Foxborough Official Assures Alleged Abuse Victims Town will Not Fail Them Again
Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis told the alleged sexual abuse victims of a former Foxborough employee the town is “turning over every stone and file cabinet” in search of the truth.
As more light sheds on the allegations against William E. Sheehan, four of his alleged victims have come forward to ask town officials how the former Foxborough educator and community leader was able to allegedly abuse young boys for nearly 20 years without detection, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe.
Globe correspondent Michele Morgan Bolton reported in Tuesday’s story, “Alleged abuse victims seek Foxborough response” that four alleged victims of Sheehan “called Monday for the town of Foxborough to investigate past management practices” to bring to light how Sheehan was allegedly able to sexually abuse at least 23 children in Foxborough from 1963-1981.
“There has been a deafening silence from Town Hall,’’ the men told Bolton in a statement during a group interview with the Globe Monday. “And while we are happy with what the police have done, we are looking to see what went wrong on the management side. Survivors and parents were not served back then.”
One of Sheehan's alleged victims, Kevin Corliss, told Bolton while nobody is blaming the town’s current administration for anything, he and other victims have been disappointed with the town’s silence regarding the issue.
“We are not blaming anyone on duty now,’’ Corliss told the Globe. “But no one is talking about what happened. So it does seem like they have to be pushed, which is disappointing.”
That “silence” from Town Hall ended abruptly Tuesday when Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis released the following statement at the Dec. 4 BOS meeting:
“There are many allegations of child sexual abuse by a member of our community starting back in the early 1970s,” DeVellis read during the chairman’s update portion of Tuesday’s BOS meeting. “I have been requested to initiate an investigation as the chair of this board and the calls are many from reporters.
“Regarding the investigation; investigators and attorneys work together and their roles are clear. Their process has begun and it began without need of our board to be involved, which is proper.
“The selectmen have jurisdiction over the police and provide guidance to our town manager, who shall prosecute and defend suits with respect to litigation for or against the town. It is not to anybody’s benefit for the selectmen at this point to talk about specific current or pending litigation.
“However, one thing that should be absolutely clear is that I will make sure that this is a priority for our board and I will work within my jurisdiction to make sure that the process moves in the direction of the truth being found and told for the benefit of the victims and the benefit of our kids today.
“In general, I have spoken with [Schools] Superintendent Debra Spinelli and Police Chief Edward O’Leary, briefly with our town manager and with our town counsel.
“Collectively, I am being told they are addressing the criminal component of what happened. I am being told they are turning over every stone and file cabinet to get whatever information is out there as to who knew what and who did or did not do what.
“One purpose is to get to the truth. The other purpose is to help the victims get the help they need.
“First, anyone with information or [anyone who wants] to reach out, please contact the police. Specifically, Officer Tim O’Leary.
“Second, our YMCA is presenting their national campaign to educate the public in the prevention of sexual abuse of children. For information about this Thursday night at the Ahern, please contact the YMCA to register.
“I see absolutely no benefit whatsoever in putting up roadblocks in determining what happened back then to our kids. Victims simply did not get the respect they deserved during those days and I will do everything that I can as a selectman to make sure that it does not happen to them again as adults by covering anything up or being less then completely helpful.
“If our community failed a child back then, the worse thing we can do now is not address it openly to get the questions answered. This is somewhat early in the process and I know few details, however, if the flag that the selectmen have to waive high says, ‘if you are a predator in our community, we will make it as difficult and miserable as possible for you to exist here or anywhere,’’ then that is what I will do.
“Step one starts with getting to the truth and there is no other way in my opinion. I am confident that our town and our leaders will do the right thing and there is nothing I have seen or heard so far to the contrary.”
Since learning of the horrific incidents that allegedly took place against the town’s youth, several community leaders have been proactive in their efforts to inform the public on ways to identify and prevent sexual abuse against children.
In November, Foxborough Public Schools, Foxborough police and the Hockomock Area YMCA came together to offer a community forum for child sexual abuse prevention at Ahern Middle School. The forum provided the public an opportunity to bring the community together to discuss the issues of child sexual abuse, learn more about its devastating impact and to find out together as a community, what Foxborough can do to prevent it.
Allegations against Sheehan became public in September when Foxborough police obtained a warrant from Wrentham District Court for the former Foxborough teacher and youth leader’s arrest on 11 felony charges related to sexual assault on children under the age of 15 from 1978-1981.
Sheehan, now 74, taught in the Foxborough Public Schools district from the late 1960s to 1981, served 19 years as a local Boy Scouts Scoutmaster and 20 years in numerous roles at Cocasset River Park, including a swimming instructor and waterfront director. During that time he resided at 81 Willow St.
Sheehan left Foxborough in 1981 to take a teaching position in Southwest Florida, where he is being accused of molesting at least one child at Camp Miles, a Boy Scout camp in Punta Gorda, Fla. during three consecutive summers in the 1980s, according to a Nov. 5 article in The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla.
Sheehan was never arrested for the allegations in Massachusetts or Florida and now it may be too late, according to The News-Press as the 74-year-old is currently suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s and resides in a Fort Myers, Fla. nursing home.
In Foxborough, three alleged victims came forward – separately – to police in August accusing Sheehan of multiple sexual crimes committed against each of them. After Foxborough police obtained a warrant for Sheehan’s arrest on Sept. 12, officers traveled to Fort Myers, Fla. to arrest the former Foxborough resident. However, upon arrival to Sheehan’s residence in Florida, police were not able to arrest him, citing poor health.
Foxborough police and the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office maintain the investigation against Sheehan remains open but police fear, due to Sheehan’s health, that he may never be prosecuted.
Since allegations against Sheehan surfaced in August, 23 men have come forward claiming the former resident sexually abused them in Foxborough.
To read more on the allegations against Sheehan, click the following articles:
- UPDATE: Former Foxborough Teacher Accused of Sex Abuse Reportedly Suffering from Alzheimer's (Foxborough Patch)
- Former Foxborough Teacher Accused of Sexual Assault on Multiple Children (Foxborough Patch)
- New abuse allegation surfaces for former Lee County teacher (The News-Press of Fort Myers)
- Man too sick to arrest (The News-Press of Fort Myers)
- Longtime Foxborough teacher and Scout leader left legacy of lives broken by sex abuse (The Boston Globe)
- Nearly five decades later, an alleged victim speaks out against Sheehan (The Boston Globe)
- Tracking William Sheehan through the years (The Boston Globe)