'Significant' Update in 1972 Murder of 13-year-old Altar Boy Danny Croteau

Officials are set to announce a "significant development" in the unsolved murder of an altar boy nearly 50 years ago.

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni is due to give a press conference on Monday giving an update on the 1972 death of 13-year-old Danny Croteau, reported WGGB/WSHM.

Danny's body was found floating face down in the Chicopee River in April 1972, just a few miles from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts. An autopsy later revealed the boy had died of fractures of the skull and lacerations of the brain.

For decades, there has only been one publicly identified suspect in the boy's killing —disgraced Catholic priest and convicted child molester Richard Lavigne, who died earlier in May at the age of 80, reported Mass Live.

Details of the development are unclear, but Gulluni told Mass Live it would result in "closure of the case."

Croteau was an altar boy at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Springfield, where Lavigne served as assistant pastor.

Witness statements and case files unsealed in 2004 showed Croteau threatened to reveal Lavigne as his sexual abuser.

In the years since Danny's death, there have been widespread allegations that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield shielded Lavigne from prosecution over child abuse.

At the time, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield was led by Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, who was later found to have also abused children.

In June 2020, a report by Retired Superior Court Judge Peter Velis found that the allegations against Weldon, who died in 1982, were "unequivocally credible."

In 2008, a judge also ordered the release of thousands of pages of investigative records, which includes a witness statement that alleges they saw Lavigne with Danny the night he was killed but was threatened by the then-bishop and district attorney from coming forward.

"This statement alleges a grave abuse of authority by the district attorney in 1972 and raises concerns about law enforcement authorities' relationships with the Diocese and their handling of evidence incriminating Lavigne," Berkshire Superior Court Associate Justice John Agostini said at the time.

Lavigne's attorney, Patricia Garin, said the claims from the woman were that she witnessed the killing. Garin described the witness as "completely incredible," The Associated Press reported at the time.

Lavigne was not named publicly as a suspect in Danny's death until the 1990s.

In 1992, Lavigne was convicted of molesting two altar boys and served 10 years of probation.

He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2003 before being fully removed from the priesthood in 2004.

Lavigne's death is being investigated by the Massachusetts State Police Detective and Unresolved Cases Units assigned to the Hampden District Attorney's Office, as well as the Chicopee Police Department, reported NBC Boston.

Speaking to The Boston Globe in 2004, Danny's mother, Bunny Croteau, described her frustrations that charges were not being brought forward against Lavigne, and that she still has nightmares about the man who was once considered a family friend.

"The last time I had the nightmare with Lavigne in it I was swinging at him, hitting him with everything I had. But then I woke up, and there was nothing there," she said. "I was crying. I was calling out for Danny. And there was nothing there. Nothing."

The Hampden District Attorney's Office has been contacted for comment.

altar boy
(File photo) Young U.S Army soldiers attend a Sunday morning Catholic service, February 02, 2003 on base at Fort Levinworth in Kansas. Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni is to provide what a major update to the investigation of 13-year-od altar boy Danny Croteau in 1972. Charles Ommanney/Getty Images