SOUTH PARIS — TV weatherman Tom Johnston was the only suspect in a recent sexual assault case and would have been charged by police had the WCSH meteorologist survived instead of apparently committing suicide, the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

Sheriff Wayne J. Gallant said at the Thursday news conference that Johnston would have been charged with gross sexual assault, a class B offense, but the case is now closed. Johnston was identified as the suspect in the Newry incident by both witnesses and the person identified as the victim, he said.

Johnston, 46, of Old Orchard Beach, was reported missing by his girlfriend April 3 after failing to return from an appearance at the Springfest event at the Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry. Police ultimately found his body April 6 in a wooded location near Lewiston Junction Road in Auburn. The state medical examiner later reported that Johnston died of hypothermia from environmental exposure after inflicting wounds to his arms and losing consciousness.

A meteorologist at WCSH since 2014, Johnston was an on-air personality who embraced the nickname “TJ Thunder.” He left behind his girlfriend and three children.

Gallant said WCSH was not told that the weatherman was a suspect in the case because of the ongoing police investigation over the last month.

In a statement posted online Thursday, Brian Cliffe, president and general manager of WCSH, said the TV station staff was “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,” Cliffe said in the statement. “We share in the community’s shock and our thoughts are with the victim and the families involved.”

A woman at Bridgton Hospital reported to police early on Sunday, April 2, that she had been sexually assaulted at a residence in Newry. In interviews with police, the woman said she had gone to the area for Sunday River’s Spring Festival event, according to new documents released Thursday by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

The woman spent several hours with a group of friends on Saturday, April 1, at Sunday River. They drank alcohol and returned to a home in Newry, where the woman lay down in a bedroom for a nap. When she woke up, she found a man in bed with her. She told police she recognized the man as Johnston.

Around the same time, a friend of the woman’s entered the bedroom to check on her and found Johnston in the room. After what Gallant described as a confrontation, Johnston “dressed quickly, ran out to his car and left in a hurry.”

Johnston was seen later that night at a restaurant in Newry, where the report says he “performed a weather skit for one of the patrons.” That skit was recorded by someone present and sent to police.

In a posting in the Facebook group “What’s Goin’ on in Bethel,” Andrew Raymond, executive chef of the Bluebird restaurant in Newry, wrote that he had served Johnston “the last food of the season” around midnight. Raymond wrote that the restaurant reported seeing Johnston to police.


Johnston was seen again April 2 in a store in Mechanic Falls, where he purchased razor blades, according to the police report.

Police did not find a suicide note when they discovered Johnston’s body, according to the Oxford report, but Johnston’s girlfriend did receive some text messages from him early Sunday morning. Among the texts was what looked like an icon of hands praying — the last she heard from Johnston, according to the report.

During a news conference Thursday at the sheriff’s office, Gallant said that he thinks Johnston was aware that he was a suspect in the sexual assault. Police did leave messages for Johnston but were not able to reach him, Gallant said.

Since Johnston is dead, the sexual assault case is now closed, Gallant said. Asked at Thursday’s news conference why the investigation had taken more than a month, Gallant said that the large, transient population in Newry and Bethel meant officers had to travel to speak with some witnesses. He added that Johnston’s family was slow to speak with authorities during the investigation, leading to additional delays in releasing information to the public.

Johnston’s family has been informed of the results of the sheriff’s investigation, Gallant said. Family members could not be reached for further comment Thursday.

Johnston is not believed to be connected to any other criminal acts, the sheriff said.


Some news outlets last month made a connection between Johnston’s missing persons report and the sexual assault case.

Portland radio hosts Matthew Gagnon and Ken Altschuler of WGAN speculated about the case on air, citing the Oxford police report and criticizing media for failing to look into Johnston’s death. The radio hosts said they were not reporting facts, even before connecting Johnston to the alleged assault.

Following the WGAN conversation and reporting by at least two other outlets — and — the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Maine’s National Alliance on Mental Illness issued a joint public statement definitively linking Johnston to the assault.

“When the victim of the suicide is being investigated for a reported sexual assault, it greatly complicates the reactions of those whose lives are impacted by his passing,” Greg Marley, clinical director of NAMI Maine, said in the statement. “This is especially true for the death of a celebrity or other well-known person. Suicide is often a preventable loss when the person at risk takes steps to access help, or if those who know them intervene to get help.”

The group’s statement said at the time the case “is devastating and the repercussions may resonate throughout the communities impacted for some time.”

Cara Courchesne, communications director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said in the statement that “suicide and sexual violence both result in serious trauma and for the two to coincide as they have in this case, the trauma is even more immediate and serious.”


“It’s important too for victims of sexual violence to know that someone else’s violent actions or suicide is not their fault, and that help is available,” Courchesne said.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

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