3 Stoughton officers had inappropriate relationship with girl who later killed herself, chief says


Three Stoughton police officers who have since resigned from their roles with the department had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl who died by suicide years later, the city’s top cop said Friday.

Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamarra on Friday announced the “deeply disturbing” results of an 18-month internal affairs investigation and condemned the “gross misconduct” of former officers Matthew Farwell, his twin brother William Farwell and Robert Devine.

McNamarra said all the officers formed relationships with Sandra Birchmore, a 13-year-old enrolled in the Stoughton Police Explorers program in 2010, and exploited them.

Birchmore, 23, was found dead in her apartment in Canton on February 4, 2021, and she was abandoned, abused and manipulated by officers, according to McNamarra.

“Ms. Birchmore was a vulnerable person who had a constant in her life from childhood with an unwavering appreciation for police officers…People with oaths and duties to protect and serve,” McNamarra said. “The admiration l led her to form relationships with men who were willing to take advantage of her.”

Until his death, Birchmore had spoken of his relationship with Matthew Farwell. The day after Birchmore’s death, McNamarra ordered Deputy Chief Brian Holmes to conduct an investigation to determine if any misconduct had been committed by members of his department.

“Subsequent investigations into his life and death revealed deeply disturbing behavior towards him,” McNamarra said.

The Farwell brothers, along with Devine, violated numerous department policies, including lying and lacking care and devotion to duty, according to McNamarra.

Robert Devine (left), William Farwell (right) — Stoughton Police Department

Robert Devine (left), William Farwell (right) — Stoughton Police Department

Evidence uncovered during the investigation showed Matthew Farwell, who was 27 at the time, met Birchmore while on the Explorers Program and began a relationship with her that included a slew of digital messages and explicit exchanges over several years, McNamarra said.

William Farwell is also accused of exchanging explicit messages and photographs with Birchmore while on duty, in addition to having a number of unseemly physical encounters with her.

McNamarra said William Farwell also tried to introduce Birchmore to other men on several occasions, including former deputy chief Devine who was demoted to patrol officer for abuse of power and an “individual who is a police officer in another jurisdiction”.

Devine also worked as a retail agent at an afterschool program years earlier and had inappropriate contact with another student, according to McNamarra. He then began supervising the Explorers program, which taught aspects of policing to young participants.

The Farwell brothers were both young participants in the program under Devine before becoming instructors years later, putting them on a course to meet Birchmore, McNamarra said. This program has since been disbanded.

Investigators ultimately determined that Matthew Farwell ended his relationship with Birchmore on February 1, 2021, after a “nasty, nasty argument.” She was found dead a few days later.

“The three men, brothers Farwell and Devine, violated their oath of office and should never have the privilege of serving a community as a police officer,” McNamarra said. “Through a sustained and deliberate combination of lies, deception and betrayal, they violated the policies of the Stoughton Police Department.”

The Farwell brothers and Devine have since resigned and the Abington Police Chief confirms that his department is investigating one of his officers involved in the misconduct with Birchmore after obtaining information from Stoughton.

McNamarra added that she plans to ask the state’s new Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to decertify the Farwell and Devine brothers. She also noted that she was “heartbroken” and “exasperated” by what had happened.

The Norfolk District Attorney’s Office was notified of the findings, which were detailed in a 60-page report.

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said: “State Police detectives and the medical examiner have found no evidence of foul play in the death of Ms. Birchmore… The investigation to date has not has not developed a statutory rape case that can be prosecuted against an individual.”

All three officers have left the department, and Chief Stoughton is following the process to revoke their police certification. We went to all the officers’ houses and no one wanted to comment on the internal affairs report. Boston 25 visited all the officers’ homes and no one would comment on the internal affairs report.

Internal affairs investigation findings regarding three former Stoughton Police Department officers by Fox Boston staff on Scribd

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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