Death of Woman Who Accused Cop of Sex Abuse Was Ruled Suicide. But Prominent Pathologist Doesn't Think So

Sandra Birchmore was pregnant at the time of her death in 2021

<p>Facebook</p> Sandra Birchmore


Sandra Birchmore

A well-known former medical examiner concluded in a report that the 2021 death of a pregnant Massachusetts woman, who authorities have said was sexually abused by a former police officer, was a homicide — not suicide, which had officially been ruled as her manner of death.

Sandra Birchmore died in February 2021 when she was 23 years old. PEOPLE previously reported that a lengthy internal investigation conducted by the Stoughton Police Department alleged that three former officers in the department had allegedly engaged in inappropriate relationships with Birchmore, with one allegedly sexually abusing her beginning when she was 15 years old.

The Boston Globe reported that Birchmore’s family hired Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City, who wrote a letter dated June 18 to the family’s attorney that expressed disagreement with the official ruling that Birchmore's death was a suicide by hanging.

In his letter, reported by the Globe, Baden says Birchmore’s cause of death was strangulation and that her manner of death was homicide.

Related: 3 Mass. Police Officers Allegedly Had 'Inappropriate Relations' with Young Woman Who Died by Suicide

In the letter, Baden said Birchmore had a fractured bone in her neck, an injury he says is seen “rarely, if at all, in suicidal hanging and does occur in half of homicidal strangulations of women.”

Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamara released a statement in response to the Globe’s report and Baden’s letter.

“I was profoundly disturbed and troubled by what I read,” McNamara said, in part. “While I am not a trained medical examiner, and I am not qualified to draw any direct conclusions, the findings certainly warrant further examination at the highest level. As always, we will continue to assist with any effort to ensure that truth and justice prevail.”

McNamara noted that the Stoughton Police Department does not have jurisdiction in the investigation into Birchmore’s death, since she was found in Canton, Mass..

In a 2022 press conference regarding a report stemming from the internal investigation, McNamara previously alleged that former officer Matthew Farwell began an inappropriate sexual relationship with Birchmore beginning when he was 27 and she was 15. The report also alleged that Farwell’s twin brother and fellow officer William Farwell and Robert C. Devine, another former cop, similarly engaged in inappropriate relationships with Birchmore.

Birchmore had been a part of Stoughton’s Explorers program, which gives interested youths a chance to explore a law enforcement career and interact with officers, from 2010 to 2016.

The report further alleged that Matthew Farwell was the “the last known person” to have seen Birchmore alive, having been seen on surveillance video at her apartment for 20 minutes four days before she was found dead.

None of the three officers has been charged with a crime. All three resigned from the department in 2022, the Globe reported, and have denied allegations brought forth in a suit filed by Birchmore’s family.

“Every good and decent police officer should be aware of and angry about the injustices inflicted upon Sandra Birchmore,” McNamara said in her statement released on June 24. “Sandra idolized police officers and what policing stood for in America, and she was victimized as a result.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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