Editor's note: Click on the videos above to listen to audio of the statements read by Rev. Bill Dudley and Foxborough native Kevin Corliss.
Four men, each survivors of William E. Sheehan’s alleged sexual abuse crimes in Foxborough over 30 years ago, courageously came forward Tuesday to call upon the town’s Board of Selectmen to take ownership of the past and find the answers to so many questions regarding the alleged assaults of nearly 30 children.
“Many questions unanswered haunt not only the survivors of Sheehan but the soul of the town of Foxborough,” said Rev. Bill Dudley, pastor of Union Church of South Foxborough. … “Foxborough must purge our soul of this terrible chapter in our history and make our message crystal clear: Children are loved and valued in Foxborough and we will spare no effort to protect them.”
These survivors spoke out Tuesday against Sheehan, the former Foxborough youth leader and teacher accused of sexually assaulting at least 28 children in town from the late 1960s to 1981.
Dudley read a statement on behalf of survivors who hope the town will dedicate the time, effort and resources necessary to meet the following recommendations:
- All survivors should be re-interviewed by police, as now [this situation] is more of an answer-finding mission than a criminal investigation. This may produce other relative information to the case.
- The person with [Sheehan’s] missing school file should return it.
- All communication at or around 2001 between local police and the District Attorney’s Office should be produced.
- All persons on the list given by survivors to the police must be interviewed by police, which might help put the puzzle together.
- Regarding the Recreation Department, all relevant files, including Sheehan evaluations, concerns and reasons for his leaving should be investigated.
Other questions include:
- Where are his records? Has anyone looked for them?
- Who is in charge of these records?
- What safety plan is in place today to provide protection from abuse in the future?
- What practices are in place for providing mandatory and ongoing child abuse protection training to all town employees and volunteers?
Dudley said it is the hope of the survivors to have these questions answered so “they may have closure.”
In addition, the survivors asked the Board of Selectmen to appoint an independent person or entity to resolve these questions.
“Still some concern among survivors whether the town shares our need to uncover the truth,” Dudley said. “More information is needed.”
The survivors say the selected investigator must be given “clear goals and parameters and a timeframe to answer the questions of the past, present and future.”
“Let’s be proactive in doing the right thing,” Dudley said. “We need to make it known that the town of Foxborough is a place for kids who are vigilantly protected. Where pedophiles cannot succeed and will be exposed and prosecuted.”
, told selectmen he is concerned that Sheehan’s files are missing from town records and that he believes it would be in the town’s best interest to “willingly and thankfully” accept outside assistance in getting this situation investigated.
“I don’t want to be here every month,” Lutkus said, who spoke at the Dec. 18, 2012 BOS meeting. “I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse because people are going to get sick hearing about it. But I do think it is time to get some legitimate answers.”
Kevin Corliss, 56, courageously recalled his painful encounters with Sheehan while calling for the board to take action. Corliss’ recollections brought tears to the eyes of many in the room Tuesday, including his own, as the near-capacity audience listened to the horrific sex crimes committed against their community’s youth over three decades ago.
“Town administration turned a blind eye to the safety of a whole generation of innocent young children,” Corliss said. “Multiply my story by at least 28 and that’s what the board should understand. Hundreds of assaults of young children under the nose of those town administrators. ‘No one knows’ seems preposterous.”
Corliss underlined the purpose of their attendance at Tuesday’s BOS meeting was to ask the board to take ownership.
“They are the present board responsible for the past,” Corliss said. “We are now calling on the board to make hast and implement the recommendations of my fellow victims and friends.”
Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis said there’s “no doubt” in his mind that the allegations against Sheehan are true and further assured the survivors the town will do everything it can to uncover the truths of this situation.
“I think this board should and will lead from the front on this,” DeVellis said. “I’m happy that [Police] Chief [Edward] O’Leary has somebody that is going to be working on this full-time [at the police department]. I spoke to him about setting up a second executive session specifically to talk about the information that comes in from the District Attorney and the information that the police may or may not have uncovered.”
Furthermore, if the town needs to invest in outside resources, it will be willing to do so.
“If we need to find an outside agency or police to investigate this we will find the money to do so,” DeVellis said.
DeVellis added that what bothers him about this situation is that people at the time of the alleged incidents appeared to be withholding information to avoid embarrassing the town or embarrassing friends.
“In the end this is what we get,” DeVellis said. “This was an incredible misstep.”
To ensure the safety of Foxborough’s youth moving forward, DeVellis said the town has implemented a new policy that all school, town and recreation employees and volunteers must be trained in how to protect children from sexual abuse.
“[If someone] sees something there’s going to be swift action and there’s no retribution for reporting somebody,” DeVellis said. “It is implemented now and the main thing is to continue it year after year with the training. That is the direction we are all going in. It is unfortunate that it is too late but I don’t see a choice of getting to the bottom of it one way or the other.”
While the survivors would like more transparency from the board on this situation, DeVellis said selectmen are scheduled to go into executive session prior to the board’s Feb. 26 meeting to discuss this matter in detail with Chief O’Leary.
“The next step is going to have to be in executive session because I don’t think it’s good to throw all of that information out [in the public] too soon,” DeVellis said. “As much as I can help and the board can help we will do as much as we can [for the survivors].”
DeVellis commended Corliss and the other survivors on speaking out publicly on this issue, admitting the difficulty of the situation would have been too much for him to handle.
“Kevin [Corliss], I have known you for a few years now and I couldn’t do what you just did,” DeVellis said. “It is incredibly difficult and the emotions that must go through [the survivors’] heads while they’re trying to do it, I commend them.”
Another survivor, who requested to remain unnamed, said it is his fear that the answer from the town will be its "hands are tied" and the DA’s answer will be "the case is closed" because Sheehan’s medical condition won't allow him to stand trial.
He's hopeful that is not the case.
“What I’m asking the Board of Selectmen to do is go beyond [the criminal aspect of this situation],” the survivor said. “Look into the other things that went on. Look at all the hints, allegations and the rumors. … I read that Bill Sheehan was a teacher for 18 years and taught in five schools. Something doesn’t make sense with that. Is that normal? Do most teachers get moved five times in an 18-year career? Something is missing here.
“I just want an answer.”
DeVellis asked the survivors for “a little bit of faith” in the board.
“This board of five people will direct our Town Manager [Kevin Paicos] and the town to figure out the resources to get to the bottom of it,” DeVellis said. “‘How did we let that happen?’ That’s the question that we are trying to answer.”
While there may never be a way of truly knowing what these four men – and at least 24 more – went through as a result of the horrific crimes allegedly committed by Sheehan, we saw their courage, heard their painful memories and shared their desire for answers for 40 minutes Tuesday and left the Andrew Gala Meeting Room with a better understanding of what the survivors need from town moving forward.
Anyone with any information regarding the allegations against Sheehan is asked to call Foxborough police at (508) 543-4343.
Allegations Against Sheehan
_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 initially 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 courageously come forward claiming the former resident sexually abused them in Foxborough.
On Tuesday, Dudley said that number is closer to 30 with dozens more likely unknown at this time.
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)