Convicted child rapist, former Baltimore Catholic school teacher dies in prison

May 15, 2023, 8:23 AM

BALTIMORE (AP) — A convicted child rapist, whose crimes were recently highlighted in an extensive state report on sex abuse and coverups within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, died last week in prison, according to Maryland’s corrections agency.

John Merzbacher, 81, was serving four life sentences after his 1995 rape conviction for committing sexual abuse while he was a teacher at a Catholic middle school in Baltimore in the 1970s. He died Friday of natural causes in the infirmary at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, state corrections officials said.

Merzbacher’s crimes have received renewed attention in recent weeks with the release of a report by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which spent years investigating child sexual abuse in the archdiocese. It found more than 150 priests and others associated with the Baltimore archdiocese sexually abused over 600 children for decades, often with impunity.

The report, which paints a damning picture of the nation’s oldest Catholic diocese, holds up Merzbacher as “the most obvious example of systemic abuse” committed by non-clerical members of the archdiocese, including deacons and Catholic school teachers. Prior investigations had focused mainly on abusive priests.

During his time as a teacher at Catholic Community Middle School in south Baltimore, Merzbacher terrorized students while school leadership looked the other way, according to the report. He raped and molested dozens of male and female students, including at gunpoint, once discharged a gun at school, and repeatedly threatened to kill the children or their families if they told anyone what he was doing, the report said.

Investigators interviewed Merzbacher in prison as part of their probe, and he denied doing anything wrong, according to the report, which raises significant questions about who in the archdiocese knew about Merzbacher’s abuse and failed to hold him accountable. He left the school in 1979.

When he was convicted in 1995 of raping one student, prosecutors had evidence Merzbacher had also abused 13 others, but they declined to bring charges in those cases because he was already serving life in prison, the report said.

“Now, as always, is an important time to keep those victim-survivors who Merzbacher harmed so deeply in our prayers,” the Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a statement Monday. “The Archdiocese prays for their strength and for their continued healing.”

Days after the attorney general’s report was released last month, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed legislation to brought several victims forward with threats of civil litigation.

National News

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaking during the second day of the Republican National...

Associated Press

Republican leaders urge colleagues to steer clear of racist and sexist attacks on Harris

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leaders are warning party members against using overtly racist and sexist attacks against Vice President Kamala Harris, as they and President Donald Trump ‘s campaign scramble to adjust to the reality of a new Democratic rival less than four months before Election Day. At a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on […]

4 minutes ago

FILE - Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchora...

Associated Press

Measure aimed at repealing Alaska’s ranked voting system still qualifies for ballot, officials say

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An initiative aimed at repealing Alaska’s ranked choice voting system still has sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot, attorneys for the state said in court filings Tuesday, days after a judge disqualified some of the booklets used to gather signatures. Superior Court Judge Christina Rankin in a ruling last […]

11 minutes ago

FILE - The marquee at a gun shop in Los Ranchos, N.M, flashes in protest of Gov. Michelle Lujan Gri...

Associated Press

Federal court won’t block New Mexico’s 7-day waiting period on gun purchases amid litigation

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that New Mexico can continue to enforce a new, seven-day waiting period on gun sales while a court challenge backed by the National Rifle Association moves forward. In a ruling Monday, Albuquerque-based U.S. District Court Judge James Browning denied the NRA’s request for a restraining […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Clashes arise over the economic effects of Louisiana’s $3 billion-dollar coastal restoration project

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Proponents of a nearly $3 billion project to restore part of southeast Louisiana’s rapidly vanishing coastline released a study Tuesday touting the expected economic benefits of its construction, even as the project faces pushback and litigation from communities who fear the environment and their livelihoods will be severely affected. The Mid-Barataria […]

39 minutes ago

Associated Press

How employers are taking steps to safeguard workers from extreme heat

McKINNEY, Texas (AP) — At the start of every work day, construction worker Charles Smith puts on the essentials: hard hat. Safety glasses. A reflective vest. And a small, watch-like band for his wrist. But rather than track time, its purpose is to ensure he doesn’t overheat while working during sweltering summer days in Texas. […]

57 minutes ago

Associated Press

State election directors fear the Postal Service can’t handle expected crush of mail-in ballots

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State election directors from across the country voiced serious concerns to a top U.S. Postal Service official Tuesday that the system won’t be able to handle an expected crush of mail-in ballots in the November election. Steven Carter, manager of election and government programs for the postal service, attempted to reassure the […]

1 hour ago

Convicted child rapist, former Baltimore Catholic school teacher dies in prison