Teacher Drives Student to Canada, Dies from Balcony Fall

Associated Press State & Local Wire
March 7, 2003

A suspended Roman Catholic high school teacher accused of taking a 15-year-old female student to Canada fell to his death early Thursday while police were looking for him and the girl, authorities said.

Police in Welland, Ontario, were trying to find Thomas Lemmon when he jumped from a fourth-floor balcony at his family's home about 10:45 a.m., Canadian officials said. Lemmon, 38, had been suspended from Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown after classes Wednesday.

It was unclear whether Lemmon was attempting to flee or committed suicide, Cambria County District Attorney Dave Tulowitzki said.

The Niagara Regional Police Service refused to release any information about Lemmon's death until an investigation is completed.

Lemmon died from massive trauma to the head and neck, the province's Special Investigations Unit said Friday. The agency will not release whether Lemmon's death was an accident or a suicide until it completes a report in about a month, spokeswoman Kaia Werbus said.

Officials with the Altoona-Johnstown diocese would not say why Lemmon was suspended. The girl, a student at Bishop McCort whose identity was not released, was in the custody of Canadian social services and was to be returned home soon, Tulowitzki said. She was not injured.

Lemmon, who lived in Johnstown, was married and had two children.

The girl's mother contacted Johnstown authorities and reported her daughter missing about 5:30 p.m. after the girl and Lemmon did not show up at a church in nearby Ebensburg for Ash Wednesday services, authorities said. The mother knew the two were supposed to be going to church together, according to a court document.

Police talked to another teenager who said the girl and Lemmon were going to Canada, according to the document. Johnstown police said they learned the two might be headed to Welland, located about 25 miles west of Buffalo, where Lemmon's mother lived.

An extradition order was issued, charging Lemmon with interfering with the custody of children. Canadian police were contacted, and, according to a news release from Johnstown authorities, Lemmon "reportedly jumped" as detectives reached the residence in Welland.

Charles Koren, superintendent of schools for the diocese, said Lemmon had been a teacher at Bishop McCort since 1987 and taught religion and computer classes. He was an ordained deacon, though he did not serve in a religious capacity at the school, Koren said.

A woman who identified herself as Lemmon's wife declined comment when reached at home Thursday.


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