Guest Post: Book Review

Death Of Altar Boy

Title: Guest Post: Book Review
Author: Ann White
Publisher: Father Mark White Blog
Date: 10OCT2020
Death of an Altar Boy: The Unsolved Murder of Danny Croteau and the Culture of Abuse in the Catholic Church by E.J. Fleming, 2018.
Reviewed by Ann White
In 1972, thirteen year-old Danny Croteau was found dead in the Chicopee River near Springfield, Massachusetts. Danny’s head was gashed, his jaw broken, his clothes stained with blood. This book about Danny’s death reads like a murder mystery novel; in fact, it tells a shockingly true story.

Danny Croteau was a Catholic altar boy and the victim of priestly sexual abuse. Author E.J. Fleming’s understanding of Danny’s murder comes from 10,000 documents and interviews and from the fact that Fleming’s background was similar to Danny’s. Fleming, too, was a Catholic altar boy in Springfield, MA–but not in Danny Croteau’s parish and not with an abusing priest.

The Springfield district attorney charged no one in Danny’s murder. The physical evidence was weak, some of it lost and some of it mishandled, but the D. A. nonetheless believed that it pointed directly at Father Richard Lavigne, a priest who sexually abused the boy. The lead detective on the case agreed, saying that if Lavigne had been an ordinary factory worker, he would have been charged with murder.

So why didn’t the district attorney seek an indictment?

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