Justice has been served. The man who abused her son went to prison this week.
The tall woman sits at the dining table in her quiet, tidy home near Franklin Park, sifting through painful memories, searching for a path forward. It has been a year to the day since her son’s school called and asked her to rush over. A year since she arrived to find police and paramedics and school officials unable to bring themselves to say exactly what had happened to her boy.
Her confused, distant son couldn’t say, either. Autistic, and nonverbal, he can manage only single words, and the occasional telling facial expression.
“He was easy prey,” she says of her boy, 15 now.
A teacher discovered LaShawn Hill, an aide at the Harbor Pilot Middle School, and the boy alone in a room, with their pants undone. Hill admitted he had been behaving inappropriately with the boy, though that is too mild a description for it.
The mother knew it was Hill even before investigators told her: Two weeks earlier she had picked up her son early and noticed both the boy’s and a sweating Hill’s clothes askew.
She regrets not trying to get the aide fired on the spot, though she doubts school officials would have acted if she had. Earlier in the year, another autistic child had made an abuse allegation against Hill at his previous school and, after investigating on her own, the principal there did nothing. (That principal was later suspended for two weeks for failing to report the abuse, as the law required.)
Hill pleaded guilty Tuesday to indecent assault and battery and lascivious acts with the two boys, though the mother is sure he did worse, raping her son. Hill was sentenced to one to three years in state prison, and five years probation.
His victims will be serving much longer sentences than that.
“He’s so different,” the mother says of the boy. “He used to be so loving and warm. He used to hug everybody. What happened to my baby?”
She is different, too. She feels guilty for failing to prevent this, worries her boy is disappointed in her.
She lies awake imagining what it must have been like for him. She fears he will never get beyond it and, worse, that he will act inappropriately with others because of it.
She has no way of knowing what her son is thinking. He can’t be helped by therapy as easily as kids who can speak. Unlike other victims, he will never really be able to protect himself, or tell anybody if someone hurts him — even when he is grown.
She trusts no one now, not even staff at the boy’s new school in Randolph, which she loves.
Teachers there have told her he could board at school during the week, and come home on weekends. That would allow the 51-year-old single mother of three to fulfill her dream of having a job outside the home for the first time in 11 years. But respite will never come.
“Are you kidding me?” she says. “I look at them all [with suspicion] now. I can never send him somewhere, I can never get a break, even though sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
We learned about 13 other families sharing her particular brand of suffering last week, their children among the alleged victims of Wakefield man John Burbine’s sick enterprise.
“God, my heart just goes out to those parents,” the mother says. “I know what they’re going through. . . . I sympathize if they have bad thoughts in their minds of what they want to do to this guy. ”
It is a club nobody wants to be in, and one nobody hurt this way ever fully leaves — especially those whose children cannot speak for themselves.
“I don’t think these feelings are ever going to go away,” the mother says.