PLYMPTON– On Monday, March 21, a large group of residents attended the meeting of the Board of Selectmen to hear a report from Chairman Mark Russo regarding an alleged home invasion on Brook Street earlier in the month, nearly adjacent to the Brook Retreat, at 55 Brook Street, a sober living facility. A guest of the facility was alleged to have committed the crime.
The operators of the Brook Retreat, South Shore Transformations, Inc., a sober living and 12-step facility located in a residential neighborhood, refused to appear before the board publicly, nor did they respond to a request from the Express for comment, but they did sit down with board Chairman Russo to discuss the March 6 incident.
On that Sunday night, according to police and court records, an individual named Shane Patrick Sullivan, 25, of Boston, but staying at the Brook Retreat, allegedly terrorized a couple at around 11 p.m. in their home, attempting to break windows, damaging a storm door, and breaking a light fixture with an icepick and committing other property damage.
He had been staying at the Brook Retreat for only four or five days, said Russo.
When found by police, according to the Plympton Police incident narrative, Sullivan was barefoot in the street, making bizarre statements, including that he had killed a whole family, that he had killed Satan. He also spontaneously uttered, “I’m guilty.”
Sullivan was charged with felony vandalizing property as well as felony home invasion, and misdemeanor disturbing the peace and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
According to Russo, court records and a law-enforcement source, Sullivan is being held for psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, in order to determine “criminal responsibility” and “competency to stand trial”. A Plymouth District Court judge ordered this evaluation before he was arraigned.
Although he allegedly told paramedics, who reported back to police, that he had ingested illegal drugs this may not be the case as he was not making much sense according to the police report.
Sullivan has at least one open case in Massachusetts, in Chelsea District Court, on charges of shoplifting and possession of a Class E substance. The prosecutor in that case is asking a Plymouth judge to revoke his bail in the case, which originated in Revere, according to the Chelsea District Court Clerk’s office.
According to a law enforcement official Sullivan is “well-known to area law-enforcement.”
Russo reported that the operators of the Brook Retreat were deeply sorry for the incident, and were taking pro-active measures to prevent an incident like this from happening again. They released a statement directly responding to questions from a concerned resident, via Russo, which stated:
“What happened on Sunday night to the Limitone family by one of our guests is unacceptable. We are grateful that no one from the family was injured. We are a very strict structured program. We take the safety of our guest [sic] and neighbors seriously. We appreciate the action by police and emergency personnel who defused the situation quickly.”
The statement further went on to say that they have been following the agreement they made with the town (although there was no formal agreement) stating that they would not accept guests that have been “arrested for either arson or any sexual related offenses.”
At a forum in Sept. 2014, the Express reported that the three principals of the Brook Retreat mentioned violent offenses would also be part of the list of disqualifying arrests, but left this out of their statement.
Russo stated that CORI checks were not being performed, so it is not apparent exactly what type of background check is being done.
Russo described some of the other policies as reported to him, though it was not clear which one broke down earlier in March. The Brook Retreat claims that they will build a fence around the property with a gate, but this did little to assuage the concerns of residents.
Russo also noted that because the facility is technically a “school” under a 1950’s era state law known as the Dover Amendment, part of M.G.L. Chapter 40A(3), which allows schools, even those with non-traditional curriculums, to be operated relatively unfettered from local zoning restrictions. (Chapter 40A(3) has been a key issue in the on-going discussion over whether to allow a medical marijuana grow facility on Ring Road.)
The Brook Retreat has no license from any government authority, local or state, although the fire department checks the sprinklers annually.
Residents were uniformly angry, upset, fearful or expressing some mixture of the three. The lack of any oversight from any agency is a huge issue for residents.
Amy Cronin of County Road said she supported effort to help “these people”, but had grave concerns with the way the facility was managed.
She was thankful she didn’t live on Brook Street, but “am afraid for my neighbors that do,” and that she was personally “scared.” She mentioned property values potentially going down, noting that on a popular real estate website the incident is already noted.
Cronin would like to see a certified or licensed facility.
James Boucher of Mayflower Road was also vocal. He added that he thought something was going to happen when the project was proposed, that it was just a matter of time. “Someone could have been shot,” he said.
“I don’t want to wake up with…one of my neighbors stabbed with a knife or stuck with a needle,” he later added.
He later even stated that Plympton was being used as a “dumping ground”.
Although not all of the language was this vitriolic, several other residents brought up what they thought could be ways to close the facility, for example, an excess number of beds, excess occupancy, or an improper septic system but the facility has followed all the rules it is subject to, according to Russo.
Most were simply incredulous that a sober living facility could be operated with no oversight.
Selectperson Christine Joy expressed anger that residents were living in fear, and took the suggestion of an audience member that Town Counsel be asked for advice regarding any action the town could take against the Brook Retreat.
The Board unanimously agreed, although Russo noted that he was afraid that the answer would be unsatisfying to those gathered.
Selectperson Colleen Thompson expressed concern that background checks weren’t being performed.
Russo noted at the end that after having met with the operators, he very much supports their efforts. He even went so far to say as he would be happy to have the Brook Retreat next to his own home.
The audience was not convinced.
Sullivan is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. in Plymouth District Court on Monday, March 28, 2016.