Read as much as you want on BostonGlobe.com, anywhere and anytime, for just 99¢.

Nearly five decades later, an alleged victim speaks out against Sheehan

(LEFT) John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

NORFOLK — Kevin Corliss said he was 8, fighting learning disabilities, and repeating second grade at the Lewis Elementary School in Foxborough in 1964 when teacher William E. Sheehan  first targeted him for sexual abuse.

Over the next five years, Corliss said in a recent interview, he lived under a dark cloud of control, intimidation, molestation, and rape that stopped only at age 13, when he was big enough to put an end to it. And then, he said, Sheehan was grooming a younger replacement.

Continue reading below

Corliss said Sheehan would pull him into a small room off the gym when he left his classroom, to quickly molest him. “It was in the damn school,’’ he said of the encounters.

Sheehan then moved to the Burrell Elementary School, but they met again at swim lessons, and Sheehan insisted the boy skip Cub Scouts and go right to Boy Scouts with him, he said.

Corliss, now a 56-year-old school maintenance employee living in Norfolk, said he is speaking out about his experience so that others know they aren’t alone. He also wants peace and resolution after 48 years of paralyzing memories of trauma, he said. After contacting Foxborough school Superintendent Debra Spinelli in August, Corliss said he filed a report with the local police.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

‘Bill Sheehan did this to me more times than I could ever count. But I couldn’t let him destroy me,’ said Kevin Corliss, speaking recently of alleged childhood sexual abuse by William Sheehan.

His lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, is assessing whether a civil lawsuit on his behalf is feasible.

Sheehan has been unable to answer criminal allegations. He is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease in a Fort Myers, Fla., nursing home, authorities say. His son, Steven, who said he knew nothing about the allegations, declined to say whether his father has a lawyer.

‘Bill Sheehan did this to me more times than I could ever count. But I couldn’t let him destroy me.’

Quote Icon

“Bill Sheehan did this to me more times than I could ever count,’’ Corliss said. “But I couldn’t let him destroy me.”

He said that when he was growing up, his parents did their best with seven children. His mother, though, had to care for a child with polio, and his father worked and volunteered with local organizations, including the Knights of Columbus. 

“He was busy,’’ Corliss said, bursting into tears. “So he just handed me over to the guy.”

Corliss said at swim lessons Sheehan would encourage him to jump into deep water even though he knew the boy couldn’t yet swim. “Then he’d race in to save me,” Corliss said. “In the beginning, he was my hero.’’

But fun camp-outs became dreaded when Sheehan insisted Corliss sleep with him, or force him to take long walks in the woods where more sexual contact occurred, he said. At one point, when he said he didn’t want to go, Corliss said Sheehan told him he would just take one of his younger siblings instead.

“So, I had no choice,’’ he said. “I had to say, ‘No, take me.’ ”

Worst of all was when Sheehan told scary stories about a monster in the woods named Facetious, said Corliss.

“I didn’t know what it meant,’’ he said. “He scared the holy hell out of us. Later, he would put on a pig mask, unzip the tent suddenly, grab you by the leg, and pull you out into the dark.”

The masked person would run with the boy down to the lake, throw him in, then disappear, he said.

“Then, Bill would appear and swoop in to save you, and you would go charging into his arms,’’ Corliss said. “You’d end up sleeping with him because you were scared to death.”

Corliss said Sheehan molested him in his own sleeping bag while three other Boy Scouts were nearby, and grabbed him in the water with people on the beach.

“It wasn’t until I started to fight him that he began raping me,’’ he said. “Bill Sheehan was the number one enemy of children in Foxborough.’’

He said he can forgive Sheehan, “knowing he’s a sick, sick man,” but it’s harder to forgive the town of Foxborough, its School Department, and the Boy Scouts for not protecting children.

“I would like to find people in charge and put them under oath and ask them, ‘Did you know?’ ” Corliss said. “If you bring them in front of a grand jury, they have to raise their arm up.”

Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos said he cannot offer any response as to why no one stopped Sheehan, because the events occurred so many years ago.

“I can say that the town is determined to assist and support the victims in any way we can,’’ Paicos said. “That’s why I made the allegations public right after I received them. So other victims would hear and come forward. We are partnering with the DA’s office and have many services available for victims.”

Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli would only comment on the training the district, town, and Hockomock Area YMCA have conducted together to help recognize signs of sexual abuse.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America said the organization does not comment on individual cases.

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

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week