5 more come forward claiming sexual abuse from former Adams Memorial Junior High custodian
ADAMS — At least five more men have come forward and claimed they were victims of sexual assault at the hands of a school custodian in the 1970s.
The claims began hours after The Eagle published the result of a monthslong investigation Saturday into information from two men, both 53, who said they were molested multiple times on the grounds of the former Adams Memorial Junior High School in 1976 by Clement St. Hilaire, a longtime employee of the school.
St. Hilaire, 94, of Adams, acknowledged in January that he had molested the men who had first approached The Eagle, but he insisted they were the only two victims. They were around 12 at the time, and St. Hilaire was about 53.
Attempts to reach St. Hilaire at his home Monday were unsuccessful.
The additional claims made to The Eagle have yet to be independently verified, but all corroborate the information provided last year by William Howcroft and "Frank," who agreed to speak on the condition his real name not be used.
St. Hilaire said it was a report from a student about the assaults that led to his being fired from the school department and it must have been either Howcroft or Frank who reported the assaults. But that was disputed by both men, who insisted they told no one of the assaults until well into adulthood.
St. Hilaire retired on Oct. 31, 1976, after submitting a letter of resignation the week before. Records provided to The Eagle show St. Hilaire was employed by the school since at least 1964, though he may have worked there longer.
Former Adams Memorial student Michael Donovan, now 53 and living on the west coast, contacted The Eagle by phone Saturday evening and said he was the one who reported St. Hilaire's advances to his family in October 1976. His family then reported St. Hilaire's behavior to the school administration.
It is not yet clear if there is a record of such a report being made at that time. Attempts to reach interim Adams-Cheshire Superintendent Robert Putnam for comment Monday were unsuccessful.
Donovan described himself at the time of the assault as a small 12-year-old, less than 90 pounds and about 4 feet, 7 inches tall.
He said he had taken on several odd jobs as a youth to make money including yard work and newspaper delivery, and began working as a custodial assistant for St. Hilaire in 1976 doing light cleanup around the building after school and on weekends.
Donovan said he usually worked alongside another student and St. Hilaire would show them pornography.
One Saturday, Donovan's work partner wasn't available, so he worked alone with St. Hilaire, who told him to clean the girl's shower.
Once inside, Donovan said St. Hilaire shut off the lights and locked the door.
"I just froze," Donovan said. "I really didn't know what to do."
Donovan said St. Hilaire had his own pants unzipped and tried to put his hands on Donovan's genitals and tried to move Donovan's hand to his own.
"It was definitely a sexual assault," he said.
Donovan said St. Hilaire picked up on his discomfort and stopped the assault, but suggested other places in the building in which the two could meet.
"There's lots of fun things we can do," Donovan said he was told by St. Hilaire.
He said he felt tricked into being alone with St. Hilaire and he literally ran home from the school after the incident.
One alleged victim, who asked that his name not be used, said in an email he was molested by St. Hilaire "dozens" of times.
"I never forgot what he did and I never will," he wrote.
Another man who asked for anonymity said via telephone Monday he was also assaulted by St. Hilaire and the trauma it caused contributed to problems later in life, including dropping out of school at 15, abusing drugs and alcohol, and brushes with the law.
He said there may be many more victims who have yet to come forward.
"He affected God knows how many lives," he said.
Another victim who requested anonymity also said he was molested dozens of times by St. Hilaire and never spoke about it to anyone, due in part, to St. Hilaire's status at the time of being a well-respected employee at the school with a long tenure of service.
"I never forgot and I never forgave," he wrote in an email.
The claims of abuse from Howcroft and Frank were brought to the attention of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee in 2016.
The committee brought in former attorney Michael K. Callan, now a Hampden Superior Court judge, to investigate the charges.
Through a spokesperson for the state's Trial Court, Callan declined to comment on the investigation.
That investigation concluded there was an "absence of proof" to support the claims, and the School Committee took no action.
That investigation, however, did not include interviews with the two men. The investigation also registered that St. Hilaire denied the accusations, and it relied in part on "district records" to reach its conclusion.
Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.
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