(WWLP) – The question “Who killed Danny Croteau?” has finally been answered. Investigators began to zero in on Father Richard Lavigne from the beginning, in fact he remained a “person of interest” in the case ever since.
Father Richard Lavigne was a close family friend of the Croteau family. He was their parish priest in Springfield and remained close with them after being reassigned to another church. Lavigne would take Danny and his brothers on outings not affiliated with the church and the boys would often have sleepovers at Lavigne’s parent’s house in Chicopee.
On April 15, 1972 the body of 13-year-old Danny Croteau was discovered along the Chicopee River. Authorities said he was still wearing the same clothes he was wearing the day before from school.
After Danny’s murder, Lavigne became a “person of interest” in the early stages of the investigation because of the inconsistent and unusual statements he had made to investigators. They also determined that Lavigne had initially lied about the last time he had seen Danny.
Separately, Lavigne served 10 years probation after pleading guilty to two counts of molesting male parishioners. He was defrocked by the Catholic church in 2005.
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Two months ago, the Hampden County DA Anthony Gulluni directed investigators to interview Lavigne once again. During these new interviews Lavigne refused to specifically admit that he killed Danny but he made several statements to indicate that he was the last person to see him alive.
On Friday, May 21st Lavigne died in a hospital facility in Greenfield on the same day the DA said he was seeking an arrest warrant for Lavigne. Gulluni said investigators are confident that if Lavigne was still alive they had enough evidence to charge him with murder. That finally brought closure for the Croteau family…after 49 years.