Death of friar accused in sexual abuse cases confirmed as suicide

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A Franciscan friar from Cambria County accused of sexually abusing dozens of teens in at least three states -- including more than 25 at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown in the 1990s -- has committed suicide.

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

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. An autopsy directed by Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross found he died shortly before his body was discovered.

The Diocese of Youngstown, which was among three parties that reached a settlement with 11 victims earlier this month, released a statement on its website earlier today about his death.

The statement by Bishop George V. Murry read: "The Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans, Father Patrick Quinn, announced this morning that Brother Stephen Baker had died. At this time, the circumstances of his death are under investigation.

"Let us continue to pray for all victims of abuse, for Brother Baker's family and the repose of his soul."

Brother Baker had been restricted to Franciscan facilities since he was banned from ministry after an inital complaint from Minnesota in 2000.

From 2000 to 2010 he lived under supervision at St. Joseph's Friary in Hollidaysburg and then at St. Bernardine Monastery in Newry, Blair County.

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