The year was 1989. A 19-year-old man with an intellectual disability was placed alone on a bus in Louisiana by his mother. The young man, described by professionals as eager to please, compliant, shy, and lacking self-esteem, was leaving a life comprising years of sexual and physical abuse and deprivation. His destination was Massachusetts. Unbeknownst to all, he was en route to a world all too familiar to himyears of torture and torment at the hands of caregivers.
The young man arrived in Raynham, Massachusetts, and joined an older man with an intellectual disability and two self-designated "caregiver" brothers. Over the next 7½ years, the brothers physically and sexually abused both men and stole their social security checks. The legal status of the relationship between the younger victim and his abusers had been questioned, yet never resolved.
For several years, the brothers managed to evade legitimate inquiries by authorities. This was so even though the victims were observed in public with an offensive odor and wearing dirty clothes. According to witness reports, the older victim was attempting to retrieve food from a dumpster. He begged others, saying he was going to starve. Both victims tried to exchange personal items for food. The older victim's face was bruised and scraped and the younger victim's lip was cracked.
Numerous calls were placed to a hotline and to state and local law enforcement personnel about potential abuse, and school, banking, and community service officials observed indications of abuse and fraud. The abuse allegations, however, were never substantiated; this, although the older victim was hit in the face with a motor chain, blinding an eye and, when bruises became visible, was hit in the stomach instead. The older victim was also chained, screaming, to a hot radiator for more than a half hour, scarring his back, and his head was held submerged under water in a bathtub. Later, it was learned that the younger victim was missing. It was 5 months before he was found. He had run away. His flight brought the case to the attention of law enforcement officers who then investigated and, subsequently, executed a search warrant at the house. The brothers were arrested, charged with numerous offenses, and, ultimately, convicted for their crimes.
The year was 1997. The immediate threats to the victims were over. Although their house of horrors was behind them, the review of how the system had failed them had only just begun. No one knew, then, that this case would become the impetus for significant systemic change in Massachusetts.