65 claiming abuse by Baker, advocate said

WARREN – At least 65 people, here and in other states, have now come forward claiming to be sexual abuse victims of the late Brother Stephen Baker, an advocate speaking on their behalf said Sunday.

Robert Hoatson of New Jersey-based Road to Recovery was in the area this past weekend he said “to meet with potential victims.” Hoatson said that based on statistics indicating only 10 percent of child sex victims report being abused, he believes Baker “may be one of the most prolific” sexual child abusers he is aware of.

“Based on the number of people who have come forward we believe the number of victims could be in the hundreds,” Hoatson said during a news conference in front of John F. Kennedy High School in Warren.

Hoatson was accompanied by Barbara Aponte, who believes her son Luke Bradesku was abused by Baker while he was a student at JFK. Bradesku killed himself, which she believes may have been a result of the abuse.

“We’re here to encourage others to come forward,” Aponte, of Austintown, said.

Hoatson called on Bishop George Murry and the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to launch an extensive investigation into the allegations against Baker, whether JFK teachers, staff and other adults reported the abuse allegations to the diocese and if similar complaints were ever made against other teachers, coaches or staff.

“We would like the bishop to disclose everything he knows not only about Stephen Baker but also any other claims of sexual abuse that have been made,” Hoatson said.

The Youngstown diocese has said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse. Earlier this month Murry said he sent letters asking for information from about 1,200 adults who attended JFK while Baker worked there. The diocese could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Baker, 62, a former teacher and coach at JFK, and a member of the T.O.R. Franciscan Order, committed suicide last month after two of his former JFK students said at a news conference that they had been sexually abused by Baker in the late 1980s, and other people started coming forward with similar allegations. The two men are among 11 who received financial settlements resulting from those claims. Baker was never charged criminally. However, authorities in Pennsylvania said they found a note near Baker’s body in which he apologized.

Baker, who was living at a western Pennsylvania monastery when he died, taught and coached at JFK in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown from 1992 to 2000. He also taught in Michigan in the mid-1980s. Hoatson said the latest allegations have been made by individuals now living across the country who attended schools where Baker was affiliated.