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Three police officers ‘groomed and sexually abused’ teen girl for 10 years until her suicide

Sandra Birchmore, 23, became acquainted with the police officers when she was 13 and was attending a department-run after-school program

Johanna Chisholm
Monday 26 September 2022 16:31 BST
Three police officers in Massachusetts were reportedly engaged in an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Sandra Birchmore, 23, who died by suicide last year
Three police officers in Massachusetts were reportedly engaged in an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Sandra Birchmore, 23, who died by suicide last year (WCVB/video screengrab)

Three Massachusetts police officers have been found to have held “inappropriate relationships” with a woman that began when she was just 13 years old and lasted until she died by suicide last year at the age of 23.

Sandra Birchmore took her own life while pregnant with her first child, who she’d told friends was the result of a relationship she’d had with Stoughton police officer Matthew G Farwell, 36, according to a 60-page document obtained by The Boston Globe.

Birchmore had reportedly met the officer in 2010 when she was enrolled in a department-run youth program, where participants are taught aspects of policing.

Findings from the “deeply troubling” year-long internal probe were shared at a press conference on Friday, where Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamarra detailed how Farwell and his twin brother, William Farwell, and their former supervisor, Officer Robert C Devine, had all violated rules and regulations in the department by their conduct with Birchmore.

“Ms Birchmore was a vulnerable person who had one constant in her life since childhood, with an unwavering appreciation of police officers — people with oaths and duties to protect and serve,” Ms McNamarra said, noting that all three officers had resigned before the investigation had wrapped.

Three police officers in Massachusetts were reportedly engaged in an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Sandra Birchmore, 23, who died by suicide last year (WCVB/video screengrab)

“The admiration led her to form relationships with men who were willing to take advantage of her,” she added. The investigation, which was led by Deputy Chief Brian Holmes, was opened up one day after the death of Birchmore.

“The subsequent inquiries into her life and death revealed a deeply disturbing pattern of behaviour toward her,” Ms McNamarra said.

According to Boston 25 News, Ms McNamarra said during the press conference that Birchmore and Matthew Farwell began having sex when she was 15 years old and the officer was 27, a relationship that would be considered statutory rape under Massachusetts law.

The police officer’s twin brother, William Farwell, was also accused of having a number of inappropriate physical encounters with Birchmore and similarly exchanging explicit text messages and photographs with her while on duty.

“The evidence suggests that William Farwell also, at the very least, attempted to introduce Miss Birchmore to other men,” Ms McNamarra added.

The former supervisor of the twin brothers, Devine, was also accused of carrying out an inappropriate relationship with Birchmore and another student who attended an after-school program run through the department.

“All three men, the Farwell brothers, and Devine, violated their oaths of office and should never have the privilege of serving any community as a police officer,” Ms McNamarra said. “Through a sustained and deliberate combination of lies, deceit, and treachery, they violated the policies of the Stoughton Police Department.”

The investigation concluded that Birchmore died by suicide on 1 February 2021 after what they described as a “nasty, nasty argument” with Matthew Farwell when he ended the relationship with the young woman.

Ms McNamarra, who said she was left “heartbroken” by the results of the investigation, added that she plans to as the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to decertify the offending officers, all of whom have since resigned.

The Independent reached out to the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office for comment on the report but did not hear back immediately.

When reached for comment by Boston 25, the DA’s office said in a prepared statement that: “State Police detectives and the medical examiner found no evidence of foul play in the death of Ms. Birchmore,” and added that, “the investigation to date has not developed a prosecutable statutory rape case against any individual.”

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