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Friar’s death no bar to abuse cases

– The suicide of a Franciscan brother accused of sexually abusing students at schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania won’t affect additional claims arising from his time at a Warren high school, an attorney said Monday.

Claims of abuse by Brother Stephen Baker at a Pennsylvania school will also go forward despite his death Saturday at a western Pennsylvania monastery, attorneys for those claimants said previously.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney involved in the Ohio cases, said Baker’s suicide wouldn’t affect claims by alleged victims at Warren’s John F. Kennedy High School three decades ago.

He said more former Kennedy students have come forward to allege abuse by Baker since the Jan. 16 disclosure of financial settlements in 11 cases in Warren.

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.

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