Inver Grove Heights: after Cleric's Suicide, Sexual Abuse Victim Steps Forward

By Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
February 6, 2013

A Franciscan brother who died by suicide in Pennsylvania after sexual-abuse allegations also molested a Minnesota boy while he served at the Church of St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights, the victim and his St. Paul attorney said.

The Rev. Stephen P. Baker, 62, was found dead Saturday, Feb. 2, at the St. Bernadine Monastery in Hollidaysburg, Pa., of a self-inflicted knife wound to the heart, according to Blair Township police.

In 2003, Douglas Larson, 49, of St. Cloud came to a settlement with the Third Order Regular Franciscans, Province of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic order of which Baker was a member, according to Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney who represented Larson and other alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

Attorney Jim Geoly represented the province in the settlement. He confirmed that it involved an allegation of sexual abuse by Baker. Baker himself denied the charge, Geoly said.

"That did not stop the province from proceeding to resolve it with Mr. Anderson," Geoly said. "I think they were willing to accept what (Larson) was saying and proceed on that basis."

Larson told the Pioneer Press that he felt some closure when he learned of the suicide.

"I am happy he's gone," Larson said. "Other parts of me are angry that I'll never have a chance to give him a right hook. He took the coward's way out and he didn't explain anything."

Larson said his own name should be public because had done nothing wrong.

The settlement

stemmed from Larson's allegations that Baker molested him at age 14 when Larson's family attended the Church of St. Patrick. He served as an altar boy. An official Catholic directory confirmed that Baker was serving at St. Patrick from at least 1978 through 1980.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Jan. 16 that 11 former high school students from Ohio had won financial settlements in their cases involving Baker. Additional claims have emerged since then, with alleged victims saying Baker would abuse them under the guise of providing therapeutic massages for sports injuries.

Larson declined to detail the abuse he suffered from Baker, except that it consisted of "the exact same stuff as the other victims -- it was the sports creams and the massages," progressing from there, he said.

Larson believes there are other victims from Baker's time at St. Patrick. He said he hopes publicity around the story gives others the courage to come forward.

This story includes information from the Associated Press.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.

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