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Franciscan accused of sex crimes at JFK commits suicide

Published: Sun, January 27, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.




Mike Munno of Cortland said he knew there would be some strange days ahead when he and a fellow Warren John F. Kennedy High School graduate discussed the sex crimes they say Franciscan brother Stephen Baker committed against them in high school, but Brother Baker’s death isn’t the outcome he wanted or expected.

“I don’t think it’s the closure we expected. I would have not thought it would have gone to this extreme,” Munno said Saturday after police near Hollidaysburg, Pa., were called to Baker’s room at St. Bernardine Monastery in Newry, Pa. after another resident found Baker not breathing.

“No matter what it is, you don’t wish death on anybody,” Munno said.

Blair Township police were called to the monastery after a resident found Baker’s body at 7:35 a.m. An autopsy indicated he died from a self-inflicted knife wound just before being found, and his death was ruled a suicide.

Blair Township Police Chief Roger White declined to say whether Baker, 62, left a note.

Newry is about 90 miles east of Pittsburgh.

“Let us continue to pray for all victims of abuse, for Brother Baker’s family and the repose of his soul,” Bishop George V. Murry of the Youngstown Diocese said in a statement.

Father Patrick Quinn, ministry provincial for Baker’s religious order of friars, Franciscan Third Order Regular, said of Baker in a statement Saturday, “We express our regret and prayers to his family, and especially to all who have been impacted by this tragic situation.”

Munno and another man met with the news media Jan. 16 to allege that the Youngstown Diocese and Franciscans settled out of court with them and nine other male JFK student athletes because Baker sexually abused them from 1986 to 1990 at the school and in other locations.

Baker was athletic trainer, baseball coach and teacher at the school from 1986 to 1992. While giving massages in a small, closed training room at the school, he would massage the boys’ genitals and digitally pentrate them, the men, a spokesman and their attorney said.

Each of the 11 purported victims received an “upper five-figure” financial settlement last October after mediation sessions with the school, diocese and religious order, their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, said.

Several days after Munno and his former classmate discussed their allegations, Munno and Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of the Livingston, N.J.-based Road to Recovery Inc. support group, went to Johnstown, Pa., and discussed the allegations at Bishop McCort High School.

Baker also worked as an athletic trainer and teacher at that Catholic school in the late 1990s.

In the days to follow, additional alleged victims of Baker from Warren JFK and Bishop McCort contacted Garabedian and several other attorneys to report abuse, according to The Tribune-Democrat newspaper of Johnston, Pa.

By one account, the number of people coming forward as of Friday was 50.

“It has pretty much been a whirlwind in kind of a good way, in kind of a not-so-good way, kind of complex,” Munno said of the news of the allegations, the additional people coming forward and now Baker’s suicide. “It’s been a crazy week and a half.”

Munno said he envisioned people coming forward after he and the other man told their story, but he didn’t expect so many.

One person who did not come forward was Baker himself, Munno said.

As for whether a comment from Baker would have helped bring closure for the purported victms, Munno said it probably would not have unless Baker had admitted guilt, but he doubts Baker would have done that because he believes Baker was facing possible prosecution.

Charges could have resulted from crimes allegedly committed against one of the 11 men from the Warren JFK settlement and many alleged victims from Johnstown, Munno said.

The statute of limitations had run out for 10 of the 11 men from Warren JFK, but it had not expired under Pennsylvania law, Munno said.

On Thursday, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains encouraged any victims of Baker to contact the police agency within the jurisdiction where any possible illegal act occurred so that an investigation could be conducted.

Warren police said Friday no one had contacted them to report anything, and Munno said he hadn’t been told of anyone who was planning to report the matter to police.

Munno not only played sports at JFK from 1986 to 1990, but he also served as an assistant football coach at JFK for five years starting with the 1991-1992 school year, the last year Baker worked at the school.

Munno said Baker’s role with athletes was diminished during Baker’s last year at the school, which also was the first year under Coach Tony Napolet. During that year, the school started working with “a more professional trainer,” Munno said.

“I was kind of standoffish,” Munno said of his relationship with Baker during that final year.

Hoatson, in a statement after learning of Baker’s death, reaffirmed his group’s support for “the courageous survivors of sexual abuse by Brother Stephen P. Baker despite his unfortunate death today.

“Victim/survivors have stepped forward in significant numbers to bravely report that they were harmed as children and would like to heal. That healing will continue despite the news that has come out of Pennsylvania today.”

Hoatson added: “The passing of Brother Stephen P. Baker is in no way the fault of any of the courageous men and women who have contacted advocacy agencies, attorneys, or law enforcement agencies. Their pursuit of justice and truth must continue so they can heal and recover from the horrific ordeals experienced in childhood.

“Condolences are sent to the family and community members of Brother Stephen P. Baker who are left to mourn his death,” Hoatson said.

Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement about Baker’s death, saying, “We feel sad for Brother Baker’s family but even sadder for the dozens of boys who Baker assaulted. His passing changes little, however. It’s still crucial that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes comes forward.

