Alleged abuse victims seek Foxborough response

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH -- Four men who say that William E. ­Sheehan sexually abused them as children called Monday for the town of Foxborough to inves­tigate past management practices to see how the former teacher, swim coach, and Boy Scout leader allegedly was able to prey on boys for almost 20 years without detection.

The town, as a corporation, was liable for employees who oversaw the schools and recreation areas where Sheehan, now 74, allegedly molested boys from 1963 to 1981, they said.

“There has been a deafening silence from Town Hall,’’ the men said in a statement during a group interview Monday. “And while we are happy with what the police have done, we are looking to see what went wrong on the management side. Survivors and parents were not served back then.”


Foxborough and Norfolk County authorities have ­described Sheehan as a serial child molester, charging him in September 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 in four cases in which the state’s statute of limitations for prosecution had not expired.

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Since then, the number of ­alleged victims has grown to 23 locally. In addition, Sheehan, who moved to Florida in 1981, is accused of repeatedly molesting a boy there in the late 1980s, allegations that cost him his teaching license and Boy Scouts certification.

Foxborough police have said they expect more people to come forward, but they fear that Sheehan, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease in a Fort Myers nursing home, may never be prosecuted.

The four men who spoke out on Monday said they want the town of Foxborough to release all relevant records about Sheehan, and said the case might ­belong in front of a grand jury.

“There are no records that he even worked here,’’ said ­Kevin Corliss, 56, of the ­Sheehan personnel file Corliss says is now missing.


The 30-year school maintenance employee has said he endured rape and sexual abuse by Sheehan from age 8 to 13. “Someone has to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Bill Dudley, 53, a 20-year pastor of Union Church in Foxborough, said he had one run-in with Sheehan in 1970, when he said the man knelt on his arms so he couldn’t move, and then tickled him roughly. He said he wants to help those who suffered more.

“We want to know the truth, and what we can learn from it,’’ Dudley said. “We would love to see him in handcuffs, but the next best thing to survivors are answers to what went on when we were kids.”

School Superintendent ­Debra Spinelli said she has turned over every piece of information she could find, and she would not comment on the missing personnel file.

Town Manager Kevin ­Paicos said local police are conducting the probe into who knew what, and when.


“What that has yielded is that a lot of people who were ­directly involved are deceased,’’ Paicos said.

James DeVellis, chairman of the Foxborough Board of ­Selectmen, said the town is listening and cares about the men who say they were abused by Sheehan.

“Victims simply did not get the respect they deserved, and I will do everything I can to make sure it does not happen to them again as adults by covering anything up or being less then completely helpful,’’ DeVellis said.

William Barth, who has lived in Las Vegas since 1974, said Sheehan would squeeze him until he passed out and when he awoke, the teacher would be tucking in his shirt tails.

“I know more was coming if I hadn’t moved,’’ said Barth, now 51. “I’m afraid of what I can’t remember.”

The fourth man, a 59-year-old who asked not to be named, said Sheehan abused him for four years.

“We are not blaming anyone on duty now,’’ said Corliss. “But no one is talking about what happened. So it does seem like they have to be pushed, which is disappointing.”

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@