SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – In reaction to cases such as Molly Bish or Danny Croteau, author and child safety advocate teaches parents, children, and adults about how important it is to protect children.
Kathy Picard was abused and raped from when she was just seven years old up until she was seventeen years old.
For Picard, her abuser was her stepfather, someone that was close to her. Picard had gone through an emotional battle but found her justice back in 2015. After passing the Criminal Statute of Limitations in 2006 and the Civil Statue of Limitations in 2014, Picard had sued and won her case against her abuser, Louis Buoniconti at the Springfield U.S. District Court.
Picard had received $250,000 in compensatory damages for her case. However, Picard’s abuser, faced zero jail time and wasn’t put on the sex offender list, but was the only case to go to a 4 day trial in a federal court in Springfield. Picard told 22News, the monetary value didn’t matter to her, but justice did.
Today, Picard advocates sexual abuse by speaking at places such as colleges and hospitals.
Picard’s past has inspired her newest book that was released on August 4, 2021 called I love you so much that…, which is directed towards explaining what love is and what it does to keep a child safe. “It’s important for a child to know they are loved,” said Picard. The book is in the dedication of two unforgotten souls, Molly Bish and Danny Croteau.
Who was Danny Croteau?
Danny Croteau was a 13-year-old that been found dead along the Chicopee River in Springfield on April 15, 1972. He had appeared to be wearing similar clothes that he had worn the day before from school.
The murderer for Croteau’s case had been identified to be Father Richard Lavigne, the Croteau family’s parish priest in Springfield, who was a close family friend of theirs, even after reassigning to another church. After Croteau’s murder, Lavigne remained a “person of interest” during the case. Investigators released that Lavigne lied about the last time he had seen Croteau.
Lavigne received 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to two counts of molesting male parishioners. In 2005, Lavigne had been removed from the Catholic Church.
Lavigne died before being arrested for murder, but investigators had enough evidence to charge him if he were still alive.
Who was Molly Bish?
Molly Bish was a 16-year-old lifeguard that was murdered at Comins Pond in Warren on June 27, 2000, over two decades ago. Molly Bish’s case had been investigated since the day of her disappearance.
The day she went missing, a massive search with more than 200 people had gone looking for her.
In 2003, her remains had been found in the woods of Whiskey Hill in nearby Palmer, not too far from Comins Pond. A search of an Old Sawmill Campground in West Brookfield was done to try to find the white car that the murderer had driven, but nothing turned up.
A person of interest had been determined named Francis Sumner Sr. in 2021. Sumner had died in 2016 but is being investigated as a suspect in the disappearance and murder of Molly Bish.
“These were just local cases and they do happen, Molly Bish went missing and Danny Croteau didn’t tell anyone he was being abused. Reality is, things like this do happen in Massachusetts,” Picard said. Picard’s important tips for adults when it comes to child safety is not to be afraid to help children keep safe, don’t keep information private, and not to be scared to educate children.
Picard shared how an adult can speak to a child about safety concerns:
- Let the child know anything they want, it’s not a secret
- Notify the child that they won’t get in trouble for telling, if they are in a harmful or uncomfortable situation
- Always have conversations
- If a child is in a situation, follow through and let them know you are going to help
- Let them know you are proud of them, if they do speak up on a situation that is happening to either them or someone else
Child abuse and abduction are issues, advocators fight so cases like Molly Bish and Danny Croteau can be prevented. Picard’s new book helps to prevent another child from becoming in danger.
Magdalen Bish, Molly Bish’s mother, and child safety advocator commented her thoughts about Picard’s new book: I love you so much that…, on amazon.com customer reviews page and gave the book five stars.
Magdalen Bish wrote,
“Coming from from a background of mother, teacher, grandmother and child safety advocate. I loved the book! As you open the book cover, the text and illustrations tenderly reinforce a unique family love. You are gently reminded of “why” you are loved and an awareness of protective love. It opens a dialogue to share and each page wraps the child in sweet pastels reinforcing it’s gentle message.”
Amazon Customer Reviews
Picard’s book has been shared with over 2,000 children in Massachusetts at schools and daycares. On March 23, Picard will be visiting Square One on 255 King Street in Springfield next to read to more than 60 students.
Free books will be handed to each child, donated by the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. Each book is paw signed by Kathy and Garu Picard’s mini schnauzer named Abby.
Abby is present as an illustration throughout the book. During a book reading, Picard instructs the children to raise their hands every time they see Abby. Paw stickers are to be handed out as a reminder of this feature.
All illustrations and text within the book help children be aware of what caring adults expect, teach and share.