STOUGHTON – Police Chief Donna McNamara said Friday that three now-former Stoughton police officers had "inappropriate relations" with Sandra Birchmore, a young woman who looked up to police and hoped to become a cop.
She was pregnant when she killed herself in February 2021 in a Canton apartment, according to the Norfolk County district attorney's office. She was 23.
"What I am here to talk about today is her life and how she was failed by, manipulated by and used by people of authority that she admired and trusted right up until her final days," McNamara said at a press conference held at police headquarters Friday, Sept. 23.
McNamara presented the results of a 19-month Stoughton police internal affairs report, prepared by Deputy Police Chief Brian Holmes.
"The evidence demonstrates that (former Stoughton Police Officer) Matthew Farwell began an inappropriate relationship with her when she was 15 and he was 27," the chief said.
The report also alleges that former Stoughton police officers William Farwell – Matthew's twin brother – and Robert C. Devine also had inappropriate relationships with Birchmore.
Although not detailed in the report, McNamara said a fourth man, who is now an officer with a Massachusetts agency she declined to name, also took advantage of Birchmore.
A fifth man, a military recruiter, had "inappropriate communications" with Birchmore, the chief said. McNamara said she has been in contact with supervisors and commanding officers of those people.
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The internal affairs report says a past participant in the Stoughton Police Explorers Program saw "inappropriate behavior" by Devine and the Farwell twins. The witness reported "hugging, kissing and inappropriate contact in a closet" and statements to the effect of "come back and see me when you turn 18."
According to the report, Matthew and William Farwell both were members of the Explorers program during their teenage years and later acted as instructors at Devine's request.
Devine was in charge of the Explorers program from 2002-2014.
Sandra Birchmore was a member beginning in 2010 when she was 13 and remained in the program until 2016, when she graduated from Stoughton High School.
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McNamara said she ordered the internal affairs investigation. She said she found the results "deeply troubling to me as a human being and a police chief."
"Ms. Birchmore was a vulnerable person who had one constant in her life: An unwavering admiration for police officers, of those serving in the military. People in uniform," McNamara said.
"People with oaths and duties to protect and serve. The admiration led her to form relationships with men who were willing to take advantage of her."
William Farwell had "multiple inappropriate physical encounters" with Birchmore and exchanged explicit messages and photos with her while he was on duty, the chief said. McNamara said the evidence also shows that William Farwell tried to introduce Birchmore to other men.
Matthew Farwell told investigators that he went to Birchmore's apartment on Feb. 1, 2021, to end their relationship and had a "pretty nasty argument" with her. She was found dead three days later.
McNamara said she is seeking to have all three former officers barred from working as police officers in Massachusetts or elsewhere.
Devine once served as deputy chief of Stoughton police, but was demoted to patrol officer for abusing his power, she said.
Devine was demoted and received a 60-day unpaid suspension in 2016 after a past internal affairs investigation found that he improperly ordered an investigation into a possible violation of harassment orders, using department resources and technology.
The orders were taken out by him and his then-wife against an Easton woman with whom Devine was having an extramarital affair.
"My commitment to the Stoughton community is unwavering," McNamara said Friday.
"I will not betray their trust and I will always strive to bring the Stoughton Police Department to the highest level of service because, simply stated, it is what this community deserves."
McNamara said she has turned the report over to the Norfolk County district attorney's office, which would be the agency to bring any criminal charges against the former officers.
'A vibrant person'
Michael Varner, co-owner of Maxx Training Center across the street from the police station, started teaching Birchmore when she was 11. Over the years, she took Brazilian jiu-jitsu and cardio kickboxing at the gym. He called the men who allegedly took advantage of her "dirtbags."
"They took advantage of her insecurities and vulnerabilities," said Varner.
Varner pulled up his phone and showed text messages between him and Birchmore going back years.
"Sandra was a beautiful individual. She admired authority and authority took advantage of her," Varner said. "She was a vibrant person who was lost."
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This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Stoughton: Report finds 3 cops had inappropriate relations with teen