Confusion, Frustration Over Status Of Berkshire County 'Billboard' Case

May 7, 2019

The Berkshire District Attorney's office said in March that it was investigating a decades-old child sexual assault case. But the office now says it misspoke.

A man who grew up in Berkshire County said he was sexually abused four decades ago as a child in a Sheffield, Massachusetts, elementary school. In 2016, he filed a complaint with the police, but no charges were filed.

So this January, his mother — Sharron Morgan — paid for two billboards asking that other victims contact her.

A billboard placed in January 2019 on Route 7 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Credit Heather Bellow / The Berkshire Eagle / berkshireeagle.com

"I did it because I felt that we needed attention," Morgan said at the time. "I felt we needed corroboration, and I didn't know how else to get it except to advertise it."

In late March, the DA's office told NEPR it was investigating the case, and at least two other sexual abuse complaints filed with the police after the billboard went up.

A spokesman now says that statement was incorrect.

In a recent interview, Berkshire DA Andrea Harrington said the investigation is not being conducted by her office. She said the DA's child abuse unit investigates abuse occurring now "where there are children who are at risk, and we need to protect."

"This particular case, it's important, but it's things that happened in the past," Harrington said. "So the investigation is conducted by the local law enforcement."

In this case, local law enforcement is the Sheffield Police Department.

Police Chief Eric Munson III said the case is still open, but it's stalled.

"Our hopes are that someone will come forward at some point with further information, related to the original billboard case, so that we can keep looking into it — and possibly, you know, bring somebody to justice for it," Munson said.   

Munson said his department did preliminary work to investigate one of the alleged perpetrators, who is living out of state. But the police did not find any other complaints to corroborate the first one, so he said police could not take further action.

Eric Munson III is the chief of police in Sheffield, Massachusetts.
Credit Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

After the interview with the chief last week, NEPR followed up with Morgan, the mother who paid for the billboards. The back-and-forth, with now conflicting statements from the DA's office, is hard for her.

"I am back at hopeless," Morgan said. "Nothing will be done."

But she is not surprised.

"Because I felt from the very beginning that they were reluctant to do anything. So, you know — what's changed? Nothing," she said.

Morgan said she has also heard nothing since early April, after she contacted Harrington with new information. She said she sent the DA copies of emails from a man who wrote he was attacked by one of the same perpetrators who allegedly attacked her son.

NEPR followed up with the DA's office, and asked if they received the information, and what they did with it.

"The matter is under investigation by police, and the District Attorney has no comment at this time," replied Dennis Yusko, a Harrington spokesman.

The Sheffield police have not answered requests for comment.