Barbara Aponte

Barbara Aponte talks about her son Friday, March 18, 2016, outside Blair County Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner’s office in Hollidaysburg.

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Luke Bradesku received a common assignment in his ninth-grade English class at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren, Ohio: keep a journal.

“It was just like you go home every night, you write, you hand it in to your teacher, and they say ‘OK you did your writing,’ ” said his mother, Barbara Aponte.

One day, though, Bradesku revealed a terrible pain caused – his mother claims – by Brother Stephen Baker, a clergy member accused of sexually abusing children in several states, including Pennsylvania when he officially served at Bishop McCort High School, as an athletic trainer and in other roles, from 1992 to 2000.

Based on the journal entry – and verification from another victim – Aponte believes Baker abused her son in 1991, leading to his eventual suicide.

“I don’t have the behind-the-door details,” Aponte said. 

“What I have are things that he wrote in a journal about hiding, waiting for rides, so he wouldn’t have to undergo any more of Brother Steve’s weird treatments. This took place after football injuries.”

But nobody at the school ever saw her son’s message.

“I made him tear it out of the journal because I was worried about Brother Steve getting in trouble,” Aponte said. “He just looked at me. He didn’t say anything. He ripped the page out and threw it away and walked away. And maybe, if I would have said, ‘What?’ ”

She said her son first attempted suicide as a freshman. He eventually took his own life in 2003 at age 26.

Aponte blames Baker and breaks down emotionally when explaining how the tragedy happened. 

“I thought I made the right decision in sending my son to this school,” she said. “My heart and my head are in conflict because my head tells me I didn’t know. My heart tells me I delivered him to a pedophile. I paid for my son to be with a pedophile.”

The grieving mother told her story Friday morning, outside Blair County Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner’s building in Hollidaysburg.

She was there to attend the arraignments of Giles Schinelli, Robert D’Aversa, and Anthony Criscitelli – three past Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception minister provincials, who are charged with conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children. A grand jury alleged they allowed Baker to have access to Bishop McCort even though they knew he was not supposed to be around children.

As the defendants walked together on way to the hearing she yelled: “My son is dead because of your poor decision-making.”

When speaking privately earlier, she damned any religious leader involved in covering up child abuse, saying, “Suicide isn’t a problem in their eyes … it’s a solution.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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