SOUTH PARIS, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Investigators with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday they have concluded their investigation into a sexual assault that occurred at a residence in Newry, near Sunday River.
For the first time, they confirmed the suspect in the case was Johnston, the meteorologist who worked at NEWS CENTER up until his suicide last month. It is an investigation that lasted a little more than a month and detectives concluded that Johnston would have been the person charged if he were still alive.
"The one and only suspect who was identified through victim and witnesses information was Thomas Johnston, 48 years old, of OOB, Maine," said Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant.
According to Sheriff Gallant, Johnston would have been charged with a Class B gross sexual assault that happened in Newry on April 1, if he was still alive.
► Maine Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Line: 1-800-871-7741 and mecasa.org
Maine Criminal Code 17-A Pt. 2 Ch. 11 §253(2)(D) is the exact statute and class that he would have been charged with, police said. Highlighted below is the exact charge:
Investigators said an adult woman reported being sexually assaulted around 8:30 p.m. April 1 at a residence near Sunday River. According to the criminal report, the woman reported she went to the house around 6 p.m. to take a nap. A group she had been with arrived at the house later. She said someone opened the door and she awoke to find Johnston under the covers with her.
"We are confident, we had plenty of witnesses we interviewed and they all confirm that Mr. Johnston was in fact at that building and was in fact in the room where this crime occurred," Gallant said.
The report goes on to say the woman realized she had been unclothed while sleeping. Investigators said people in the house confronted Johnston, but he left the residence hastily. They said alcohol was involved.
"Our investigation shows that Johnston was at the residence and was identified during the commission of the sexual assault. Johnston left the residence before deputies arrived on scene," Gallant said.
The woman and a friend decided it best that she get a sexual assault examination at Bridgton Hospital. That’s where she met with a sheriff’s deputy around 1:25 a.m. April 2. This is the first time investigators have revealed this information despite repeated attempts to get it previous to today.
"We wouldn’t reveal anything to anybody. We stayed with the confidentiality we had to go by," the sheriff said. "We could understand the concerns of where he worked, but we couldn't give any information to anyone."
DNA evidence has not yet been returned, investigators said.
We do know Johnston, who worked for NEWS CENTER for the last three years, emceed an event April 1 at Sunday River Ski Resort.
The last time he was seen by a family member, according to police records, was the afternoon of April 1. He was seen during the early morning of April 2 at Bluebird restaurant.
Johnston was reported missing by his girlfriend in Old Orchard Beach early Monday morning, April 3, when he did not return home.
Three days later, his body was found in a wooded area in Auburn, within hours after Old Orchard Beach police released a missing persons report. The medical examiner said Johnston, 46, died from exposure to the elements after cutting himself multiple times on each arm.
Investigators said in cases where the suspect is deceased, they release their findings before closing the case.
"The case is closed, and what is available is what we can give to the public," Gallant said. "That's what we're doing today."
Investigators said they did not come up with any other victims or any other suspects.
“We are disturbed to learn this troubling information. We began covering Tom’s disappearance in early April. During today’s Oxford County Sheriff’s Office’s news conference, we learned for the first time with everyone else that Tom would have been charged in a Class B gross sexual assault that happened on April 1, if he was still alive. We share in the community’s shock and our thoughts are with the victim and the families involved.”
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