Foxborough selectman James DeVellis was in Boston Tuesday testifying before the Judiciary Committee at the State House on behalf of the town and the victims of the William E. Sheehan sex abuse case to implore the state to enact the Adam Walsh Act (Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act).
“I informed the Judiciary Committee of the Sheehan issue that we are dealing with [in Foxborough] and the three questions that I was asked by [the Sheehan] victims,” DeVellis said.
DeVellis said the first two questions victims asked him were “how can a member of our community molest and rape probably hundreds of kids over decades without notice or action?” and “how do these victims come to the authorities years ago and be told either [statute of limitations] has expired or Sheehan is in Florida now and out of jurisdiction?”
“We later came to find out Sheehan continued on [in Florida] where he left off in Foxborough and as a teacher in Florida was caught doing it there with very little notification back and forth,” DeVellis said. “Both these questions Foxborough is struggling with but it is in the past and I am not looking for answers from the Judiciary Committee on these two questions.”
What DeVellis is looking for is the answer to the victims’ third question to the town, “What [are Foxborough officials] going to do to help assure this can never go undetected again in our town?”
DeVellis hopes the answer includes the Commonwealth enacting the Adam Walsh Act.
“I implored the Judiciary Committee to approve the Adam Walsh Act so our police, teachers, selectmen and parents have the tools to protect our kids in the most efficient way possible with the help of reporting and labeling sex offenders,” DeVellis said.
DeVellis explains Adam Walsh was a young boy abducted at a Florida shopping mall and later found murdered.
“In summary, the Act, which is also referred to as SORNA (Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act) allows states to categorize, track, notify and in the end protect our children at a higher level throughout the country,” DeVellis said. “Many states have enacted this but Massachusetts has not.”
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 also 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, 2012 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, at least 30 men have courageously 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)
DeVellis said one of the reasons he decided to run for re-election in April was because of the “unfinished business with the Sheehan issue” and what happened 20-plus years ago still has to be addressed.
“What I think we need to do as a board and through the town – and we started it with a policy – is the Adam Walsh Act,” DeVellis said. … “We need to move forward in a positive direction and that’s one of the big responsibilities the board has in the next year or so.”
And to all those impacted by Sheehan’s allegations, DeVellis said the issue “remains a focus” for the town even though the board has recently changed with John Gray replacing Lynda Walsh at the selectmen’s table.
“After [Tuesday’s meeting at the State House] I contacted Lynda Walsh to see if she would continue on with the committee and she graciously said, ‘yes’ and that this is an issue she wants to see through for the victims as well,” DeVellis said.
DeVellis is hopeful Tuesday’s meeting at the State House was well received by the Judiciary Committee and the message was heard.
“Listening to victims and parents of victims offer their testimony was one of the most powerful experiences I have had and I am hopeful that this testimony directly to our Senators and State Representatives was heard,” DeVellis said. … “Hopefully that process is going to make a difference.”
To read more about the Adam Walsh Act, click here.