DA: ‘Significant development’ in 1972 slaying of altar boy Danny Croteau to close case

Altar Boy Danny Croteau

Title: DA: ‘Significant development’ in 1972 slaying of altar boy Danny Croteau to close case

Author: Ray Kelly

Publisher: MassLive News
Date: 24MAY2021

SPRINGFIELD — Forty-nine years after 13-year-old altar boy Danny Croteau was left for dead on the banks of the Chicopee River, investigators appear ready to close the book on his killing.

Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni will announce Monday a “significant development” in the 1972 case in which there has been only one suspect acknowledged over the course of almost a half century of investigation — defrocked Catholic priest and admitted child molester Richard R. Lavigne, who died last week at the age of 80.

Gullini declined comment Sunday on the development, but said it “will result in closure of the case.”

Croteau’s body, his face and head battered by a blunt instrument, was found on April 15, 1972 along the river banks under the Robinson Bridge in Chicopee Falls. An autopsy showed he died of fractures of the skull and lacerations of the brain.

In the nearly 50 years since his murder, there have been allegations that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, then led by Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, and church allies shielded Lavigne from prosecution. In the past year, the diocese has deemed credible reports that Weldon was himself a child molester.

Croteau was an altar boy at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Springfield, where Lavigne served as assistant pastor.

Witness statements and case files, unsealed by a state Supreme Judicial Court ruling in 2004, revealed that during a youth camping trip to Goshen years before the killing, Croteau threatened to expose Lavigne as his sexual abuser, repeatedly saying, “I’ll tell… ! I’ll tell… !”

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