With Plans To Leave Mashpee, The Weixlers Speak Publicly For The First Time
By: Elsa H. Partan
It took Susan M. Weixler several months to realize that she was not the one who committed a crime.
In March 2009, her son, Stephen J. Weixler, was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was on the team he coached at Mashpee High School. He went to prison for the crime nine months later.
“I thought, ‘It’s a reflection on us. We were bad parents,’ ” she said. “I prided myself in my children. We were devoted to our kids. I wondered what we could have done to prevent the situation.”
Ms. Weixler reflected on her life since the crime, her decision to stay in Mashpee, and this month, her family’s decision to put the house up for sale and move back to the South Shore, where she and her husband grew up. She sat between her son, Stephen, and her husband, Michael, in a recent interview on their screened porch.
Stephen Weixler first met the 14-year-old when she was a soccer player at Mashpee High School and he was a 22-year-old assistant coach for the junior varsity team and a paraprofessional at the middle school. In December 2009 he pleaded guilty in Barnstable Superior Court to one count of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older, in addition to a charge of disseminating harmful material to a minor and three counts of buying alcohol for minors.
The Enterprise does not identify the underage victims of crimes. Through an attorney, the victim’s family declined to comment on this story.
Once on a career path of working with special needs children and coaching sports, Stephen Weixler’s life goal now is to continue to work at a factory in Rockland and rebuild trust in the community, he said.
Mr. Weixler served five months at Barnstable County Correctional Facility and must wear a tracking bracelet on his ankle until May, when his probation is up. He must register as a sex offender any place he lives for the rest of his life.
The case deeply affected the town when it came to light three years ago. It returned to the public eye last month because the family of the victim is seeking monetary damages against the school district. A closed hearing before the state Bureau of Special Education Appeals was scheduled for mid-September.
When her son was charged with the crime, Susan Weixler was working as a secretary at the K.C. Coombs School, a job she still holds. It was mortifying to sit behind the name plate WEIXLER—the same name that parents were reading in the newspaper, she said. Before taking the job as a secretary five years ago, she had worked for 13 years as a paraprofessional in the Mashpee schools. She knew the parents of dozens of Mashpee children. For two months, she did no shopping in Mashpee, afraid of running into hostile parents. Perhaps they would tell her to get out of town, she thought.
It did not happen that way. Instead, she received letters of support from the parents of schoolchildren, and her co-workers and neighbors. They wanted to make sure she was coping with the emotional fallout of the crime. The letters fill a shoebox. She received no negative comments, letters, or phone calls, she said.
Ms. Weixler recounted an exchange she had with the victim’s mother. She had not asked Stephen the name of the victim and only learned it when she received the court papers.
“I felt like I had been punched in the stomach,” she said. “I knew the mother because her kids had gone through the schools.”
Ms. Weixler realized then that she had seen the victim’s mother in the community and greeted her normally, not knowing the connection between her son’s crime and the woman standing in front of her.
Later, the victim’s mother came into the school office, she said.
“The mother came into the office and she started to cry and I started to cry,” she said. “I took her by the hand, took her someplace private. We hugged each other and I said, ‘I didn’t know that it was your daughter when I saw you.’ I said, ‘Both our families are going through this.’ She agreed.”
For a few weeks, Ms. Weixler thought about moving her family out of Mashpee. But she had bills to pay, and her job was here, she explained. She also decided she would be driving herself out, since no one else was asking her to leave.
“This is our home, this is where we raised our family, and it is a wonderful community,” she said.
Ten years ago, friends and neighbors rallied together when her oldest son, Christopher, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, she said. Support from the Mashpee community helped them make it through that first family crisis.
With the help of a family counselor, Ms. Weixler said she was able to gradually rebuild her self-confidence as a mother. It took a year before she was able to say, “I’ve done nothing wrong,” she said.
When asked why he agreed to speak to the Enterprise, Stephen Weixler said he wanted to apologize to “everyone that I hurt—my co-workers, my family, her family, everyone involved.”
Mr. Weixler graduated from Mashpee High School in 2004 and was hired by the Mashpee School District in a variety of paraprofessional and staff positions beginning in May 2005, after he completed one year at Cape Cod Community College.
From the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2008, he was hired to coach soccer, basketball, and baseball at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne. That fall, he began coaching the junior varsity girls’ soccer team at Mashpee High School.
Despite the increasing responsibility of his positions in the schools, Mr. Weixler said his emotional maturity did not progress in tandem. “I graduated in 2004, I never felt like I left,” he said. “There was no buffer. There was nothing to make me think differently, nothing to make me, pull me away. I just went to work, went to coaching. Every day was just like I was in high school. For me, things didn’t change.”
When the police came to his house to question Mr. Weixler about the allegations against him, he was frightened and called his mother. She left work immediately, but by the time she got home, he had turned himself in to the police station and told them the truth, he said. It was what his mother had always told him to do as a child. “If you tell the truth, you’ll get in less trouble,” he recalled.
Five months spent looking at the four walls of his prison cell has made him think a lot about his life, he said.
“I take full responsibility for the crime,” he said. “I should have realized the situation I put myself in and removed myself from the situation.”
Pamela MacLeod-Lima is the executive director of The Women’s Center in New Bedford, which helps victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She said in a phone interview that no child is ready for a sexual encounter at 14, regardless of whether it is coerced, because children cannot handle the interaction emotionally. Even if the child is exploring her sexuality, it is the responsibility of the adult to not take advantage of the situation, she said.
“Victims may be able to integrate it into their lives; some can, some can’t. But there is nothing that will make this go away,” she said.
Since he was released on probation, Mr. Weixler must take a $34 weekly counseling class for two years that is aimed at helping convicts with both emotional and practical problems. He applied to 40 jobs before finally landing one at the same composite materials factory where his father works, in Rockland.
Susan Weixler will retire from her job as a school secretary in December and will move away from Cape Cod permanently. It will be a relief not to read the Cape Cod Times or The Mashpee Enterprise, she said. When the lawsuit against the Mashpee School District is resolved, she does not want to get the news with her breakfast.
“I never want to read Stephen’s name in the paper again,” she said.