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Sex abuse priest killed in prison

Geoghan serving sentence for molesting boy in 1991

John Geoghan
John Geoghan

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Former Catholic priest John Geoghan is killed in a Massachusetts prison while serving time on child sex abuse charges. CNN's Michael Okwu reports. (August 24)
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CNN's Renay San Miguel talks to Phil Saviano, an abuse victim, about the news that defrocked priest John Geoghan was killed in prison. (August 23)
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(CNN) -- Convicted child sex abuser and defrocked Roman Catholic priest John Geoghan died Saturday after he was apparently strangled by a fellow inmate at a Massachusetts prison, according to local officials.

Joseph L. Druce, 37, will be charged with Geoghan's murder, Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte announced.

Druce was serving a life term at the Souza Baranowski Correction Facility in Shirley, Mass., where Geoghan was apparently strangled, according to preliminary indications.

Autopsy results are still pending, Conte said.

Geoghan, 68, was assaulted around noon, then taken by ambulance to nearby Leominster Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:17 p.m., according to a news release from Conte's office.

Druce is being held at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Shirley. His case is scheduled to appear before the Worcester Grand Jury in September.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections , said the suspect was "immediately identified and isolated," following the attack.

The Corrections Department is working with the Worcester County District Attorney's office in the investigation, she said.

The Boston Archdiocese responded to news of Geoghan's death with compassion.

"Upon hearing the news of the tragic death of John Geoghan, the Archdiocese of Boston offers prayers for the repose of John's soul and extends its prayers and consolation to his beloved sister Kathy at this time of personal loss," said Father Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the Archdiocese.

Last September, the Boston Archdiocese paid $10 million to settle a suit by 86 plaintiffs who said Geoghan sexually assaulted them.

A number of other lawsuits remain pending. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 147 alleged victims of Geoghan, said at least some of the cases will go forward.

"They would have liked to rather see Father Geoghan complete his sentence in jail, would have rather seen justice served, would have rather seen him involved as a defendant in further criminal trials," Garabedian said.

He called Geoghan's death "eerie" and "unsettling."

'Sordid story'

Notre Dame historian Scott Appleby put the number of "credible accusations" that were leveled against Geoghan during the course of his priesthood at 130.

"He was clearly a troubled soul," Appleby told CNN. "This was clearly a sick man and a predator priest. An icon for the scandal that has rocked the church."

He added, "While some might say, sadly, he got what's coming to him, I think the prevailing feeling is one of sadness for what he did, for the state of his own soul."

"It's a very sordid end to a very sordid story," said Luise Dittrich, communications director of Voice of the Faithful, a lay Catholic support group for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

"It's our feeling that a violent act like this does a lot of negative things to the psyche of survivors who are trying to heal and trying to come to peace with what has happened to them. Any kind of violence like this will just stir up pain all over again."

She added, "It's just hideous all around."

Geoghan was found guilty in January 2002 of molesting a boy in a swimming pool a decade earlier and sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison.

More than 130 people have accused him of sexual abuse during his 30-year career in six parishes. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998.

The 2002 verdict pertained only to one case in which he was charged with indecent assault and battery against a 10-year-old boy. The boy was a college student when he testified that Geoghan reached under his swimming suit and grabbed his buttocks while the two were in a pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1991.

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