An accused child rapist will skate free after the alleged victim — a retired NHL player — died from an apparent drug overdose.
The former hockey pro, David Gove — who most recently worked as a minor league hockey coach — was found dead in April on the floor of a Pittsburgh homeless shelter, an apparent victim of a synthetic opioid called carfentanil, according to the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office. He was 38 and left behind a 3-year-old son, Cullen, and the boy’s mother, his former longtime girlfriend.
Gove, who won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and more recently served as the interim head coach of the Wheeling Nailers, died just two months before he was slated to testify in Suffolk Superior Court in Massachusetts, where Gove’s former coach, Robert Richardson, faced three counts of rape. But now that prosecutors have lost their key witness against the Boston coach, who was acquitted of raping another young hockey prospect in 2005, charges have been dropped, the Boston Globe reports.
Richardson, 61, who lives in a condo in Dorchester, Mass., where the rapes allegedly occurred, declined to comment to the newspaper. His attorney, Michael Doolin, said Richardson had pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
“He denies the allegations and the case has been dismissed,” Doolin told the newspaper.
But the mother of Gove’s child and those who knew him best said Gove simply never got over the painful memories of the alleged attacks by Richardson, starting when he was just 13 years old.
“Everything Dave did, everything he thought of, revolved around what happened to him,” Katie Gannon, Gove’s former longtime girlfriend, told the newspaper of the alleged rapes.
Chris Ferreira, Gove’s best friend of several decades, said Gove had a “dark demon inside him” because of the attacks and their harrowing aftermath.
“He told me it got to the point where he couldn’t take the thoughts anymore,” Ferreira told the newspaper.
Gove, whose professional hockey career spanned from 2000 to 2009, was named the interim head coach of the minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins in late 2015, but took a personal leave of absence a few months later and never returned. The departure was never explained, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but Gove’s addiction to painkillers may have played a role.
Sources told the Globe that Gove had been visiting team doctors to request drugs and sought out loans from colleagues. He also fell asleep while on the job, leading them to remove him as the coach after a “series of red flags,” according to a statement cited by the newspaper.
Friends and family told the Globe that hockey was an escape for Gove.
“He said hockey was his therapy,” Gannon told the newspaper. “As soon as he laced up those skates, nothing else mattered.”
His death impacted prosecutors so deeply in Boston that one wept when hearing Gove was dead. In June, when Richardson’s trial was scheduled to start, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement that the office would be unable to “sustain its burden of proof” as a result of Gove’s death.
“It can take many survivors decades to overcome, and what made David’s case so tragic is that even a lifetime wasn’t long enough,’’ Conley said. “He had confronted his past and prepared to confront his abuser with remarkable courage, but like so many who were hurt as children, he could still feel pain in the broken places.’’