“Kids are safest when clergy sex crimes and cover-ups are exposed, and that’s still what needs to happen here,” she said.

Bishop Murry said last week the diocese was first alerted about the Brother Baker case in 2009 when the victims’ attorney sent a letter requesting information about the students’ transcripts and indicated there was “a possibility of an abuse claim.”

The diocese has said Baker was never a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Youngstown, and the diocese had no legal liability in the matter.

Bishop Murry added that the diocese found no records indicating any sex allegations against Baker.


1bmanresident(607 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

He took the cowards way out. He destroyed so many innocent young lives but when it is his turn to answer for it, he chickened out. I hope he burns for what he did.

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2Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, there you are Catholic Bishops. So worried about paying for contraception that you sue over the provisions of the Affordable Care Act under the banner of "religious freedom". The same "freedom" that you allowed your priests to have with our children. Yet, you see no hypocrisy in your stance because you are above it all...God's representatives on Earth...or so you say. I'd say that's blasphemy. President Obama is a saint compared to you.
The Church's days are numbered. The young people don't need a dogmatic middle-man to have a relationship with God. You have a dwindling number of older, simple-minded, folks to count on for your collection box and then lights out. The Church's mumbo-jumbo doesn't play too well in the information age. Don't let the door hit you in the behind on the way to the dustbin.

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3chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Didn't timmie ryan graduate from JFK in 1991? Didn't he play football as QB during the Brother's reign?

Funny how he never tells what he know, but hides from the press.

And he proposes to be mindful. I would suggest mindless.

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4Ypboy(64 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Judy must feel so happy.

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5Education_Voter(1153 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Hoatson is not really correct. Baker's passing was partly the fault of the accusers. It was all funny to them until some got paid. Then they say it was an ordeal that destroyed their lives.

I wonder how many of the same "victims" massaged the personal parts of girls they dated...and more. But girls apparently are tougher and don't let it ruin their lives. Or less money hungry.

And I don't mean this as a defense of the Diocese. It's bad all around.

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6excel(1251 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker was proof that homosexuality destroys lives. We should take a serious look at containing the spread of homosexuality. Homosexuals in contact with children is the main cause. It is far better to not get the disease than to seek the cure.

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7dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@excel. REALLY???????????????????????? you are so ignorant in your remark i can not even think straight. haha get it?????? that is one heck of a bigoted remark there.

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8sue(179 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

What does the Catholic church believe happens to a person's soul when they commit suicide?

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9peacelover(838 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

well said, ohioption.

Here's something you may find interesting although it's off topic to this discussion.


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10GoPens(397 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@excel. So straight people never molest children? Or is that ok when they do in your bigoted,ignorant mind?

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11excel(1251 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

THIS IS ALL ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY! Keep them away from young boys and the problems will diminish. I really am mystified why the advocates for homosexuality seem to think that it is OK if the victims and their molesters are not Catholic.

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12lbf(220 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago



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13dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

excel. it is NOT all about homosexuality!!!!!!! what is wrong in your mind? you do not have to be gay to molest kids idiot. and to say that being homosexual leads to this is so far out there. straight people man or woman can be a pedofile, see not homosexual but pedofile. do your research before you spout off about the gays

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14Millerh113(216 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

This could be Penn State Redux. Who were the principal and coaches at the time. What did they know and when did they know it. What we have now is just the first chapter in this story. Fidelio

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15kensgirl(1056 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

He should have Manned up and gone through a trial. He took the cowards way out. People who abuse children (and the elderly) should have their own special prisons where we keep the temperature at a balmy 50 degrees and just through food in at them like they do in lion's cages. Make them clean up their own "leftovers" . AND absolutely no T.V., radio or any extras given to these morons in prison. I'll pay extra taxes.

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16GoPens(397 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The ignorance on these Vindy boards is both shocking and disturbing. It IS about pedophilia. Gay male pedophiles are obviously going to attack young males. Straight male peophiles are obviously going to attack young females. In this case the attacker was gay hence the attack on young males.

Pedophilia is not a gay or straight problem. It's a societal problem.

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17papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

gopens, how do you explain the prevalence of male rape in prisons? and it's widespread. do you think all of these scary looking individuals are gay? i know looks don't matter but get real. when sex is withheld for long periods of time, i believe it will affect a persons' reasoning.

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18JudyJones(162 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Our hearts are with the brave victims, and they are to be commended for having the courage to speak up and take action to expose the truth. This is not an easy thing to do, especially now that Bro Baker has committed suicide. It can be an emotional roller coaster, some may feel relief that he can not longer harm another child, and yet some may feel cheated because they will never see him behind bars for his crimes.

But hopefully anyone who has knowledge or may have been harmed by Brother Stephen Baker or anyone within this diocese, will have the courage to come forward and contact the police and get help.
Also keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
"SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

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19GoPens(397 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

What does that have to do with pedophilia and this story? Again, you guys leave me shaking my head.

