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East Neighborhoods
Teacher on run falls to death in Canada

Friday, March 07, 2003

By The Associated Press

JOHNSTOWN -- A suspended Catholic high school teacher accused of taking a 15-year-old female student to Canada with him fell to his death from an apartment balcony yesterday when Canadian police hunting the pair found him at his mother's Ontario apartment.

Police in Welland, Ontario, 20 miles west of Niagara Falls, N.Y., said Thomas Lemmon, 38, fell around 10:45 a.m. from a fourth-floor balcony at his mother's apartment.

It was unclear whether Lemmon, suspended from Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown after classes Wednesday, was trying to flee or committed suicide, Cambria County District Attorney David Tulowitzki said.

A Niagara Regional Police Service spokeswoman said last night that child welfare officials there had the teenager, a Bishop McCort student, in protective custody. Her name was not released.

Lemmon, who lived in Upper Yoder, a Johnstown suburb, was married and had two teenage children. Neighbor Diane Sabo described the family as "very, very nice people."

The mother of the missing teen contacted Johnstown authorities after her daughter and Lemmon did not show up at a church in nearby Ebensburg for Ash Wednesday services. The mother knew the two were supposed to be going to church together, according to a court document.

Police talked with another teenager who said the girl and Lemmon were going to Canada.

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 had 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 yesterday.

Staff writer Tom Gibb contributed to this report.

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