Gabriel, who had been molested by an older boy while living with grandparents in Ohio, was living in McGuigan’s licensed foster home in the spring of 2009 when McGuigan told Broward foster care administrators he no longer could control the boy. “When he’s good, he’s an angel,” McGuigan wrote in a March 20, 2009, email to caseworkers. “And when he’s bad, he’s really, really bad, and his mood can change suddenly.”
Gabriel was sent to live at another foster home, where, less than a month later, he twisted a shower cord around his neck and suffocated.
A report by a task force that investigated Gabriel’s death, as well as comments from then-DCF Secretary George Sheldon, faulted the agency for allowing McGuigan to punish the boy for his difficult behavior — his toys had been taken away, he was not allowed to wear his hair the way he wanted. The boy, Sheldon said, had suffered enough loss and trauma by the time he wound up in McGuigan’s home.
As details of the investigation were reported in The Miami Herald, an adult man contacted the Margate Police Department, which was investigating the Gabriel Myers case, and reported that he had been a victim of sex abuse by both McGuigan and McGuigan’s father in Massachusetts decades earlier. In May 2011, the Department of Children & Families and the Broward Sheriff’s Office took custody of McGuigan’s then-4-year-old son, whom he had adopted from foster care, as well as three other children who were living in McGuigan’s foster home.
Broward Circuit Judge Hope Bristol agreed to leave the adopted child in the custody of his babysitter, but warned McGuigan: “There will be no further contact, no phone calls, no texts, no daddy-wishes-you-a-good-nights.”
Another judge, Susan Lebow, later returned the adopted son to McGuigan, but allowed child welfare authorities to maintain jurisdiction.
In January of this year, DCF filed a petition asking a judge to permanently sever McGuigan’s parental rights to the child.
The next month, caseworkers with ChildNet, the privately run foster care agency in Broward, told a judge an 8-year-old boy had accused McGuigan of molesting him. Broward Circuit Judge Kenneth Gillespie ordered that McGuigan have no further contact with foster children Gillespie oversaw. Gillespie’s order proved to have no real impact: a spokesman for DCF said at the time that the agency had removed all foster children from McGuigan’s home, and McGuigan had agreed to relinquish his foster care license.
The Margate Police Department, which investigated both Gabriel’s death and the claims of the 8-year-old boy, closed their case at the end of last year with “no findings,” said Sgt. Efraim Suarez, the department’s spokesman.
On July 26 of this year, McGuigan signed a surrender, agreeing to terminate all rights to raise his adopted son. The boy is now up for adoption again.
McGuigan’s first known contact with law enforcement, though, occurred in 2000. A 16-year-old boy told the Delray Beach Police Department that McGuigan picked him up from an Albertson’s store, where the boy was interviewing for a job, and offered to drive him home. The boy thought McGuigan worked at the store, he said.
According to police reports, the boy said McGuigan pulled a picture out from under his car seat of a nude boy engaged in a sex act. The teen told police he believed the boy in the picture was about 11. “The man then asked [the teen] if he could perform oral sex on” the teen, the report said.
The boy told police he was frightened, and sat in the car motionless, answering McGuigan’s questions with simple yes or no answers.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you,” McGuigan told the boy, according to a police report.
The teen was able to identify McGuigan, reports said, because the older man returned to the Albertson’s store, where the boy was hired, more than once and approached him again. The teen followed McGuigan outside and wrote down his license tag. He later identified McGuigan from a photo lineup, reports say.
Though police asked prosecutors to file charges against McGuigan, the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office declined, ruling they had “insufficient evidence to sustain [the] burden of proof.”