Needham man recalled as devoted to family

Victim, 78, is memorialized at church service

Email|Print| Text size + By Franci R. Ellement
Globe Correspondent / November 5, 2007

NEEDHAM - Robert J. Moore was a devoted family man and churchgoer who for years sat with his family in the same place on Sundays at 8 a.m. Mass at St. Bartholomew Church, the Rev. Philip E. McGaugh told a relatively small congregation yesterday.

"Some will be tempted to ask, 'Why Lord? Why?' " McGaugh said during the 11:30 a.m. Mass, during which he briefly talked about the beating death of the 78-year-old Needham resident Friday. "We need to ask that question."

McGaugh acknowledged that the community lost a valuable asset in Moore, and encouraged the congregation to act as an instrument for healing one another.

Moore was killed Friday afternoon, reportedly after a confrontation with a Norwood contractor who had been installing an irrigation system at Moore's home, authorities said. Moore's daughter-in-law, Nancy Moore, was injured in the attack.

Her father, Edward J. Lanigan of Needham, said relatives briefly took her home on Saturday before bringing her back to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

He said she would be there for a couple of days.

"We're just taking it hour by hour and day by day," he said.

Hospital administrators yesterday gave no information about her condition.

Police arrested the contractor, William B. Dunn, 41, who was employed by Mass Irrigation Co. of Quincy. He is to be arraigned today in Dedham District Court on charges of murder, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, said David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating.

Dunn is accused of beating Moore with a bat, but police have not specified a motive.

Dunn's lawyer, Robert Griffin, said he met yesterday with his client at the Needham Police Department, where he was being held.

"He will enter a plea of not guilty at the arraignment, and the process will begin from there," Griffin said.

In August, Dunn was the subject of a missing person's report filed by his wife after he walked away from a psychiatric ward at Caritas Norwood Hospital.

His wife, Susan Dunn, told police he had confided to her that he had stumbled onto a stock scandal and felt that people were after him, according to a report filed with Norwood police.

Dunn later returned willingly to the hospital, but details on his release were not provided.

Griffin refused to talk yesterday about Dunn's mental health. Several of Dunn's family members also declined to comment. Relatives of Robert Moore also declined to comment, asking for privacy.

Moore was married to an active volunteer in town, Fran Moore, and the couple had eight children. He was a volunteer for more than 30 years at the Charles River Association for Retarded Citizens, where his daughter was a client, according to an old friend, James "Mel" Colman.

Colman, who now lives in Florida, said Moore had guided the association and served on several of its committees.

"This is a very real tragedy, and I'm sure his family is really going to miss him," said Colman, who also volunteered at the agency.

John Grugan, president of the Charles River Association for Retarded Citizens, called Moore's death a "terrible tragedy."

Grugan said Moore was "a great guy and good supporter of our organization," and would often donate to capital campaigns.

A wake for Moore is scheduled for tomorrow from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Eaton Funeral Home in Needham. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Bartholomew Church.

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