FOXBORO - A wave of new allegations has expanded the scope of an investigation into claims of decades-old child sexual abuse involving former teacher, Boy Scout leader and town swimming director William E. Sheehan.
Police Chief Edward O'Leary said that nine more people, all adult males, have contacted police since The Sun Chronicle and its sister paper The Foxboro Reporter first reported on three earlier allegations against Sheehan, claiming they, too, had been victimized by the former youth leader more than 30 years ago.
"It's still an ongoing investigation," O'Leary said of the new information coming from the latest alleged victims to come forward, who "disclosed that something happened to them with Mr. Sheehan."
He said Wednesday that none of the men who have come forward had yet been "interviewed in detail," adding that the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office has appointed a victim's witness advocate to coordinate the various cases.
Sheehan, 73, who has been living in Fort Myers, Fla., since leaving Foxboro in 1981, was charged in a Sept. 12 Wrentham District Court warrant with multiple counts of indecent assault on a child under 14 and also over 14.
Those charges stemmed from the claims of three alleged victims, one of whom this summer contacted local school officials, who in turn notified police.
Sheehan has not been arrested on the Sept. 12 warrant because of what authorities who traveled to Florida described as his ailing health. Sheehan's relatives, who would not respond to inquiries from The Sun Chronicle, told a newspaper in Fort Myers that he has late-stage Alzheimer's disease and requires 24-hour care.
Neither O'Leary nor a spokesman for the Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey's Office would say if an arrest and prosecution are likely in the future.
"The district attorney has not closed out this case in its entirety," O'Leary said.
O'Leary said three adults disclosed new information in the case to the police last Thursday, literally hours after publication of the original allegations against Sheehan.
"Over the weekend, another two individuals came forward, and Monday two more disclosures were made to my office," O'Leary said.
The total was up to nine by Wednesday.
O'Leary expressed hope that others with knowledge of the suspect's activities in Foxboro decades ago would come forward.
The current investigation, which was picked up by Foxboro police detectives Thomas Kirrane and Timothy O'Leary in August after the school department received a call from a man who said he was abused by Sheehan, is not the first for the department.
In 1998, a man came forward to police with similar accusations against Sheehan. That case was investigated by former Det. Sgt. James Kozak.
O'Leary, who has been chief since 1985, said those allegations were not pursued because the district attorney's office determined the incident fell outside the statute of limitations for such crimes in Massachusetts at the time.
A letter dated March 16, 1998, and addressed to Kozak, which was obtained by The Sun Chronicle this week, appears to support that account.
"It appears that the Statute of Limitations has run out on the Indecent Assault and Battery," said the letter, written by Patricia M. Nigrelli, then-director of investigation for the DA's office. "However, (the victim) could possibly sue Mr. Sheehan civily."
Jeffrey Locke, now a Massachusetts judge, was Norfolk County district attorney in 1998. Kozak left Foxboro in 2000 and went on to become police chief in Millis.
Since that time, partly as a result of the clergy abuse scandals from the 1990s and early 2000s, laws have changed on prosecuting child sexual abuse. Currently, the clock stops ticking on the statute of limitations for prosecuting a child molester when an offender moves out of state, according to David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney's Office.
"Any period during which the defendant is not usually and publicly a resident within the commonwealth shall be excluded in determining the time limited," a copy of the law provided by Traub says.
Also, the summary notes, if the victim is under the age of 16 at the time the crime is committed, "the period of limitation for prosecution shall not commence until the victim has reached the age of 16 or the violation is reported to a law enforcement agency, whichever occurs earlier."
Sheehan, married with two children, taught in Foxboro schools from the late 1960s to 1981, when he moved to Florida with his wife, now deceased, and their two children.
Neither the school department nor police say they have records to confirm Sheehan's actual dates and places of employment in the school system.
A June 1981 story in The Foxboro Reporter stated that Sheehan taught at the former Center School and Lewis School, as well as the Burrell School and for eight years, from 1973 to 1981, at Ahern Middle School.
He was also scoutmaster for the former Troop 70 for 19 years and was active at Bethany Congregational Church, according to the 1981 story.
Richard Poirier, an executive with the Canton-based Old Colony Council of the Boy Scouts of America said Troop 70 was disbanded before 1985.
Asked for the dates when Sheehan was a leader in the troop, Poirier said the council gave copies of all relevant records to state police and the district attorney's office a few weeks ago, but would not make the dates of Sheehan's scouting service public.
Sheehan also spent 20 years as a lifeguard, swimming instructor and waterfront director for the town swimming program, according to The Reporter in 1981. He was an instructor at Lakeview and was a key player in planning Cocasset River Park, serving as its only waterfront director until 1981.
The alleged molestations occurred in Sheehan's home, at the now-closed swimming facility, and at the middle school, according to details from the arrest warrant.
The 1981 story also quotes Sheehan as having deep roots in Foxboro, where his parents were born, saying his grandfather started the local Grange chapter, his father operated the first taxi and his uncle was the town's first Eagle Scout.