 in regards to the proclivity of a multiple offending pedophile who had already been a priest for twenty years by 1986,” said Father Scahill.
Bishop Dupre replied that he had merely made a comment about Weldon’s executor destroying some personal items, such as prayer books and records, not priests’ personnel records. Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont described Scahill’s account as an “oversimplification” of a complicated conversation. “Father Scahill has exaggerated many facts in Springfield,” said Dupont. “He is prone to wild speculation.” He added that Bishop Weldon would have never destroyed personnel records. “That would be against Church policy,” he said.
Before the Union-News contacted Bishop Dupre, the Rev. Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, vicar general of the diocese, said Bishop Dupre spoke about “personal” files, not “personnel” files. He later amended his statement to say Bishop Dupre’s comment was about Weldon’s executor destroying “personal effects.”
Scahill scoffed at this notion. “He was clearly talking about records,” he said. “Why would he be talking about the bishop’s personal belongings and bric-a-brac twenty years later?” Scahill offered to be deposed and suggested the bishop be questioned under oath as well. “If he denies it, then other members of the council should be asked about it under oath,” said Scahill.
Photo: Father John Scahill
Scahill and Bishop Dupre stuck to their stories when they were deposed two weeks later. “Today, I spoke the truth, and truth always conquers deceit,” said Scahill. He explained that he took no pleasure in making the allegations. “The whole thing is making me ill,” he said. “It is draining my life. I’m not trying to take the church down. I have spent my life in the church and have no intention of leaving ministry, but I can't change the way I was raised by my parents. Telling the truth is the only way I can live with myself peaceably.”
Bishop Dupre, in his testimony, said he never would have made a statement about Weldon destroying personnel records because he never heard about such an occurrence. “I never heard that from Bishop Weldon” or the executor of Weldon’s, estate or the former Bishop Joseph Maguire, who succeeded Bishop Weldon, he said, adding, “I don’t have any knowledge that any church records were destroyed.”
When Bishop Dupre was asked whether he was willing to release the eighteen members of the Presbyteral Council from their oath of privacy, he replied that he would have to discuss it with diocesan legal counsel.
Photo: Bishop Thomas Dupre
Stobierski asked him about assigning Rev. Richard Meehan—a priest who had been previously removed from parish ministry for sexual misconduct— to organize diocesan archives, which included personnel records. Bishop Dupre said Father Meehan wasn’t supposed to have access to the diocese’s “secret” files on sexual abuse that were kept “under lock and key,” but admitted he wasn’t sure how tight security was for the two keys that existed.
Stobierski was following up on an earlier deposition of Rev. Daniel Liston, keeper of records for the diocese, who said that most bishops kept secret files in addition to the files in the diocesan archives. Liston had said that Meehan had destroyed some records, but he didn’t know which ones. He also confirmed that the late executor of Bishop Weldon’s estate, Monsignor David Welch, had thrown out some of Bishop Weldon’s personal papers. Welch, who died in 1986, allegedly abused a Northampton youth in the early 1950s.
Scahill pointed out that the abuse claim against Welch should raise questions about what type of files he was interested in destroying.
In the national clergy abuse scandal, courts had been forcing dioceses across the country, including those in Manchester, NH, Los Angeles, and Bridgeport, CT, to release their “secret” records after having found that they had kept two sets of personnel records: one for the public, and a confidential archive detailing molestations.
What the Springfield diocese knew about clergy sex abuse—and when—was at the heart of an affidavit filed by Maurice DeMontigny on August 15, 2003.
DeMontigny, a longtime lay religious education director at St. Catherine and a confidant of Bishop Weldon, is the uncle of Raymond and Joseph Gouin, two of the 17 Lavigne victims who settled a lawsuit with the diocese in 1994. “I believe, based upon my familiarity with the workings of my parish and of the Diocese of Springfield, that diocesan officials knew, as of the late 1960s, that Lavigne was a child molester,” wrote DeMontigny, who was appointed by Bishop Weldon to religious education boards for the diocese. His affidavit detailed his conversations with priests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I specifically recall one Sunday when Richard Lavigne was a curate at our parish,” he wrote. “Father Griffin called to me and asked to speak with me outside. Although I often spoke with Father Griffin, this time was unusual in that I noted urgency in his manner. He told me he needed my help for a serious and grave matter and asked that our conversation be held in the strictest confidence. He told me that ‘someone in the parish had come to him with a complaint on Father Lavigne that involved their sons and they could not press charges with the police.’ He inquired as to whether one of my young nephews who also attended St. Catherine’s was also having a ‘problem.’ He further told me that the family did not want to go to the police and that he wanted to know ‘how widespread the problem was and who and how many of the boys in the parish were involved.’ Father Griffin was very upset and breathing hard. He was being careful with his words. I understood him to be confiding in me that the family had accused Richard Lavigne of molesting their child and he suspected that other boys may have been molested as well.”
