2 1/2 years for Adams woman who failed to act on girl's abuse reports


PITTSFIELD — Heather Shurtleff's failure to notify authorities about abuse allegations from a young girl was "a matter of choice," Judge John Agostini said on Monday.

That choice will cost Shurtleff up to 2 1/2 years in jail.

Shurtleff, 39, of Adams, was sentenced in Berkshire Superior Court following her conviction last week on a charge of reckless endangerment of a child. Her sentence was the maximum allowed for the charge.

Her attorney, Thomas Donohue, asked Agostini to consider a term of probation rather than a jail sentence, noting her lack of criminal record and evidence at trial that he suggested showed she had no knowledge the abuse of a girl, now 18, was ongoing.

Donohue said the victim recanted a report of abuse she made to Shurtleff in March 2013. He said a second report made to Shurtleff in November 2013 was acted upon, however.

But Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Rachael Eramo, who prosecuted the case, said Shurtleff only contacted the police after she learned the victim had already contacted authorities on her own to report the ongoing sexual abuse.

Shurtleff was not accused nor charged with abusing the girl herself; only for failing to report that abuse after being made aware of it.

Eramo read a statement from the victim who told Shurtleff she wanted her to, "understand her pain."

In the letter, the victim took Shurtleff to task for ignoring her reports of abuse, which she said were taken as a joke instead of given due attention.

Ignoring those allegations made the victim feel, "worthless," part of her statement read.

Eramo said Shurtleff failed to take basic steps to ensure the child's safety, including preventing her and her abuser from being alone together on numerus occasions.

The abuses occurred between Feb. 6, 2011, and Nov. 16, 2013, according to the Berkshire DA's office.

The girl's abuser was tried and convicted last year on rape and assault charges and was sentenced to up to 12 years in state prison.

Shurtleff will serve her sentence at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee. She was given credit for six days already served while awaiting sentencing.

Jurors acquitted Shurtleff on a charge of intimidation of a witness in the case.

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's Office.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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