Hampden D.A.: Former Springfield Priest Was Killer In 50-Year-Old Cold Case

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni says a former Springfield priest was likely to blame for a 50-year old cold-case homicide that went unsolved since 1972, when teenager Danny Croteau was found dead in the Connecticut River in Chicopee.

Gulluni said new evidence against former Catholic priest Richard Lavigne led him to close the case. Gulluni had told his team to get a warrant for Lavigne's arrest on Friday, but Lavigne died that evening before he could be charged.

A Mass. State Trooper had been assigned to Croteau's unsolved case in March of last year as part of the state's Unresolved Case Unit.

Croteau had served as an altar boy at Lavigne's Church, Saint Catherine of Sienna Church in Springfield.

Lavigne was a longtime friend of the Croteau family leading up to Danny Croteau's death, and was frequently alone with Crotreau. Croteau was found bludgeoned to death in the Connecticut River on April 15, 1972.

In a series of interviews in April and May 2021, D.A. Gulluni said Lavigne admitted to bringing Croteau to the riverbank the day before his body was found, assaulting him, and returning a short time later to find him floating face-down in the river. Lavigne stopped short of admitting guilt in the murder.

Lavigne pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young male parishioners in 1992 and was later defrocked.

Croteau's brother, Joe Croteau, spoke at a conference held by the D.A's office Monday, where Gulluni played some of the former priest's interview tapes. "To hear the voice of a sociopath like that guy was bone-chilling," Croteau said. "I'm glad my parents will never hear this," he said.

WBZ's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports:

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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