DeMontigny also recalled a specific incident in the early 1970s when Lavigne told him that his pastor at St. Mary’s, John Harrington, had admonished him concerning boys being in his bedroom. “Lavigne was contemptuous of the pastor’s attempt to exert his authority over him,” he wrote. “He said something to the effect that ‘they can't do anything to me’ and laughed about it.”
The affidavit also states that in the 1990s, one of the 17 men involved in the 1994 settlement told DeMontigny that he was participating in a sexual act with Lavigne in the St. Catherine rectory kitchen when Father Griffin walked in on them. “I am sure that Father Griffin would have admonished Lavigne and reported this to Bishop Weldon,” he wrote.
During a settlement meeting in the early 1990s, DeMontigny wrote that then-Bishop John Marshall misleadingly stated that neither the priests nor the bishops had any idea of Lavigne’s conduct. “Bishop Marshall’s statement then was less than truthful as the diocese has now publicly admitted they knew in 1986 that Lavigne had molested children,” he wrote. “We were never told at that meeting that the diocese knew in 1986 that Father Lavigne had molested at least one child, and had been sent for an evaluation.”
Photo: the late Bishop John Marshall
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In the fall of 2003, I knew I had to make a call to Stobierski: not about the lawsuits, investigation files, or the diocesan documents. I asked him about a statement Carl Croteau had made during my initial interview at the Croteau home that summer. It nagged at me. Carl had said that Stobierski was in contact with an alleged witness to the murder—a woman who had been a sexual abuse victim of Lavigne. She supposedly had claimed to recover the memory of the priest killing Daniel under hypnosis after she had repressed it for years because of the trauma.
“Mr. Stobierski, I’m not sure Carl was even supposed to tell me about this,” I stammered. I proceeded to tell him what I had heard. “Are you aware of this woman?” I asked.
He confirmed that she was a client of his, and that she had indeed undergone hypnotherapy. But for obvious reasons he was unlikely to use her testimony in court. Her statement described the murder and disposal of Croteau’s body. According to legal documents, her account in some respects was corroborated by another witness at the scene: her sister’s childhood friend.
Then I asked Stobierski his opinion on the likelihood of the D.A. bringing an indictment in the murder, even if the new DNA tests ended up amounting to nothing. I thought the chances were pretty remote, unless a new witness came forward. However, he seemed fairly confident that it was still possible, especially considering several abuse victims’ recent statements, in which Lavigne implied that what happened to Danny could happen to them if they thought of telling someone.
Stobierski, who was seeking to unseal more investigation files from the Croteau murder on behalf of his client, “John Doe,” took my contact information because I was living in Boston at the time and he expected petition hearings to come up at the state Supreme Judicial Court in the city. Hampden Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis had ordered the case files opened, but State Appeals Court Judge John H. Mason had overturned the order, so Stobierski, along lawyers from The Republican newspaper in Springfield were asking the Supreme Judicial Court to overturn the decision.
The hearings would be open to the public and he thought I would be interested in attending, especially since unimpounded records might shed more light on the murder. Stobiersski was right: I was certainly interested!
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On January 20, 2004 the Springfield diocese announced a development that many had thought would come years earlier—but some cynics thought would never happen. Richard Lavigne was defrocked 13 years after sex abuse allegations were first brought to the attention of the courts and the media. The Vatican’s decision was actually made on November 20, 2013, but the diocese didn’t receive the information until January 9.
“Finally, 30 years after clerical and criminal misbehavior, the church has seen fit to laicize Richard Lavigne,” said Scahill. He maintained that his parish would continue to withhold six percent of its weekly collections until a legal arrangement was put into place guaranteeing that he would not receive any contributions from the church.
Lavigne’s monthly stipend and health insurance, totaling more than $20,000 a year, would end on May 31, but under canon law he could still seek charity from the diocese. If he did, a lay panel of legal and financial professionals would determine the extent of his indigency. If he were found truly indigent, he could tap into a newly created $100,000 fund recently established by a half-dozen lay people.
“He still maintains his innocence of all allegations, except the two to which he pled guilty,” said Monsignor Richard Sniezyk.
