25 Investigates: Autistic group home resident sexually assaulted by her caretaker

LEICESTER, Mass. — The search is on for a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman who is described as “non-verbal.”

Court documents obtained by 25 Investigates show police learned of the attack in November and were provided video evidence of the assaults.

But, by the time they tried to arrest him, the suspect, Brian Njeri of Leicester, had disappeared. He’s believed to have fled to his native Kenya.

Leicester Police charged the 2014 Leicester High School graduate with four counts of indecent assault on a person with intellectual disabilities.

Njeri was an employee at ARCHway, a Department of Children and Families-funded group home for “people with autism and development disabilities.” The assaults are alleged to have happened at the home.

According to the police report exclusively obtained by investigative reporter Ted Daniel, a co-worker told police she opened Njeri’s phone and discovered several videos of him sexually assaulting a female resident in a staff office. The victim is described “to be autistic.”

“This is as vulnerable as it gets. Someone who is not only disabled in terms of their intellectual disabilities, but also disabled because they can’t communicate,” said Wendy Murphy, a victims’ rights attorney. “There’s not a defense to these kinds of cases. When you have a videotape of the crime, there is no hope for a not guilty verdict.”

25 Investigates constructed a timeline of events leading up to Njeri’s disappearance based on details found in the Leicester Police report.

Nov. 20: Detectives first learned of the assaults and view portions of the videos

Nov. 23: ARCHway director alerted police that she would be sending a letter of termination to Njeri “because she was concerned he would come back”

Nov. 24: Detectives began searching for Njeri

Nov. 27: Homeland security confirmed Njeri left the country

Nov 30: Arrest warrant was issued

According to the police report, Leicester Police detectives expressed concern when they learned that ARCHway was sending Njeri a termination letter. They feared it might tip him off to their investigation. But, by the time the letter went out, police records show, several of Njeri’s co-workers were already aware that they videos on his phone had been discovered.

In December, investigative reporter Ted Daniel visited the Cherry Valley apartment complex where Njeri lived. When our team was there, the unit he shared with his mother appeared to be vacant and the manager told us the rent was overdue. A neighbor told us she hadn’t seen the family in recent weeks.

This is not the first time Njeri has been accused of sexual assault, according to the criminal complaint 25 Investigates reviewed.

In 2013, a 15-year old girl told Leicester Police he inappropriately “touched her….over her clothes.” The document also shows Njeri was on probation for two drunk driving arrests, including one from 2019.

We asked Archway what steps were taken to screen Njeri before he was hired. ARCHway’s executive director decline to answer citing “Confidentiality and privacy concerns…”

“Personal care services can be very intimate. You’re bathing or dressing, you’re feeding, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for these acts to happen,” said Dr. Monika Mitra, director of Brandeis University’s Lurie Institute for Disability Policy.

Mitra describes sexual violence against people with developmental disabilities as “an epidemic.” She adds that they are five to seven times more likely to be victims and the problem has been made worse by COVID-19.

“Now that we’re in the time of a global pandemic where people are generally more isolated, where people with disabilities are living in congregate settings are more isolated, and even more dependent on their caregivers and there’s less family interaction. So I shudder to think what is going on with this epidemic during this period of time,” said Mitra.

We contacted the Leicester Police regarding the case. The chief referred us to the Worcester County District Attorney. Citing an ongoing investigation, an office spokesperson declined to comment on Njeri’s charges or his disappearance.

“Under no circumstances should this guy have been allowed to leave the country. It’s beyond my comprehension to even understand how this happened. He can do this again and again and again to similarly defenseless people,” said Murphy.

There are about 10,000 people living in group homes in Massachusetts. A number of state agencies, including the Department of Early Education and Care, oversee these facilities.

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