Boston Former priest John Geoghan, the convicted child molester whose prosecution sparked the sex abuse scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church nationwide, died Saturday after being attacked in prison.
Preliminary indications are that Geoghan, 68, was strangled, Worcester Dist. Atty. John J. Conte said. An autopsy will be conducted Monday.
Conte said fellow inmate Joseph L. Druce, 37, attacked Geoghan shortly before noon Saturday. Geoghan died at 1:17 p.m., shortly after he was taken to UMass Memorial Health Alliance, Leominster Campus, Conte said.
Druce, who received a life sentence in 1989 for murder, armed robbery and other counts, was placed in isolation and will face murder charges in Geoghan's death, Conte said. In 2001, Druce was charged with mailing a threatening letter containing white powder and indicating it was contaminated with anthrax.
The attack took place shortly after lunchtime at Souza-Baranowski Correction Center, about 30 miles northwest of Boston, Department of Correction spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. Geoghan was being held in protective custody to shield him from the general prison population, but he had some contact with other inmates in protective custody.
In civil lawsuits, more than 130 people have claimed Geoghan sexually abused them as children during his three decades as a priest at Boston-area parishes. He was convicted last year of indecent assault and battery for fondling a 10-year-old boy at a swimming pool.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for many Geoghan victims, said he was "surprised and shocked" by Geoghan's death.
"Many of my clients would have rather seen Father Geoghan serve out his time in jail and endure the rigors of further criminal trials, so that his pedophile acts could have been exposed further," he said.
Geoghan often targeted boys from broken homes, ingratiating himself during frequent visits or fun outings. One victim said Geoghan molested him as the two were driving home from getting an ice cream cone. Others said Geoghan molested them after visiting their rooms at bedtime to tuck them in, sometimes while whispering prayers.
The church sex abuse scandal, which has had repercussions worldwide, broke in early 2002 with revelations that the Boston Archdiocese had shuttled Geoghan from parish to parish despite warnings about his behavior.