Former Massachusetts Priest Responsible for Death of Altar Boy Dies Before His Arrest

Authorities in Massachusetts say a defrocked priest was responsible for the death of a child in a cold case from 1972 — but the suspect died last week before he could be arrested.

In a press release, Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni announced that the death of Danny Croteau, a 13-year-old boy from Springfield whose body was found floating in a river in 1972, was caused by his then-priest, Richard Lavigne, who pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1992 and was defrocked in 2003.

Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, a Roman Catholic priest, pleads guilty to two counts of indecently assaulting two adolescent boys at Newburyport Superior Court in this June 25, 1992 in Newburyport, Mass.Scott Maguire / AP file

The district attorney said that Lavigne granted hours of recorded interviews with state investigators over the past few months in what ended up being the final weeks of his life. He died on Friday at the age of 80.

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