Bunny Croteau (pictured below) expressed some relief—albeit long-delayed. “Thank God for this,” she said. “I think it is great. And it’s about time—maybe about 31 years too late.”
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On January 27, I received a fax from Stobierski announcing that a hearing on the D.A.’s impounded Croteau files was scheduled at the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston the following day. So I took a “long lunch” from work and headed downtown to check it out. There, in the courtroom, were the people I had been reading about for so long: Lavigne’s lawyer Max Stern and Stobierski, as well as attorneys for The Republican Jonathan Albano and Joseph Pessolano.
Justice Robert Cordy questioned whether Appeals Court Judge John Mason had properly applied “change in circumstance” standard when ruling in the fall that the 1996 impoundment order should remain intact. The documents had been ordered sealed in 1996 because it was felt that their release may interfere with the investigation. But Superior Court Judge Peter Velis had ruled on October 30 that the documents should be released because the public had “a right and a compelling interest in accessing the impounded materials,” he wrote. “I find that, in this current climate, disclosure of the records would not detrimentally affect investigators’ ability to obtain any new sources of information…but that it would more likely lend impetus to the investigation by encouraging remaining witnesses to come forward.”
In court that day Stobierski pointed out that the files contained a record of Lavigne being fired from a Chicopee Parks Department job as a teenager for fondling a six-year-old boy. “We would argue that it could be a critical piece of evidence in building a case against the diocese, which should have been aware of his behavior if they had done a background check of him,” said Stobierski.
Stern argued that Stobierski was trying to “stampede the D.A.’s office into an intemperate indictment” against Lavigne.
With his questions, Judge Cordy seemed to put pressure on the attorneys who wanted to keep the gag order intact, especially Assistant Hampden County D.A. Jane Montori, who argued that the release of the files would compromise an active murder investigation. He questioned how “active” it indeed was after 32 years.
At the conclusion of the hearing, I approached Stobierski and introduced myself. How do you think it went?” I asked.
“I think it went well,” he answered with a smile. “What do you think?”
“I think so too.”
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Bishop Quits After Abuse Query—
Dupre Abruptly Resigns, Enters Hospital
Most area Catholics thought that the clergy abuse crisis in western Massachusetts couldn’t get any stranger, with new DNA tests being performed on a priest suspected of murder.
But then they woke to the above headline on February 12, 2004.
On February 10, The Republican reporter Bill Zajac, after failed attempts to speak to the bishop regarding allegations that he had sexually abused two boys, emailed a list of questions to diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont. Within hours Dupre checked himself into an undisclosed medical facility for an undisclosed ailment.
At a press conference, the diocese said cited health reasons for Dupre’s departure—that he had requested permission from the Vatican to resign the previous November and hadn’t received the Pope’s decision until February 11.
Helen Deshaies, the mother of alleged victim Thomas Deshaies, had written to Dupre about the allegations in 2003, weeks before he told The Republican that he might take an early retirement because of a heart condition and other health problems. The mother had met with Scahill, who advised her to speak to the diocese’s Misconduct Commission. Instead, she tried, without success, to persuade her son, in his early forties in 2003, to publicly press charges.
Dupre allegedly began abusing the two minors, who were altar boys and best friends in high school, in the 1970s, when he began taking them camping and swimming at lakes in the area. He assured them he had been tested for AIDS. “He showed them pictures of men dying with AIDS to scare them so they wouldn’t have sex with whoever,” said Helen Deshaies. “He would say, ‘This is what could happen to you. Therefore you come to me.’” Deshaies was abused from the age of 15 until he was about 20.
The other alleged victim, 42-year-old Tuan Tran, had been a Vietnamese refugee who came with his family to the United States in 1975. Bishop Dupre, who was at St. Louis de France parish in West Springfield, befriended him and offered to teach him English. “Our client was twelve years old,” said his lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr. “The abuse started when Bishop Dupre took our client’s hand and proceeded to masturbate himself with our client’s hand.” The acts progressed to sodomy, which continued until the boy started dating a girl in when he was about 16.
The bishop allegedly gave the victims alcohol before the abuse, and he showed them pornography he had stashed in his briefcase.
Deshaies and Tran said that Dupre, just before he was named auxiliary bishop in 1990, called them and told them he would decline the appointment unless they remained silent about their relationship. Both reassured him that they would not talk.
But they were talking now, and Bennett was listening. He said he planned to bring the case before a grand jury.
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After Dupre resigned in disgrace, Bunny Croteau said, “It’s getting to the point where nothing surprises us any more.”
