City of Burlington, Vermont

City of Burlington, Vermont

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Mayor Miro Weinberger and Attorney General TJ Donovan Announce Formation of a City and State Task Force to Investigate St. Joseph’s Orphanage Allegations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

September 10, 2018

Contact: Jordan Redell

                802.881.7020

 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger, Attorney General TJ Donovan, Vermont State Police Colonel Matthew Birmingham, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo, and representatives from the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office held a press conference at the Burlington Police Department to announce the formation of a City and State Task Force to investigate allegations of violent crimes at the St. Joseph’s Orphanage.

 

Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement at the press conference:

 

“We are gathered here this morning at the Burlington Police Department, located at the southern end of North Avenue.  We stand less than three quarters of a mile south of the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage.  Two weeks ago Buzzfeed News published a lengthy and detailed story alleging decades of terrible abuse and violent crimes at that institution.  We are here to announce this morning the launching of a joint City and State investigation of these allegations.

 

“I am so deeply saddened to hear that these crimes and abuse took place in Burlington. These children were some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and our community failed to protect them.

 

“Some may ask what good can come from the investigation of an institution nearly four decades after it closed.  There is no doubt that this investigation comes far too late to help all of the victims of the alleged crimes.  However, nonetheless, there are at least three reasons to proceed.

 

  1. “There may still be an opportunity to secure justice for some orphanage victims.  The recent allegations include reports of at least three child killings.  Murder is a crime with no statute of limitations, and the long-standing policy of Burlington and State police is to keep murder cases open until they are solved.  If it is possible to make murder charges at this point we will, whether the perpetrators are living or dead.

 

  1. “The stories of the victims must be heard and told.  I believe these reports of abuse, and twice our community failed the children of St. Joseph.  First, we failed them by allowing these terrible, intolerable conditions to persist in this community for decades.  Then, in the 1990s when dozens former orphanage residents came forward to report what had occurred, the justice system did not provide justice and closure for these survivors. 

 

“This morning we are asking the survivors, their families and friends to come forward again to share your stories.  By the end of the week the task force will set up a system for survivors to contact us and share what they know, so we may have a full and in-depth accounting of what occurred at St. Joseph’s.  We pledge to do thorough investigation and a public accounting of what occurred.

 

  1. “We must fully understand what happened at St. Joseph’s and why to ensure that it never happens again.  It is shocking to be confronted with reports that horrific, systematic abuse took place within the tightknit, compassionate community for decades.  How do we as a community ensure that we mistakes like this are not made again?  How do we ensure that our institutions responsible for caring for the most vulnerable succeed at their critical missions.  These are questions that this investigation must seek to answer.

 

“I welcome Bishop Coyne’s statement yesterday that the Catholic Church will cooperate fully in this investigation. This commitment stands in stark contrast to the Church’s prior posture towards the St. Joseph’s Orphanage in prior decades, and even from decisions made by church authorities in other states during recent investigations.  We have contacted Bishop Coyne’s offices this morning and intend to sit down and begin discussing this collaboration as soon as possible.

 

“I also want to thank our partners the State Police, the State’s Attorney, and the Attorney General for moving so quickly to stand together this morning.  Together we have the capacity to bring an overdue reckoning for the survivors of St. Joseph’s. Thank you.”

 

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Press Release Date: 
09/10/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office