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20papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

don't you think that the fact catholic priest can't marry has something to do with it. other religions can marry and don't seem to have this problem. this cannot be a coincidence. this is also probably why many gays go into the priesthood. to hide their homosexuality from friends and family. as far as homosexuality being a disease, this is moronic. and they absolutely don't choose this way of life. who would? it's more acceptable now but decades ago gays and lesbians had to hide their sexuality and were villified and scorned by everyone. imagine how horrible their lives were?. to choose that? ridiculous!! use common sense. one more thing. don't villify a beautiful religion that teaches the golden rule and charity for your fellow man. don't blame the catholic church for the heinous sins of some of its' clergy. hiding these crimes? unforgivable! do something about it because there are thousands of good, caring priest that have to suffer suspicion and ridicule. God bless the catholic church.

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21papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

brown, you are exactly right. this just doesn't make sense. i can't think of anyone i went to school with at the ages of 14-17 who would have put up with this behavior. it just doesn't make sense. it sounds to me like maybe there are some who are trying to benefit off of this. there, i said it.

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22excel(1251 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

So it's all about the pot of gold held by the Catholic Church? A very valid point!

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23cambridge(4057 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

papa...joining the priesthood is the opposite of hiding your homosexuality.

The entire clergy of the catholic church right up to the popes knew about this for generations, covered it up and moved these creeps around so they could do the same to other little kids in other communities. All of them from the pope on down should be in prison.

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24papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

and i still say at the ages of 14-17 i and my friends were involved in sports and would never have put up with this, not once but multiple times, and in some cases this is nothing but a sleazy money grab.

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25Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Excel..you'd better check your double-wide for a propane leak, because, boy, yo' brains is scrambled! Pedophilia is not homosexuality. How so many of you right-wingnuts can even function is amazing because your intelligence level is just above that of an earthworm.

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26Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Robert_Neville...try, try, try to think for yourself. The Church is "infallible"?? Was it infallible when a person had to pay indulgences to have sins forgiven?? Cut me a break, man. The Catholic Church is a mega-corporation trying to protect its brand, that's why it covers up pedophilia. That is also why it gets the simple-minded in an uproar over when "life" begins and contraception and abortion. You get all worked up over that and you can't see the forest for the trees. Quit falling for the propaganda, be a good human being and develop your own relationship with God. Don't have the effrontery, like the Church, to speak for God. That is blasphemy.

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27Education_Voter(1153 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Who took home the biggest settlement from this?
Without doubt, the lawyer.

Then he went trolling for new clients in other communities by advertising the settlement.

These young men did not go to school in the seventies. They went to school from 1986 through the early nineties, when children in Catholic and other schools were being taught about "good touch and bad touch" and adults who might take advantage of youngsters.

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28excel(1251 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Sorry Rockyroad but I don't buy into your BS attempting to spruce up the image of homosexual lifestyles.

They gravitate to where the boys are and lure them in any way imaginable to satisfy their lust. If the boys are older and get offended punching them out is called a hate crime. The younger ones are more docile for them.

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29dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

so excel, what is your point exactly? that all gays are molesters? or that all priests are gay?

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30excel(1251 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

So dawn421 what you are inferring is that only gay priests are bad and that other gays are all good?

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31kurtw(1758 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

for: excell
re: "they (homosexuals) gravitate to where the boys are and lure them to satisfy their lusts".

Well, I'd like to know why that same statement couldn't be equally applied to heterosexuals- substituting the word girls for boys. We all have "lusts", right, but the objects of our lusts differ.

I'm a heterosexual, but I don't lie awake thinking about how I might ensnare children into sexual activity- and neither do most gays. Why would they? There are plenty of willing sex partners out there with whom they can easily- and legally- satisfy all their "lusts".

Your statement- apart from it's utter and absolute dumbness- is as insulting to heterosexuals as it is to gays. It's insulting to anyone with sexual urges.

The Bottom Line: people who prey on children, like rapists, are criminals. Their sexual orientation is beside the point.

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32dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

exactly my point

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33kurtw(1758 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Let me present you with a scenario: lets say I attended JFK during the Br. Baker years and I found out that several of my class mates were suing the Franciscans for abuse at the hands (literally) of Br. Baker. Now, at the same time I receive a letter from an Attorney representing those people asking me if I had anything similar to report. Let's say, also, I was having financial problems at the time...You understand what I am getting at?

Sound far-fetched? Not at all. About nine ago I had a very minor injury on the job- I never filed for Workers Comp. because it was no big deal. Now, over the years I've gotten a sizable stack of letters from attorneys wanting to represent me for that case tempting me with what I might collect if I signed on with them. I threw those letters away, but, if circumstances had been different, I might not have.

Now, I'm sure in the Baker case there was abuse, but I wonder of the eleven claims how many were genuine and how many were opportunistic- motivated by greed?

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