But there were more surprises to come.
For a short time, Dupre had supplanted Lavigne as the “poster priest” of the western Massachusetts clergy abuse crisis. In retrospect, his actions, as well as his inaction, explained a lot: he had been accused of dragging his feet on the Lavigne defrocking process and of appointing predator priests to oversee files that may have included allegations of priest abuse. In trying to cover all his bases, however, his hypocrisy had backfired: he railed against gay marriage in sermons but he had told his victims that their sexual relationship “was a logical expression of love and that God teaches love.” Tran said the bishop’s very public stance on gay marriage motivated him to come forward with his accusation.
The news spotlight, however, suddenly moved back to Lavigne, and things got downright surreal. On April 8, 2004, police knocked on Lavigne’s door. It was Holy Thursday, a day in which the Catholic church celebrates the priesthood. They told Lavigne they had a search warrant. This was the second raid in his home on three days, and this time it was reported in the news. The search was prompted by what Lavigne claimed was an anonymous letter that had been sent to him. According Lavigne’s lawyer, the author of the letter claimed to know that Lavigne killed Daniel Croteau.
Photo: Richard Lavigne
Police had learned about the existence of the letter during their investigation of sexual abuse claims against Thomas Dupre.
Lavigne told someone in the diocese about the letter, and a diocesan official made a note of the document. This notation was discovered by police in March, when had been going through documents obtained at the Springfield diocesan offices looking for evidence against Dupre.
When State Police Detective Lt. Peter Higgins and other detectives originally showed up at Lavigne’s door on April 6 looking for the letter, the former priest told them that he had sent it to his lawyer in Boston. Higgins and his team stayed put at Lavigne’s home until a State Police officer obtained the letter from Max Stern.
ABC TV-40 reported that the letter contained an alleged “alibi” for the defrocked priest.
Lavigne claimed he had read the letter and concluded that its anonymous author “was the real killer,” said Stern.
Police thought otherwise. They believed that Lavigne had written the letter himself, apparently in a bizarre effort to throw police off his trail.
Two days later, on Holy Thursday, police were back at Lavigne’s house with another search warrant, this time removing computer equipment to see if electronic files contained any remnants of the letter. However, Stern said nothing on the equipment was incriminating, and then police agreed to return it to Lavigne and destroy any copies of files they made. “There’s nothing there,” said Stern.
For police, a potential bombshell in their investigation turned out to be a dud. Nonetheless, the lack of an electronic trail from the letter merely meant that the document wasn’t written on Lavigne’s home computer.
Investigators thought that if they could prove Lavigne authored the letter, such a deceptive deed would fit the profile they had been building of a man who had tried to mislead police and victims’ families from the start of the Croteau murder investigation—starting with him saying that he and Danny were never alone on overnight stays and continuing with the “circle” phone call the day of Danny’s wake, along with his friend flashing a police badge to Sandra Tessier saying he had nothing to do with the homicide.
If the “I know what you did” letter (which is how Stern characterized it) wasn’t authored by Lavigne, why did he merely send the letter to his lawyer—without it undergoing any scientific analysis? Didn’t it occur to him that the DNA of “the real killer” could possibly be on the letter and envelope? After all, in 2002, scientists were able to construct a partial genetic profile of the person who they believed to be the infamous Zodiac serial killer in California by taking dry saliva samples from the stamps and envelope adhesive from his mailings to police. By 2003 DNA testing could yield results from as little as a single skin cell. It’s certainly safe to say that Lavigne would have known full well how far DNA technology had advanced, especially after his blood tests.
Was the letter a foolish caper by a man who thought he was too smart to get caught? The risk-taking behavior pattern was certainly there. He had a history of it: in spite of the sheer number of his crimes (of which we’ll never know), he was always bent on committing more, racking up nearly fifty accusations. His overconfidence had emboldened him to compile victim after victim, becoming ever more brash when the boys kept their incidents secret—and more determined when the church simply transferred him from parish to parish when word got out about his activities.
A perfect example of his audacity was his “warning” Carl Croteau Sr. about the dangers of pedophilia in the neighborhood. In my original interview with Carl in 2003, he said that James Coleman, author of The Circle, gave Danny, along with members of the Circle Gang, wrestling lessons, but Lavigne told Carl to be careful of Coleman and his real motives with “all this wrestling stuff”—that there was something wrong with the professor. “He had no kind words for Coleman,” said Carl. “Not in this house. Here he was, planting the bad seed in people’s minds about Coleman, and he was the real molester.”
