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February 24, 2013

Dozens more claim abuse by friar, attorney says

TOLEDO, Ohio — About 50 more people have come forward to say they were sexually abused at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio by a Franciscan brother who killed himself in January, said an attorney who settled 11 alleged abuse cases against the friar.

And that apparently includes more students with Johnstown-area ties.

The new accusers have alleged in recent weeks that they were abused between 1982 and 2007 by the late Brother Stephen Baker, attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Sunday. Some said Baker, 62, abused them even after he left teaching in 2000, when he would attend school events in Johnstown, Garabedian said.

Baker originally worked for Bishop McCort as a trainer and religion teacher from the early 1990s until 2000.

Baker stabbed himself in the heart at a monastery near Hollidaysburg on Jan. 26, a little over a week after the disclosure of financial settlements in alleged abuse cases in Warren, Ohio. Baker left a short note apologizing for his actions, Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross has said.

The latest allegations come from people in 12 states who went to school in Warren or were either middle school or high school students in Johnstown, where Baker taught and coached, Garabedian said.

The Boston attorney said he’s also heard from four people who say they were abused while Baker was at a high school in Orchard Lake, Mich.

Baker was named in legal settlements in January involving 11 men who alleged he sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren from 1986 to 1990.

Baker had a lengthy teaching career. Before McCort, he taught in Michigan in the mid-1980s and then taught and coached at John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Roman Catholic Bishop George Murry of Youngstown said this month that he sent letters asking for information from about 1,200 adults who attended Kennedy High School while Baker taught and coached there.

The Youngstown diocese has said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse.   

Messages seeking comment were left with the Youngstown diocese and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese on Sunday.

The Tribune-Democrat contributed to this story.

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