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Former Foxborough teacher faces sex abuse charges

A former Foxborough schoolteacher, Boy Scout leader, and swim coach now living in Florida stands accused of sexually abusing at least eight young boys, and potentially more, in a case stretching back decades, police said.

Foxborough police have charged William E. Sheehan, 73, of Fort Myers, Fla., with nine felony counts of indecent assault on a child under age 14 and two felony counts of indecent assault on a child age 14 or older. The assaults occurred in Foxborough, officials said.

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Sheehan, who resides in an assisted living facility, has not yet been arrested because of his ill health, according to officials of the Foxborough police and the Norfolk district attorney’s office, who both declined to elaborate.

Police Chief Edward O’Leary said he wouldn’t be surprised if more victims come forward.

“I anticipate that, given what we have learned already, that more people will have information as well,’’ said O’Leary, who characterized the reports of abuse as a tragedy.

He said his department will be working with victims and their families to provide support and services as the investigation continues.

“I want to commend those who have come forward,’’ O’Leary said. “It is a horrendous thing to have to deal with.”

Sheehan could not be reached Thursday night because law enforcement officials did not respond to requests to identify the facility where he is living.

Sheehan was a teacher at the former Lewis Elementary School, the Burrell Elementary School, and the Ahern Middle School from approximately 1968 to 1980, when he moved to Florida with his family, officials said.

He was also the swimming director at the former Cocasset River Park and was leader for Boy Scout Troop 70, which is no longer active, officials said.

Police said the sexual assaults allegedly occurred in Sheehan’s Willow Street home, at the swimming facility, and at the middle school.

David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, said that prosecutors, State Police, and local police surprised Sheehan earlier this month at the assisted living facility where he lives.

“But because of his medical condition, they did not make an arrest,’’ Traub said. He said the investigation was continuing but would not say whether or when they might arrest Sheehan. Typically, a defendant must be able to actively participate in his defense in order for a case to go forward.

Debra Spinelli, superintendent of Foxborough’s school system, said her department joins other local institutions in expressing concern and empathy for the alleged victims and their families.

“While these cases may have occurred some 40 years ago in Foxborough, we are still deeply impacted as a caring school community,’’ she said. “Now, more than ever, we must come together as a community to confront the past and work together to protect children from abuse.”

Spinelli said she is working with police to locate all relevant data on Sheehan.

“At this time, I do not know which years the teacher was assigned to specific schools,’’ she said in an e-mail. “As you know, this occurred 40 years ago.”

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.
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