Massachusetts Man Arrested in Killing of His Father Who Died During Baptism-Exorcism Attempt, Prosecutors Say

 Crooker Memorial Park and Island Creek Pond

Jack Callahan told police he had given his father a choice while they were in the pond to either go to heaven with him or to hell. “I believe he chose hell,” Callahan told police, they said.

A 19-year-old Massachusetts man allegedly killed his father by immersing his head repeatedly in a shallow pond in what he described as baptism and exorcism he performed to purge his father’s alcoholic demons, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Jack Callahan was arrested on Monday on charges relating to a fatal water incident in Duxbury, according to the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office.

Callahan pleaded not guilty to murder at his arraignment in Plymouth District Court. He was ordered to be held without bail and will undergo a mental health evaluation.

Plymouth Assistant District Attorney Shanan Buckingham said Callahan “believed he was baptizing his father,” the Boston Globe reported.

“He was holding his father in the pond on his back like a baby and he continually dunked his head under the water about four to eight times," Buckingham said. “When his father started to cough and choke, he would lift his head up. And when the father started fighting, he would strike him and push his head back down into the water.

“He did so until his father was floating and no longer struggling,” she continued.

Callahan told police he retrieved his father from a Boston bar, after his father allegedly left a treatment center for chronic alcohol abuse, according to prosecutors. Callahan said he was exorcising a demon within his father named “Dirty Dan," the Globe reported.

Police said he told them he had given his father a choice while they were in the pond to either go to heaven with him or to hell. “I believe he chose hell,” officials said Callahan told police, the Globe reported. 

On Monday at 2 a.m., Callahan arrived home with his wet clothes to tell his mother, who was divorced from his father, Scott Callahan, 57, that his father was missing. The pair had initially been traveling to the mother's home, but she didn't want her ex-husband to come there, The Patriot Ledger reported. 

According to Buckingham, Callahan’s mother told police that her son “appeared to be having a mental breakdown.” She also said the defendant had not exhibited this behavior before and that he had no history of mental illness, the Globe reported. 

The Duxbury Police, the Roxbury K9 unit and Duxbury Fire personnel began a search for the father at Crooker Memorial Park, where he was found floating in the water with his luggage, a report said.

Once he was pulled from the pond and life-saving measures were performed, he was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Town of Duxbury Police Department news release

According to a prosecutor, the autopsy revealed water in Scott Callahan’s lungs and an abrasion to the back of his head, The Boston Globe reported.

Jack Callahan initially told police that his father was missing and that he didn’t know what happened, and then he claimed that he blacked out after his father pushed him several times.

Jack Callahan then told police that with the help of a friend, he was able to find his father, who was inebriated at a bar. After his father refused to ride in his friend's truck, Jack Callahan called an Uber. In the Uber, Jack Callahan called his mother, and his mother told him not to bring her former husband home, the Globe reported. 

That was when Callahan and his father went to the pond at Crooker Memorial Park. 

Jack Callahan’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said in court Tuesday that the facts of the case were “bizarre to say the least.” He said his client was a “very nice young man,” who needed help. Reddington said he hired a psychologist, who had spoken with Jack Callahan and concluded he was suffering from a mental health issue that made him a threat to himself. 

He asked Judge Franco J. Gobourne to order a competency evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, Gobourne declined, saying Reddington could raise the issue of competency at a later date, The Patriot Ledger reported. 

Jack Callahan’s mother was in court, along with other relatives and the deacon of her church, as Reddington told the judge that Jack Callahan came from “a wonderful family and is a nice young man with no criminal record.” 

Before the incident, Jack Callahan was living in Colorado with his brother working in the logging industry, but returned to Duxbury to live with his mother after a back injury.

Plymouth District Attorney Tim Cruz said after the arraignment that the defense’s request for a psychiatric evaluation suggests Callahan’s mental health will be an issue in the case.

Reddington said he requested the transfer to Bridgewater State Hospital after Jack Callahan was seen “banging his head on the floor.” 

Dr. Paul Zeizel, a forensic psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, interviewed Jack Callahan and commended the transfer, as Callahan will be watched more closely at Bridgwater should there be a higher risk of self-harm. 

Callahan is due back in court on Aug. 12. His case will be presented to a Plymouth County Grand Jury for possible indictment, according to The Patriot Ledger. 

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