Monk admits defacing casket

Author: Doug Hanchett
Date Published: 06/08/1999
Staff photo by DON TREEGER:  Dell Scott Goodwin, left, known as Father Lazarus at a Brimfield monastery, stands with bowed head beside his lawyer, Gregory Hession, yesterday during a Palmer District Court hearing.
Staff photo by DON TREEGER: Dell Scott Goodwin, left, known as Father Lazarus at a Brimfield monastery, stands with bowed head beside his lawyer, Gregory Hession, yesterday during a Palmer District Court hearing.

The Brimfield monk known as Father Lazarus was ordered to
perform 100 hours of community service for carving a
symbol recognized by his order on the casket.

PALMER – A monk from a Brimfield monastery pleaded
guilty yesterday to charges he carved a religious symbol in the casket of a teen-age hit-and-run victim moments after mourners had left the youth’s grave site this spring.

Dell Scott Goodwin, who is known by other members of the
St. Nectarios Monastery on Brookfield Road as Father Lazarus, was sentenced to 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to wanton destruction of property of
more than $250 and vandalizing a grave site.

The case was continued without a finding for one year.

Goodwin admitted using a golf-ball-size rock to carve an ancient cross-shaped insignia onto the casket containing the body of Christopher Martel after funeral services for the Brimfield teenager April 1.

Martel, 17, was struck by a hit-and-run driver March 29 on
Brookfield Road in Brimfield. Goodwin, whose monastery is
near the scene of the accident, was one of the first on the scene.

Goodwin – whose monastery is affiliated with the Holy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis in Queens, N.Y. -appeared in District Court yesterday wearing a long black robe and a round black hat with a black veil down the
back. The hat he wore bore a small red symbol on the front, the same insignia he carved on Martel’s casket that means “Jesus Christ conquers” in Greek.

During the proceeding, the 42-year-old monk kept his head
bowed, only occasionally glancing up at Judge Kenneth Cote. He didn’t offer an apology to the Martel family, speaking just once during the five-minute proceeding.

“The symbol was made in accordance with church practice
in the tradition of the church,” Goodwin told the court.

Goodwin’s attorney, Greg Hession of Belchertown, later apolo-
gized to the Martels on his client’s behalf.

“Father Lazarus wants to at least communicate to the family
… that there was no bad intent on his part in doing this,” Hession told the court. “He realizes he should have asked permission.

“He was present when the child’s life went out of him … (and) he was overcome with the grief of it and was acting in an
emotional way, not a rational one.”

Outside the courtroom, Hession criticized the Union-News’ coverage of the incident – as well as the funeral director who reported it – and said the news story did little but compound the Martel family’s grief. “The mother had already left
(the funeral),” Hession said. “If the funeral director hadn’t made a big whoop-de-do, the family wouldn’t have even known about it.”

Hession said the youth’s mother, Paula Martel, was so upset
about the Union-News story that she called him to complain about its tone.

Contacted at home yesterday, Paula Martel acknowledged calling Hession, but not because the story upset her. Martel said she phoned the lawyer because she was angered by what she perceived as a lack of remorse on the
part of the monks.

“I wasn’t upset with the story,” she said. “I just kept getting
slapped in the face … they just didn’t seem to understand what he did was wrong.”

The youth’s mother wasn’t in the courtroom yesterday for what was supposed to be merely a pretrial conference. She said that no one notified her Goodwin would be pleading guilty.

“It’s unfortunate for me and my boys that we weren’t allowed to address our feelings to the court,” she said.

Hession, meanwhile, also took the Union-News to task for making the religious sect look “out-there.”

Ken Robinson, a lawyer from Ware who was at the proceeding
as “a friend” of the monks, agreed.

“They were not happy with the way the story was handled,” Robinson said. “They feel the story was spun to make (their denomination seem marginal.”