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Sheriff: Meteorologist Who Killed Himself was a Suspect in Newry Sexual Assault

Susan Sharon
Maine Public file
Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant (left) at a Thursday press conference.

Nearly a month after a popular WCSH-TV meteorologist was reported missing and then discovered to have killed himself, police say he was the sole suspect in sexual assault that took place at a private residence in Newry.

Police released details in the case at a news conference Thursday. They say Tom Johnston and the adult victim were part of a larger group of friends who got together on April 1 after a Spring Festival at the Sunday River ski resort.

According to a police report, the victim, who had been drinking, lay down to get some rest. Later she was awakened by someone checking on her. That’s when the woman discovered that her clothes were missing and Johnston was in the bed with her.

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant says several witnesses then confronted Johnston as he quickly put on his clothes and left.

“We are confident that we had plenty of witnesses that we interviewed and they all can confirm that Johnston was, in fact, at that building and Mr. Johnston, in fact, was in the room where this crime occurred,” he says.

Early the next morning the woman and her friend showed up at Bridgton Hospital where she underwent a sexual assault examination. Neither the victim, her friend or the witnesses are being identified to protect their privacy.

Police say they had no contact with Johnston after the crime occurred. He was seen purchasing razor blades at a store in Mechanic Falls on April 2, the day he’s believed to have killed himself in woods near the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. His body was discovered four days later.

Gallant says it has taken his investigators weeks to track down and interview multiple witnesses who don’t live in the area.

“You have to remember that the town of Newry and the town of Bethel are very transient populations, and when you start dealing with transient people it’s difficult finding witnesses or we have to travel longer distance to be able to interview people,” he says.

Had Johnston lived, Gallant says he’s confident there was enough evidence to have charged him with Class B gross sexual assault. And while toxicology and DNA tests are still pending, the case is now officially closed.

In a written statement, Brian Cliffe, the president and general manager of WCSH 6, said, “We share in the community’s shock and our thoughts are with the victim and the families involved.”

To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the free, confidential Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 1-800-871-7741. This 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine.