The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


No parole hearing for alleged Geoghan victim

By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 1/14/2003

A former Boston man who alleges that sexual abuse by a pedophile priest indirectly led him to savagely murder an elderly Roslindale woman in 1981 will remain in prison after the state Parole Board rejected his commutation request.

Acting as advisers to Governor Mitt Romney, the board voted 7-0 Friday against holding a public hearing to consider whether James M. Costello should be eligible for parole. A public hearing is the first step in the lengthy commutation process. He is serving life in prison without parole for first-degree murder.

Now 37, Costello was 15 when he and an older friend murdered 80-year-old Palmira Piciulo in her Hyde Park Avenue apartment, where she lived alone.

Costello alleges that he was abused by now-defrocked priest John J. Geoghan while serving as an altar boy at St. Andrew's Church in Jamaica Plain. Several of Costello's siblings also alleged that they were abused by Geoghan, and they and their mother have settled claims with the Archdiocese of Boston. Costello has a civil suit pending against Geoghan and the archdiocese.

While still a priest, Geoghan testified for Costello in 1981 when Costello's lawyer tried unsuccessfully to have him tried as a juvenile. Geoghan, according to Costello's current attorney, Helen Holcomb, could have helped Costello if he had acknowledged molesting him.

Holcomb said Costello must now wait a year before again seeking commutation.

She said Costello, in recent years, has had a clean disciplinary record, works as a Spanish translator for inmates, and has become a Jehovah's Witness. ''I can't believe the board decided his fate without granting him a hearing,'' she said.

In a four-paragraph letter to Costello, the board said his prison behavior had improved, but ''you do not appear to have made exceptional strides in self-development. You have had very poor institutional behavior up until the last few years.''

The board also said it was swayed by the viciousness of the crime. ''This was an extremely atrocious crime, which involved the beating and murder of an 80-year-old woman as she screamed.''

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 1/14/2003.
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