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In late July, 2004, it was revealed that the more sophisticated DNA testing that Bennett had ordered in March of 2003 had failed to link Lavigne to the crime scene. Stobierski still called the testing “inconclusive.” Patricia Garin, one of Lavigne’s lawyers, argued that it was only inconclusive in theory. “The only way, according to the (Hampden County D.A.’s) office, they could be inconclusive is if there were two contributors, neither of them Danny, to this spot of blood and it was mixed together,” she said.
Now one of the Croteau family’s last hopes that the murder would be solved relied on the potential release of 2,035 pages of investigation documents, which on July 27 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled must be unimpounded. This ended The Republican’s and Stobeirski’s 17-month legal battle with the D.A.’s office.
Much of what was in the files had already been made public, but not the autopsy and lab results, which showed Daniel was legally drunk at the time of his death (below).
Although no physical evidence sexual assault was found, the medical examiner did find several pieces of chewing gum in his stomach and police had found Certs gum wrappers at the scene. According to a statement from fellow altar boy Stephen Burnett, Daniel’s best friend, when Lavigne gave him and Danny wine to drink, “after we finished Father Lavigne would always tell us to chew gum,” he said.
The autopsy revealed that six lacerations to the right side of Danny’s head, including two deep cuts on the side of his right eyebrow. Also, his jaw was fractured a little to the right his chin. The wounds on the right side led police to believe that he had been killed by a left-handed attacker. Lavigne is left-handed.
Stern said there was nothing explosive in the released files. “Look at the documents and you will see there were other suspects, and as far as we can tell, they were never investigated,” he said.
On August 6, in a story on the released files, Matthew Ryan (pictured below) told the Associated Press that he believed Lavigne committed the murder, but there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it in court. “I was upset about it,” he said. “But I did what I had to do.”
Photo: former District Attorney Matty Ryan
Much of the talk in the weeks following the release of the records was a reference to a witness to the murder in the files. Bennett had written about him in a court brief when his office was trying to obtain a sample of Lavigne’s blood. “In the last week of September 1993, Trooper Thomas Daly received information from a witness who has claimed he was at the crime scene on the night of the victim’s murder at the time a car left at a high rate of speed,” wrote the district attorney. The witness “described the car which left the scene, its driver (the petitioner) and the sounds of what was thought to be an ‘animal’ moaning,” wrote Bennett. Lavigne is listed as the “petitioner” in some of the documents because he had made a motion for the return of his blood.
R.C. Stevens, a former State Police officer whom The Republican hired to review the formerly impounded materials and investigate the murder, said the reference to the witness “really jumps out at you.” He also pointed to the autopsy’s listing of severe injuries to Croteau’s larynx and throat. (below). “But it was like a subparagraph in the report,” he said. “I’m not a pathologist, but I wonder whether there was manual strangulation to begin with…Someone with a good hold on you, and you will pass out in ten seconds.”
Stevens also wondered about other people of interest mentioned in the Chicopee Police Department’s sketchy, eleven-page 1972 report (below). How were they eliminated as suspects? he wondered. “I’m not convinced it was Lavigne,” he said. “Let’s say it isn’t. What else was going on here?” The released documents were just a fraction of the documents the D.A.’s Office possesses on the case. Adding to the public’s curiosity was the revelation that a more detailed version of the 1972 Chicopee Police Department investigation was not released.
Stevens, who operates his own private detective agency, was planning to used some retired police officers as independent contractors to make inquiries into the case. He also planned to interview original 1972 investigators who were still living.
After establishing a tip hotline and placing posters in the neighborhood (pictured below), he learned that Daniel was planning to go to a party in Sixteen Acres on the night he disappeared. “I haven’t established whether or not he made it to the party, but something caused his plans to be interrupted and he ended up in Chicopee,” he said. He said the hotline was providing “plenty of leads and useful information.”
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On September 27, 2004, former Bishop Dupre was indicted by a grand jury on child sexual assault charges. But a few hours after the indictments were entered into court records, Bennett announced that Dupre would escape a state criminal trial because the statute of limitations had run out on the crimes.
Warren Mason, the St. Michael’s parishioner who encouraged Father Scahill to withhold from the diocese his church’s traditional six percent cut of the weekly collection, was disappointed in the news. “However, it’s fitting that Thomas Dupre should be the first bishop in this country indicted for the heinous sexual abuse of children,” he said. “This diocese is a rat’s nest of abusers, many of whom have yet to face the music, thanks in great measure to Dupre’s efforts to protect his fellow abusers.”