Richard Lavigne’s death COVID-related

  • Former Catholic priest Richard Lavigne FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/25/2021 2:32:44 PM

GREENFIELD — Richard Lavigne, the ex-priest who Hampden County’s top prosecutor says killed a 13-year-old altar boy in 1972, died just days before police planned to arrest him on a murder charge.

As it turns out, Lavigne died of respiratory failure due to COVID-19. 

That’s according to Lavigne’s death certificate, which was issued late Monday. The certificate, obtained from the Greenfield city clerk’s office, lists Lavigne’s cause of death as acute hypoxic respiratory failure and COVID-19 pneumonia. He died Friday at 5:40 p.m at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Lavigne, 80, pleaded guilty in 1992 to sexually abusing two boys. Two years later, the Diocese of Springfield paid $1.4 million to settle 17 sex abuse complaints made against him. For many years, Lavigne was the only suspect in the murder of Danny Croteau, who was found beaten to death, floating in the Chicopee River, in 1972.

On Monday, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced that his office had concluded that Lavigne was Croteau’s killer, based on new evidence, including a series of interviews with Lavigne in late April and early May.

Gulluni said his office had decided on Friday to seek an arrest warrant for Lavigne on Saturday or Sunday. However, he said his office learned Friday evening that Lavigne had died.

“While formal justice might not have befallen Richard Lavigne here on this earth, we hope to now provide answers and some measure of closure to Danny’s family and to a generation in western Massachusetts and beyond who mourned and wondered for too long,” Gulluni said at a press conference Monday.

Danny Croteau’s parents, Carl and Bunny Croteau, died in recent years.

Gulluni declined to say Monday how Lavigne had died or where, other than at a Greenfield hospital facility.

Lavigne’s death certificate says Lavigne developed COVID-19 pneumonia four days before his death. The death certificate lists his place of residence as 86 Haven Ave. in Chicopee — his longtime home, according to city property records.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at


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