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Pregnant Massachusetts Woman's Death Was Not Suicide, Claims Pathologist Hired by Family

Dr. Michael Baden cited the injuries and the placement of a ligature found on Sandra Birchmore's body as the reason behind his findings.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/NBC10 Boston
Cover Image Source: YouTube/NBC10 Boston

The determination a woman's death was the result of suicide and not homicide has been thrown into question by a medical examiner hired by her family, according to media reports.

Sandra Birchmore from Massachusetts was found dead at age 23 in her Canton apartment in February 2021, The New York Post reported. She was reportedly pregnant at the time of her death.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Keenan Constance
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Keenan Constance

The family of the victim hired a prominent medical examiner to conduct their findings, The Boston Globe reported.

In a letter dated June 18 to a lawyer for the family's estate, Dr. Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner in New York City, wrote that the injuries on Birchmore's body are more indicative of homicide rather than suicide.

Baden cited the injuries and the placement of a ligature found on her body as the reasons behind his findings, The Boston Globe reported.

In his letter, Baden explained that the victim fractured her right hyoid bone, a small, U-shaped bone in her neck. He cited a textbook by forensic pathologists Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Dr. Dominick J. DiMaio to prove that such injuries "occur rarely, if at all, in suicidal hanging, and does occur in half of the homicidal strangulations of women."

Autopsy photos reveal that a ligature was entangled in Birchmore’s hair, which generally occurs when there is resistance during strangulation, according to Baden, The Boston Globe reported. 


Baden's conclusions are in contrast with the ruling given by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in May 2021, The Boston Globe reported. According to the victim's death certificate, her death occurred by hanging.

"I must disagree," Baden wrote in the letter. "Ms. Birchmore did not die of suicidal hanging… The cause of Ms. Birchmore’s death is 'Strangulation' and the manner of death is 'Homicide."

From 2010 to 2016, Birchmore was involved with the Stoughton’s Explorers program, People reported. This program allows youth to learn more about law enforcement careers by interacting with local departments.

Before Birchmore's death, she had allegedly told her friends that Matthew Farwell was the father of her baby, The New York Post reported. Matthew Farwell was a Stoughton police officer who had reportedly been in contact with Birchmore since she was 13, due to the program.


Birchmore's death prompted the Stoughton Police Department to launch an internal investigation during which it was determined Matthew Farwell allegedly had been sexually abusing Birchmore since she was 15, the New York Post reported, citing law enforcment officials.

Matthew Farwell's brother William Farwell, and Robert Devine were also found out to be alleged culprits in sexually abusing Birchmore for almost a decade, the internal investigation alleged.

The investigation also claimed that Matthew Farwell was “the last known person” to see Birchmore alive, People reported. He allegedly was seen on surveillance footage four days before the death, at Birchmore's apartment.

The three cops have adamantly denied the allegation, the New York Post reported. All three resigned from the department in 2022 and no criminal charges were pressed against them.

Birchmore's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers in late 2022.


In the lawsuit, the family alleged that the “near decade-long scheme of grooming and repeated assaults” is what led to Birchmore's death, the NY Post reported. The family hired Baden to check the autopsy report as part of the suit.

Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamara shared that she was troubled by these new claims, the New York Post reported.

“While I am not a trained medical examiner, and I am not qualified to draw any direct conclusions, the findings certainly warrant further examination at the highest level," McNamara said, adding, "As always, we will continue to assist with any effort to ensure that truth and justice prevail."

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