Former Catholic high school employee charged with sexual assault of students

| 7/26/16 | Ivey DeJesus | PennLive |

A former employee of a high school in the Altoona‑Johnstown Diocese has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a

The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday released the criminal complaint against John Bowman Thornberry, 28, a former
employee of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, Cambria County.

Thornberry is accused of the sexual assault of an international exchange student. He is also charged with the attempted sexual
assault of a second international exchange student.

The alleged incidents occurred while Thornberry worked as a house parent in a residence hall for students at the school.
“This is a disturbing case of a trusted school official violating the very students he was obligated to watch over and care for,”
Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a written statement. “It is unacceptable for anyone to harm a child.”

The Diocese of Altoona‑Johnstown earlier this year was the focus of a grand jury investigation into systemic clergy sex abuse. The
two‑year investigation uncovered the widespread sexual assault of hundreds ‑ possibly thousands ‑ of children across the
diocese, and its coverup by church officials.

The investigation prompted calls from legislators for reform into the statute of limitations. Reform legislation recently passed in
both chambers of the Legislature and awaits a concurrence vote from the House in the fall.

The investigation into Thornberry began after an administrator from Bishop Carroll contacted authorities to report the
allegations. According to the criminal complaint, Thornberry, a “house parent,” was tasked with assisting students with
homework assignments and transportation. He was also responsible for accounting for students’ whereabouts when they were
outside the classroom.
The alleged sexual assault and the alleged attempted sexual assault occurred between December 2014 and February 2016. The
alleged incidents occurred in the school residence hall where the student victims were living, investigators stated in a criminal

Thornberry, of Mills Rivers, N.C., is charged with one count each of institutional sexual assault, criminal attempted sexual assault,
attempted indecent assault, indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. Thornberry is awaiting
a preliminary arraignment.

Thornberry’s arrest is one among a handful of cases that have developed out of the Altoona‑Johnstown Diocese since the March
grand jury report. In June, two Blair County women ‑ who are sisters ‑ filed a lawsuit alleging years of sexual assault at the
hands of a diocesan priest.

Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Office of Attorney General at 888‑538‑8541.

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