The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 28, 2013

Attorney: Suicide won't affect Ohio abuse claims

WARREN, Ohio — The suicide of a Franciscan brother accused of sexually abusing students at schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania won't affect additional claims arising from his time at a Warren high school, an attorney said Monday.

Claims of abuse by Brother Stephen Baker at a Pennsylvania school will also go forward despite his death Saturday at a western Pennsylvania monastery, attorneys for those claimants said previously.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney involved in the Ohio cases, said Baker's suicide wouldn't affect claims by alleged victims at Warren's John F. Kennedy High School three decades ago. He said more former Kennedy students have come forward to allege abuse by Baker since the Jan. 16 disclosure of financial settlements in 11 cases in Warren.

Since then, claims also have emerged at another school where Baker taught and coached, Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa.

Between the two, Garabedian said more than 25 additional claims of abuse have emerged since the settlements were announced. There was no breakdown by school.

Father Patrick Quinn, the head of Baker's order, the Third Order Regular Franciscans, said he didn't know what impact, if any, the death would have on the claims that have surfaced.

"We continue to express regret about Br. Baker's actions and our sorrow about the impact on those affected," Quinn said. "We are also dealing with the shock of his death ... We are committed to reaching out pastorally to anyone who comes forward."

Baker, 62, was found dead of a self-inflicted knife wound at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg, Pa., on Saturday, according to Blair Township police.

Baker taught and coached at Kennedy from 1986 to the early 1990s and was at Bishop McCort from 1992 to 2000.

When Baker was the Bishop McCort athletic trainer, 20 former students allege that he assaulted or molested students under the guise of providing therapeutic treatment or medical care for sports injuries, said the accusers' attorney, Michael Parrish of Johnstown.

"Many of them did not realize until the stories began to break that what he was in fact doing to them was an assault or molestation, not actual therapeutic care," Parrish said of his clients, who ranged in age from 14 to 18 at the time.

In the Kennedy case, mediation settlements involved the school, Baker's Third Order Regular Franciscans and the Youngstown diocese, which said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse. Franciscans said they responded compassionately when notified.

Bishop George Murry of Youngstown said Monday that when he was informed sometime in 2011 about the alleged abuse at Kennedy, he called Franciscans and was told Baker had already been removed from public ministry to keep him away from children.

Because of statute of limitation issues, the cases were resolved without charges or lawsuits, Garabedian said.

 

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