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‘They’re unfit to serve.’ Stoughton police chief will ask state to decertify officers identified in explosive internal affairs report

Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamara at a news conference Friday morning. The chief spoke about an internal investigation that found three officers had inappropriate relationships with a young woman who killed herself last year.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

STOUGHTON — Growing up in Stoughton, Sandra Birchmore idolized the local police force and spent time at the headquarters of the officers she admired as a member of a police explorers program for teenagers.

At that same site on Friday, Police Chief Donna McNamara described how three of those officers betrayed Birchmore “up until her final days.” Using new authority created under the state’s 2020 criminal justice reform law, McNamara said she is trying to block the officers who had “inappropriate” relationships with Birchmore from ever working in law enforcement again.

“Through a sustained and deliberate combination of lies, deceit, and treachery, they violated the policies and core values of the Stoughton Police Department, not to mention human decency,” McNamara said during a news conference about the internal affairs investigation of the three officers. “These men violated their oaths, and they are unfit to serve as police officers.”


Birchmore, 23, was pregnant with her first child when she took her own life in February 2021 after telling friends the baby’s father was one of the officers, Matthew G. Farwell, 36, a detective, former patrolmen’s union president, and married father.

The internal affairs investigation revealed Farwell’s twin brother, William T. Farwell, and a third officer, Robert C. Devine, a former deputy chief and lawyer who directed the explorers program for about 20 years, broke department rules by engaging in “inappropriate” relationships with Birchmore, who became a police explorer in 2010 when she was 13.

The investigation also examined the conduct of two other men, a police officer in Abington and a military recruiter who was introduced to Birchmore by William Farwell, according to records and officials.

Abington police said the officer, who was not named, had been placed on paid administrative leave. The Stoughton investigation found he also had “inappropriate relations” with Birchmore. The military recruiter, who also wasn’t named, had “inappropriate communications” with her, the Stoughton report said.


All three Stoughton officers have already left the Police Department. McNamara said she has asked the new Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to decertify the Farwell brothers and Devine as police officers. Under state law, law enforcement agencies are prohibited from hiring decertified officers.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the commission said to date the agency has not decertified any officers.

The findings in Stoughton are the latest black mark for the department, which has weathered state and federal prosecutions of its officers, including the convictions of a previous chief and a sergeant in an extortion scheme.

In a phone interview, McNamara’s predecessor, Paul Shastany, who was chief from 2010 to 2016, said no concerns involving Birchmore were ever brought to him. If they had, he said, “I would have done something.”

During the news conference McNamara unpacked 10 years of Birchmore’s life, starting when she joined the youth explorers program at age 13 and met Matthew Farwell, an instructor, to her final days in February 2021, when he ended their relationship. He was the last known person to see her alive, the report said.

Birchmore also met Devine and William Farwell through the explorers program, McNamara said.

The explorers program was a major part of Birchmore’s life as was her admiration for police and military officers. Birchmore’s father was never a part of her life, her friends have said, and her mother and grandmother — both of whom raised her — died when she was a teenager.


Matthew Farwell embarked on an “inappropriate relationship” with Birchmore when she was 15 and he was 27 in the spring of 2013, according to the 60-page, partly-redacted internal affairs report. The report didn’t specify what made the relationship “inappropriate” and McNamara declined to elaborate.

Three of Birchmore’s friends have told the Globe in a story published in April that Matthew Farwell began having sex with Birchmore when she was 15. If true, those actions would be statutory rape, as the age of consent in Massachusetts is 16.

Asked whether Birchmore was a victim of statutory rape, McNamara referred queries to Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.

Morrissey’s office previously investigated Birchmore’s death and concluded she killed herself. No criminal charges were filed. On Friday, a spokesman for Morrissey said prosecutors will review any additional information.

“It should be noted that, in light of Ms. Birchmore’s death at age 23, the investigation to date has not developed a prosecutable statutory rape case against any individual,” the spokesman, David Traub, said in a statement.

A lawyer for Matthew Farwell said his client has no comment. He resigned from the department on April 1, and previously said he has “not committed any crimes.”

William Farwell had “multiple inappropriate physical encounters” with Birchmore, exchanged “explicit messages and photographs” with her while on duty, and attempted to introduce her to other men, McNamara said.


In an interview on Feb. 11, 2021, with State Police investigating Birchmore’s death, William Farwell said he had been in a sexual relationship with her, most recently in 2020. In December of that year, William Farwell said Bichmore told him she was pregnant and his brother was the father, according to a State Police report.

Birchmore’s death certificate shows she was pregnant when she died, but does not identify the baby’s father.

In an interview with State Police investigators on Feb. 6, 2021, Matthew Farwell acknowledged having sex with Birchmore in 2020, but said the sexual relationship ended in October of that year. Birchmore said the baby was due in September 2021, Farwell told State Police, and based on that timeline, he was not the father.

Police found Birchmore’s body in her Canton apartment on Feb. 4, 2021, while conducting a well-being check.

William Farwell resigned from the department on Aug. 1, and began working the same day for the Transportation Security Administration at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, records show. He didn’t respond Friday to a request for comment.

The TSA said he had had a “pre-employment review” and it “developed no derogatory information.”

The investigation found Devine, 50, communicated with Birchmore on Facebook messenger, but later asserted that he had no contact or relationship with her. He also violated department rules by going to a restaurant in December 2020 to meet Birchmore while on duty, the report said.

McNamara said the investigation also found Devine also had “inappropriate contact” with a female student he supervised at an after-school program during the early 2000s.


On that day, the female student who is now an adult told investigators Devine escorted her to an office when she was a teen, closed the door, lifted her onto a desk, and told her she was a “knockout” and he planned to take her on a date when she turned 18, the report said. There was never any sexual contact between the two, she told investigators.

On Friday, the woman, who asked not to be named, said she believes she was being groomed.

Devine, who retired from the department last month, didn’t return messages seeking comment. He has previously denied allegations of wrongdoing and has vowed to challenge the investigation’s findings.

Shastany said he recommended the town fire Devine years ago based on the findings of a separate internal affairs investigation but was overruled.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.