Bones Found At Massachusetts Sober Home Highlight Troubled Industry 

By Kelly Burch 08/06/19

The body belonged to a resident who had went missing from the sober home in April 2018.

police investigating bones found at sober home
ID 127182593 © Alexander Oganezov |

On June 17, landscapers working at a Massachusetts building that had been operating as a sober home until recently made a startling discovery: bones that were ultimately identified as the body of a client at the home who had gone missing more than a year before. 

The body belonged to Clifford Bates, who had gone missing from the Wakefield, Massachusetts sober home on the morning of April 28, 2018, according to The Boston Globe.

When Bates failed to make morning meeting, his roommate urged the sober home operators to look for him, but they did only a cursory search, driving around the neighborhood before putting Bates’ belongings in the basement. Bates’ family eventually filed a missing persons report with the police, but there was no sign of him until the bones were found. 

There have been few details released about Bates’ disappearance since the bones were recovered, because the investigation is ongoing. However, many people feel that the grim story is an indication of the troubles in the sober home industry. 

“While we accept his death, we never, ever thought he would be found at Lakeshore, a fenced-in property of less than half an acre!!” Bates’ family said in a statement. “That part makes no sense. It makes us ill, angry, and we can’t shake it from our minds.”

Lakeshore Under Scrutiny

Lakeshore, the facility that Bates was staying at, was already under scrutiny for overcharging, overcrowding, and urging clients to drop their psychiatric medications and rely on a higher power for healing. That approach led one former client to become suicidal. 

“I realize now, people really do have chemical imbalances. You can’t replace that with God,” she told the Globe

Lakeshore’s founder, Daniel Cleggett Jr., had already been investigated by the state, under suspicions that he was brokering patients for Florida rehabs. Two patients he sent to Florida died, and another died of an overdose at a Massachusetts sober home that Cleggett operated. Still, laws prevented the state from more tightly regulating sober homes. 

Legal Loopholes

“It’s a legal loophole that costs lives,” said Brian Palmucci, city councilor in Quincy, Massachusetts, who has advocated for better oversight of sober homes. “We have these charlatans who are taking advantage of the opioid crisis to get rich.”

Richard Winant, former president of Massachusetts Alliance for Sober Housing and a sober home operator, said that the money in the industry can tempt people to focus on profits, rather than people. 

“People lose their way,” he said. “They start to see dollar signs.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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