Last year, a Massachusetts suburb was shocked by the death of Sandra Birchmore, a 23-year-old Stoughton native who was pregnant when she died by suicide—even moreso when rumors about her relationship to three police officers who resigned from the department one year later began to circulate. Now, a 60-page report from the police department’s internal affairs division has confirmed that the officers had “inappropriate relationships” with Birchmore for years prior to her death, and one of them might have been the father of her child.
“These men violated their oath and they’re unfit to serve as police officers,” Police Chief Donna McNamara told reporters in a press conference that announced the findings. “I stand before you today as a civil servant who is heartbroken and incensed by what has transpired, and who pledges that this chapter in the Stoughton Police Department and the town of Stoughton is over.”
Matthew Farwell; his twin brother, William Farwell; and their supervisor, Robert Devine (all of whom McNamara is currently seeking to decertify) engaged in “unbecoming” misconduct with Birchmore, a vulnerable young woman who loved ones said had idolized local law enforcement since childhood. McNamara added that two other men—another officer and a military recruiter, both of whom were unnamed—also engaged in “inappropriate relations” with Birchmore and that Devine also allegedly had “inappropriate contact” with a female student in a different youth program that he managed.
McNamara revealed to reporters that hundreds of digital messages—including explicit exchanges—between Matthew Farwell and Birchmore were discovered during an internal investigation and dated back years. According to people close to Birchmore who spoke with the Boston Globe, she’d told them that Farwell was the father of her child. Though her death certificate confirms she was pregnant, it does not specify who the father was.
“She has always wanted to be a mother,” recalled a family member. “She was having this child. Why would she kill herself?”
But those who knew her best said that even as a child, she also wanted to work in law enforcement, so much so that it was at a Stoughton Police Department youth program that Birchmore—who never knew her father and lost her mother, grandmother and aunt during a three year time period—first met the then-27-year-old Farwell and began a relationship with him. She was 13. Farwell’s friends told the Globe that he began having sex with the girl when she was 15—statutory rape under Massachusetts law.
Just two days after Birchmore was found dead, Farwell confirmed he had had sex with Birchmore in 2020, but told investigators that the sexual relationship ended in October. The internal affairs report established that Farwell was one of the last known people to see Birchmore alive. In an interview with investigators, he mentioned visiting Birchmore’s apartment just prior to her death, but that his intent was to end their relationship and all communication. He recalled that Birchmore told him that the baby was due in September 2021, and timing-wise, he could not have been the father.
Meanwhile, his brother, and Devine—who has recently retired—were also implicated in impropriety involving Birchmore. Devine has insisted that he had no contact or “personal relationship” with the woman, but investigators found that he messaged her on Facebook and violated code to meet her at a restaurant while he was on duty in December 2020. It’s worth noting that, in 2016, Devine had been demoted after an internal investigation found he directed a subordinate to investigate a woman who was harassing him and attempted to lie about it to investigators. According to a report on that investigation, the woman and Devine had an extramarital affair some time earlier.
Farwell’s brother, William—who also engaged in “communications” with Birchmore—was found to have showed incompetence and failed in his “attention and devotion to duty.” He also ran his and Birchmore’s names through law enforcement databases and violated policy by coercing the woman via text message. It’s not yet known how as those details were redacted from the report. He has not publicly commented on the matter.
“Miss Birchmore was a vulnerable person, who had one constant in her life since childhood: Her unwavering admiration of police officers, of those serving in the military — people in uniform people with oaths and duties to protect and serve. The admiration led her to form relationships with men who are willing to take advantage of her,” McNamara said.
Birchmore’s death is still being investigated by the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office.