The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 22, 2013

Baker probe moves ahead

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG — A criminal investigation into who may have been aware of the alleged sexual abuse of students at Bishop McCort High School by Brother Stephen Baker and failed to alert authorities moved a step forward this week.

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan told The Tribune-Democrat that she met with members of the staff of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

The focus of the meeting was to determine what information the attorney general’s office will need if it agrees to accept the investigation into who knew what and when, she said.

“We want to make sure we provide the information they need to move forward,” Callihan said.

Latest figures provided to The Tribune-Democrat show that more than 80 students, mostly males, allegedly were sexually molested by Baker, a Franciscan friar who worked at the school from 1992  to about 2001.

However, sources say he was around the school and students for four or five years after he was no longer employed as a religion instructor or part of the athletic staff.

It was during his duties in the locker room working with injured athletes that most of the abuse is alleged to have occurred.

Callihan contacted the state’s top prosecutor several weeks ago to inquire into a multi-county investigation.

While Baker worked at McCort, notice of pending lawsuits have been filed in Cambria and Blair counties by attorneys representing some of the alleged victims.

Named in the lawsuits is the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, whose headquarters is in Altoona.

The diocese was in charge of Bishop McCort and its staff until 2008, when it became independent, and has since been operated by a board of directors.

People in positions of authority have fallen under the state’s mandatory reporting laws for nearly 25 years, and indications are that authorities were not notified of Baker’s actions until 2011, when a couple of alleged victims contacted the Johnstown Police Department.

Incidents of abuse by Baker were revealed in January after it was reported that the diocese in Youngstown, Ohio, reached an out-of-court settlement with 11 of his victims.

Baker was at JFK High School in that area prior to moving to Pennsylvania.

This week, it was reported that the Youngstown diocese had received a settlement request for about 25 victims of Baker who are just now stepping forward.

Baker died in late January at the age of 62, in what has been termed by the Blair County coroner’s office as a suicide.



Kathy Mellott cover the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.