Suicide will not affect Ohio claims

WARREN – A day after lawyers said the suicide of a Franciscan brother accused of sexually abusing students at a school in Pennsylvania, it was announced similar cases from Warren John F. Kennedy High School won’t be affected either.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney involved in the Ohio cases, said Brother Stephen Baker’s suicide wouldn’t affect claims by alleged victims at JFK three decades ago.

News of the Ohio case first broke earlier this month when Cortland resident Michael Munno and an unnamed victim went to the media to announce a settlement had been reached with the Youngstown diocese and the Third Order Regular Franciscans.

The terms of the settlement have not been released, except that each of the 11 victims were receiving “high five figure” payouts.

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

Garabedian said more former Kennedy students have come forward to allege abuse by Baker since the Jan. 16 disclosure of financial settlements.

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.

A message seeking comment was emailed Monday to the leader of Baker’s Franciscan province.

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.

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.

A day earlier, Murry said the diocese has programs in place so parents know their children are safe. Part of those programs includes mandatory fingerprinting and background checks for anyone in the diocese who has contact with children.

There also are training sessions for employees to learn how to report child abuse or any suspicious behavior, the bishop said.