Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Friar Commits Suicide in Wake of Abuse Claims Former Pa. Students Allege Sex Assaults; Ohio Case Settled

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Friar Commits Suicide in Wake of Abuse Claims Former Pa. Students Allege Sex Assaults; Ohio Case Settled

Article excerpt

Brother Stephen Baker, a Franciscan friar accused of sexually abusing dozens of teens in at least three states, has committed suicide in his monastery in Newry, Blair County.

The accusers include more than 25 students at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown in the 1990s.

Blair Township Police Chief Roger White said an autopsy by the Blair County coroner found that 62-year-old Brother Stephen Baker killed himself with a knife Saturday morning. Chief White declined to say whether he left a note.

Brother Baker lived at St. Bernardine Monastery. Another resident of the monastery discovered Brother Baker in his room not breathing and called Blair County 911 at 7:35 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The autopsy by county Coroner Patricia Ross found he died shortly before his body was discovered.

The monastery belongs to the Franciscan Friars (Third Order Regular) of the Immaculate Conception Province in Hollidaysburg. His community had confirmed his death before the police announced the cause.

"We express our regret and prayers to his family, and especially to all who have been impacted by this tragic situation," said a statement from his superior, Father Patrick Quinn.

Brother Baker had been banned from ministry in 2000 after his order settled a claim that he had sexually abused a minor while serving in Minnesota in the 1980s. But his case did not become public until last week when there was an announcement of a settlement with 11 other victims from a Warren, Ohio, school where he worked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The settlement -- in the high five figures for each of the victims -- was shared by the Franciscans, the Diocese of Youngstown and John F. Kennedy High School in Warren.

Over the past two weeks more than 25 former Bishop McCort students contacted attorneys to say that he had abused them during his tenure as a teacher, sports coach and athletic trainer. Many of them say he molested them in the guise of giving therapeutic massage to prevent or treat sports injuries. …

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