Charge upgraded to murder in Hogan resident death | News
DANVERS — A prosecutor on Friday filed a murder charge against a former Hogan Regional Center employee in connection with the death of a resident there last September.
Patrick Tracey, 56, of Billerica, was at Salem District Court for a hearing on his request to modify the terms of his house arrest so he could work, when he was taken into custody on the new charge.
He had previously been charged with assault and battery on a disabled person causing serious bodily injury and was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet.
Robert Godley, 58, died a little more than a month after the Sept. 12 incident at Hogan, where he had lived since 1999.
On that evening, Godley asked to be taken outside to smoke, according to court papers.
Tracey told him he’d have to wait until another worker arrived to supervise the rest of the residents, which caused Godley to become angry; he struck a television twice, according to court papers.
Prosecutor Danielle Doherty told a judge on Friday that Tracey “became irate” and pushed Godley into a wall, then dragged him to a timeout room and left him there, face down.
Godley’s arms and legs were flaccid when workers brought him to his room, Doherty said.
He was able to describe what happened and identified Tracey as his assailant, court papers said.
Doherty told Salem District Court Judge Randy Chapman on Friday that Godley’s death was determined by the medical examiner to have been caused by blunt force trauma to his neck.
She asked Chapman to keep Tracey in custody pending trial, arguing that the new charge, which carries a life sentence, increases the potential for Tracey to flee.
Jeffrey Sweeney, Tracey’s attorney, opposed the request, saying that his client has been aware of the potential that he would be charged in Godley’s death but continued to comply with all court orders and appear in court when required.
“Mr. Tracey is not going anywhere,” Sweeney said. “His entire life is here. He knew this was coming.”
And while Tracey had a prior record, he’s had “zero disciplinary issues in his 25 years working for the state Department of Developmental Services, Sweeney told the judge.
He went on to call the prosecutor’s theory of the case, that his client “just snapped,” “absolutely ludicrous.”
“This case is not as simple as the Commonwealth is putting forward,” Sweeney told the judge, mentioning both Godley’s history of self-injurious behavior and concerns about the reliability of the witnesses, who are also patients with mental health or developmental issues.
Beyond that, Sweeney suggested the prosecution was being “media driven,” citing the fact that he only learned about the medical examiner’s homicide determination from a television reporter.
Earlier in the week, Sweeney told the judge it was his understanding that the case would be presented to a grand jury for indictment. Instead, he learned that Doherty had sought a complaint for murder on Friday morning in the District Court.
Chapman said he had to take into account the seriousness of the new charge and Tracey’s prior record in denying him bail on Friday afternoon.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 27.