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Kevin O'Loughlin

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At about 8 p.m. on April 19, 1982, a man abducted an 11-year-old girl who was playing hide-and-seek with her two brothers in Framingham, Massachusetts. The attacker dragged the girl into the woods, forced her to disrobe at knifepoint, and stuffed one of her socks in her mouth. He then sexually assaulted her. The attacker tied her hands behind her back with her other sock and fled after telling her to count to 100 before moving or he would kill her.

The girl ran home and was taken to a hospital by her parents. A rape kit was taken and an examination showed she had been anally raped and forced to perform oral sex. The victim then accompanied police back to where she was first abducted and her clothes were recovered. She showed officers two other locations where she had been assaulted—the attacker had moved her after hearing the girl’s family members calling for her. Police photographed and took impressions of two sets of footprints—one set from the victim and another from work boots with Vibram soles that appeared to have been made by her attacker.

After 10 p.m., the victim agreed to go to the police station to view photograph books. She said her attacker was a white male in his teens, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with dark hair parted in the middle that covered his ears, and a mustache. She said he was wearing a light brown or tan coat with sheepskin on it, a dark brown shirt, brown or tan corduroy pants and work boots.

At about the same time, another police officer who had been at the scene of the investigation was driving back to the station when he saw 19-year-old Kevin O’Loughlin walking along the side of the road about a mile from where the girl was abducted. O’Loughlin had long dark hair parted in the middle, a wispy mustache, and was 5 feet, 11 inches tall. He was wearing a light brown corduroy coat (with no sheepskin), a gray sweatshirt, dark brown corduroy pants and work boots with Vibram soles. The officer stopped O’Loughlin, who was carrying a marijuana cigarette and a small folding knife with brown plastic on one side and the plastic missing on the other side. The officer radioed the police who were driving the girl to the station and they took her to where O’Loughlin was being held at the side of the road.

The victim was sitting in the front seat of the police car when it stopped, and the headlights illuminated O’Loughlin. Police said the victim said she thought it was the attacker, but she wanted to hear his voice. The squad car drove across the street and the girl listened to O’Loughlin speaking to the officer who had stopped him. Police reported that the victim “emphatically” identified O’Loughlin as her attacker. O’Loughlin was arrested and his clothes were confiscated.

O’Loughlin denied involvement. He told police he was home at the time of the attack and had walked to a store to buy a can of soda. Police drove to O’Loughlin’s home where his sister confirmed he had been home at the time of the attack. Officers took the victim to her home and she never viewed photographs at the station.

O’Loughlin was charged with rape, kidnapping, assault, possession of marijuana, sodomy, and assault with intent to commit murder.

Although the police reported that the victim had identified O’Loughlin, the victim testified at a pre-trial hearing that she did not visually identify him. She said she didn’t say he was her attacker until she heard his voice. She testified at that hearing that the jacket O’Loughlin was wearing was not the same as the jacket worn by her attacker. The victim also said that the knife held by her attacker was red, not brown, which was the color of O’Loughlin’s knife.

O’Loughlin went to trial in February 1983 in Middlesex County Superior Court. The victim again testified that she only recognized O’Loughlin by his voice, not his appearance. She also testified that O’Loughlin’s jacket was different and maintained that the attacker’s knife was red.

The jury was shown photographs and impressions of the boot prints. An officer testified that impressions made from O’Loughlin’s boots were consistent with the boot prints found in the woods at the scene of the attack. A Massachusetts State Police crime laboratory analyst testified that tests on the rape kit revealed the presence of seminal fluid, but that no further tests were performed.

An analysis of O’Loughlin’s clothing revealed red smears on his sweatshirt that tested positive for the presence of blood, but further testing to determine blood type was inconclusive. The victim had scratches on her buttocks that the prosecution contended were the source of the blood.

O’Loughlin, who lived two miles from the attack, testified that he was home that night and left about 10:30 p.m. to walk to the convenience store to buy a can of soda. His mother and sister also testified that he was home at the time of the attack. Two other witnesses said that O’Loughlin called them at their home from his home between 8 and 8:15 p.m. A third witness testified that O’Loughlin called her home looking for her son at about 7:45 p.m.

On March 1, 1983, the jury convicted O’Loughlin of rape, kidnapping, assault and possession of marijuana, and acquitted him of assault with intent to commit murder and sodomy.

A week later, O’Loughlin’s attorney filed a motion requesting that further forensic tests be conducted on the rape kit to determine the blood type of the seminal fluid. Although the judge’s clerk sent a letter to the prosecution and to O’Loughlin’s attorney asking them to present an agreed order for the testing, no such order was presented and the testing was never done. On March 15, 1983, during the sentencing hearing, O’Loughlin’s attorney said he was “absolutely convinced that a miscarriage of justice has occurred here due to an honest misidentification.” O’Loughlin was sentenced to four to six years in prison.

In 1984, the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld O’Loughlin’s convictions. On December 8, 1986, O’Loughlin was released on parole after a prison term during which he was violently assaulted several times, including one incident in which he was pushed down a flight of stairs. Targeted as a child molester, at one point O’Loughlin was moved to a different prison because he was such a frequent target of violence.

In 2012, Framingham police lieutenant Kevin Slattery contacted the Middlesex District Attorney’s office to report that he had conducted a re-investigation of the case. Slattery had lived in Framingham his entire life and had been a police officer for more than 30 years. He told the prosecution that he was aware of the case and knew O’Loughlin, and that he believed there were “unresolved issues.”

Slattery’s investigation revealed that numerous sexual assaults and other incidents of a sexual nature (window-peeping, for example) had occurred around the same time and in the same geographic area as the attack for which O’Loughlin was convicted.

Slattery discovered that two years before the attack, a 17-year-old had been arrested for exposing himself to a five-year-old girl and a woman, and that he had a knife when he was arrested. Moreover, the youth pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and stuffing a sock in her mouth in 1984—two years after the attack for which O’Loughlin was convicted— and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.

The man was released from prison, but was arrested in 2011 for having nude photographs of young children on his computer. He pled guilty and was sentenced to probation. In 2013, Slattery interviewed the man, who said he was “99 percent” sure he had committed the attack for which O’Loughlin was convicted, although he could not specifically remember it because he was drinking heavily in those years and suffered blackouts. Because the statute of limitations had expired, the man could not be charged with the crime.

The prosecution re-investigated the case as well. All of the physical evidence had been destroyed years earlier pursuant to the practice at the time. In July 2014, the prosecution presented its findings to the Conviction Integrity Committee, a group of experienced prosecutors in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office. The committee had been formed to review and analyze claims of wrongful convictions.

O’Loughlin, who had moved out of state years earlier, appeared before the committee and answered their questions. In September 2014, the committee recommended that the prosecution consent to a new trial.

In November 2014, O’Loughlin moved to vacate his convictions. On December 30, 2014, the prosecution filed a response that noted the other suspect’s “egregious sexual misconduct from 1984 to the present as well as his statements to Slattery in 2013.”

“Since it appears that justice may not have been done in this case, the Commonwealth assents to the allowance of O’Loughlin’s motion for a new trial,” the prosecution said.

The motion was granted and on March 6, 2015, the charges were dismissed. O’Loughlin subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking compensation. The Framington police department agreed to pay O'Loughlin $900,000 O'Loughlin also filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state of Massachusetts and in May 2018, a jury awarded him $5 million. However, under state law, the award was capped at $1 million.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/29/2016
Last Updated: 11/13/2023
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Assault, Kidnapping, Drug Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:1982
Sentence:4 to 6 years
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No