An ongoing investigation of a former Foxborough teacher from over 30 years ago has recently shed light on a sexual assault case unlike anything the town has ever seen, according to Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary.
“I do not recall anything to this magnitude or even from my predecessors’ time,” O’Leary said. “When I started in 1977 as a policeman, I was working with people who had been policemen in Foxborough since the 1950s and although it might not be public, if a case had happened in the 50s it would have come up over a period of time. They would say ‘Oh, back in 60, we had such and such a case’ as folklore. I don’t ever recall anybody ever mentioning anything of such magnitude of any type of crime whether it was drugs or something because this just hit so much of the community.”
What has hit the community are allegations against former resident and schoolteacher, William E. Sheehan, 73, that he reportedly sexually assaulted numerous children 14 years and under from 1978 to 1981 while living at 81 Willow St. in Foxborough.
“It appears [Sheehan] was a member of the school department,” O’Leary said. “He was an elementary school teacher originally and was teaching at the Ahern Middle School. He was the director of the Cocasset River Park swimming facility and from interviews with the victims, we learned he was very involved in scouting in the community.”
Sheehan left Foxborough in 1981 and moved to Florida. He currently lives in Fort Myers, Fla., according to court documents and Foxborough Police, accompanied by Massachusetts State Trooper Kathleen Prince, recently travelled to Florida to serve Sheehan with a straight warrant for 11 felony charges related to sexual assault on children 14 years and under. Police obtained the warrant from Wrentham District Court on Sept. 12, according to court documents.
Upon arriving to Fort Myers, however, Foxborough Police Detective Timothy O’Leary and Trooper Prince discovered Sheehan is currently staying at an assisted living facility due to a medical condition, according to Chief O’Leary.
Sheehan has not been arrested for the allegations against him, according to Chief O’Leary, who said the investigation remains “ongoing.”
“It’s not over,” Chief O’Leary said, who added the District Attorney’s Office will handle the legalities of the case moving forward.
If arrested, Sheehan would face 11 felonies – 9 counts of indecent assault and battery on child under 14 and two counts of indecent assault and battery on child 14 or over, according to court documents.
Court documents say Sheehan allegedly sexually assaulted numerous male children under the age of 15 at several locations in town – behind his 81 Willow St. home, at Ahern Middle School and at Cocasset River Park from 1978 to 1981.
However, it was the courageous efforts of three victims nearly 40 years later that enabled Foxborough Police to open its investigation against Sheehan and shed light on these “horrific incidents,” according to O’Leary.
“I think the real [point] of this is the courageousness of people to step up and share with us this horrific thing that happened to them,” O’Leary said.
The investigation began in August when Foxborough Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli called O’Leary to inform him “a victim had disclosed to her incidents that had happened in his childhood” in town.
“[Spinelli] contacted me to see if there was anything we could do with these disclosures,” O’Leary said. … “Certainly she’s very cognizant to the needs of people and thought it would be appropriate to notify me. She had gotten this information and she did the right thing.”
With the information obtained from Spinelli, Foxborough Police Detective Sergeant Thomas Kirrane contacted the victim, according to O’Leary and interviewed him. Following the initial interview, O’Leary and Kirrane recalled a similar complaint from the 1990s made by an individual who spoke out against Sheehan.
“I recall back in the late 1990s one of the detective sergeants at the time had been contacted by a person who had come in off the street and had disclosed information about the same suspect,” O’Leary said. “But at that time the case could not move forward – I don’t recall the reason for it but I remember him coming in and talking that someone had come in to relate a story.”
Kirrane was able to locate the folder and notes from that officer in the 1990s and contact the individual who filed the complaint.
“That led us to re-contact that particular victim,” O’Leary said. “From these initial two victims we discovered other victims. It appears each time we talk to someone we learn of at least one more victim.”
Three victims went on record with Foxborough Police against Sheehan and were included in a police report issued to Wrentham District Court to obtain a warrant against Sheehan.
The three victims who spoke to Foxborough Police said Sheehan allegedly assaulted each of them separately when they were all under the age of 15. The victims told Foxborough Police during separate interviews that Sheehan would lay on top of them and “dry hump and grind,” according to Foxborough Police Detective O’Leary’s police report.
One victim told Foxborough Police he was sexually assaulted by Sheehan “30 to 40 times” from 1978 to 1980, according to police reports.
Another victim said he was assaulted in Sheehan’s home when he visited Sheehan’s son for a sleepover, according to police reports.
A third victim said it was no secret that Sheehan was a “pervert,” according to police reports.
All three victims said Sheehan assaulted them during numerous Scout Troop 70 campouts in Sheehan’s backyard. Sheehan was Scout Master of Troop 70 and had several cabins/huts on his property that he used for scout campouts, according to police reports.
Sheehan would allegedly invite a boy into his cabin to “keep him warm” during winter campouts, according to police reports, because his cabin/hut was the only one with heat. From there, Sheehan would lay on top of the boy he allegedly assaulted and “dry hump,” according to police reports.
One victim said Sheehan, who served as a middle school teacher at Ahern, would occasionally hold scout meetings in the Ahern gymnasium, according to police reports. During one of these scout meetings, Sheehan allegedly took the victim into “a small room off of the Ahern Middle School gymnasium where the wrestling mats were kept,” according to police reports. It was here, Sheehan allegedly wrestled with, “dry humped and grinded” the victim, according to police reports.
Victims also told Foxborough Police they were assaulted in the woods around Cocasset River Park and one was assaulted in the director’s office, according to police reports.
Chief O’Leary and Spinelli understand that even though these incidents occurred over 30 years ago, it will still cause feelings of shock and sadness.
“I think our entire community will have those feelings,” O’Leary said.
That expectation is why Spinelli issued a letter to the community Thursday and O’Leary has offered support.
“A letter is going out to all the families in Foxborough that has been prepared because we knew this would cause a great deal of concern even though it happened 35 years or so ago,” O’Leary said. “Some of the assaults actually took place 40 years ago. [Spinelli] felt that public, especially those in the school system, should understand they are very supportive and if people have concerns they can contact the school system. She has been a great partner in hopefully preparing our community for a shocking event.
“I cannot say enough about the courageousness of those victims that have come forward and if anybody at all has any additional information or any concerns that we can help, feel free to call us here at the police station.”
The number to Foxborough Police is (508) 543-4343.