WESTBROOK — Residents of Westbrook who have known Suzanne Joyce as a longtime pillar of the community, a selfless volunteer and dedicated public servant were shocked and confused this week after hearing she has been indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury.

Joyce, a member of the Westbrook School Committee, said she knew nothing about the indictment until she was contacted by a reporter on Tuesday. Westbrook police have said they did not investigate her. The District Attorney’s Office has declined so far to release anything but the one-page indictment charging Joyce with hindering the apprehension or prosecution of Dereck Gilman, who worked at Westbrook Middle School as a special-education technician before resigning last month.

Joyce said Thursday she was surprised by the outpouring of support she has received since the news came out, but she still does not know why she was indicted.

“I’m getting emails from people I don’t even know. It’s been amazing,” Joyce said.

“Suzanne Joyce is a very good friend of mine. I’ve known her forever,” said City Council President Brendan Reilly, who said he wasn’t familiar with the charge against her. “She’s a community leader and has contributed great things to the city.”

Gilman, 24, of 162 Central St., Westbrook, was indicted by the grand jury on charges of unlawful sexual touching and sexual abuse of a child. He is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 17-year-old student from May 1, 2012, to Jan. 30, 2013, while he worked in the school district.


Joyce said she plans to issue a statement on the indictments once she has a chance to consult with her attorney, William Childs, who is a friend of her family.

“I talked to my attorney this morning. We’re working very diligently. I’m just very confused,” Joyce said. “It’s been a very difficult 48 hours.”

Joyce also declined to say what the relationship is among the teenager, Gilman and herself, deferring specific questions about the case to her lawyer.

Childs said later Thursday that he wants to sit down with Joyce in person to review any written reports first.

“She’s a wonderful person. She does everything in Westbrook. She’s on every committee,” Childs said of Joyce. “I don’t know what the hell is going on with this.”

The lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman, declined to speak about the specifics of the case.


The indictment specifies that Joyce is accused of obstructing Andrew Keirstead, a teacher’s assistant at Westbrook High School, in the investigation against Gilman. Nothing else in either Gilman’s or Joyce’s case files at Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court gives any further details.

Often when police charge a person with a crime, a police report or affidavit must be filed along with a criminal complaint. In Joyce’s and Gilman’s cases, they were charged by a grand jury rather than police, so no detailed written accusation was included. All evidence was presented by witness testimony in a grand jury proceeding that is closed to the public.

Westbrook’s Public Safety Chief Michael Pardue said information about Gilman’s alleged conduct was referred to the Police Department at the end of January by the city’s Human Resources Department.

Pardue said he thought Westbrook detectives concluded their investigation of Gilman and presented it to prosecutors in April.

A person who answered a phone number listed in unrelated court records as Keirstead’s cell phone hung up on a reporter. No one replied to a text message sent to that number afterward.

Joyce said she has great respect for Keirstead and considers him a man of integrity. She has not spoken to him since the indictment, she said.


She said her phone has been ringing constantly with calls from supporters and people offering to help her.

“The city I’m in is the right place. The number of friends have been incredible. Everyone’s been there,” she said.

Several of Joyce’s fellow school committee members declined to comment on the charges but spoke highly of her as a member of the committee and community.

School Committee Chairman James Violette said he counseled his board members not to comment, in part because they may have to sit in judgement of Joyce.

“We’re going to eventually be the jurors and we’re going to judge Sue, whether it’s positive or negative,” Violette said. “I told them, ‘Don’t put yourself in a position of not being able to do that.'”

Joyce’s role on the committee will not be affected for now; but if she is convicted, the committee may have to decide whether she is then disqualified from serving on the committee, he said.


“The problem is, an indictment came down, but we don’t know what the DA is indicting her for,” Violette said. “Did she do something, try to put duress on a school employee? We just don’t know.”

Violette said committee members were stunned by the accusations.

“You have a really, really good person with a heart of gold going through a nightmare,” said Violette, who served several years on the City Council alongside Joyce before their service on the School Committee. “I wish the district attorney would release information so people could move on.”

“Sue is so in love with this community, and the things she does for this community are just unbelievable,” he said. “She’s probably the number one fundraiser for programs in the city: Project Graduation, graduation, proms, music, baseball. … She loves this community. She’s very passionate about the community.”

Violette said he does not know full details about the investigation of Gilman.

“We basically weren’t told about the situation and how things were reported. What’s close to us is the result. The result was Gilman resigned,” he said.

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