Facebook - Old Orchard Beach Police Department/Facebook - Meteorologist Tom Johnston

Apr 20, 2017 7:55 AM

Police clarify why it took 3 days to notify public about missing Maine meteorologist


OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — As speculations swirl behind a sexual assault case and a meteorologist who committed suicide, police clarified why the public found out he was missing three days after the report.

WCSH meteorologist Tom Johnston left his Old Orchard Beach home April 1 to emcee the Springfest event at Sunday River Ski resort in Newry.

Johnston spoke to family members around 10:20 p.m. that night and they never heard from him afterward.

Two days later, Johnston's girlfriend, who lived with him at Old Orchard Beach, went down to the police station to report him missing after he did not return home, Detective Sgt. David Hemingway said.

The police department began to investigate this potential missing person case by talking to family members to look at the circumstances as to why Johnston did not return, Hemingway said.

While figuring out the situation, Old Orchard Beach police sent a teletype to area agencies — including the Auburn Police Department and the Oxford County Sheriff's Office — to put them on the look out for Johnston starting on April 3.

Hemingway said that once a missing persons report is filed with the department, they attempt to back track the persons steps, look at all the circumstances and any other information to confirm that this person is actually missing.

The department is able to determine that a child or juvenile is missing faster than adults because they cannot be on their own, Hemingway said. For adults, the department has to verify additional information.

Johnston failed to report to work April 3 as police continued to look for clues regarding his disappearance, including phone records and financial records.

Three more days passed and still no one had heard from Johnston. The Old Orchard Beach Police Department decided to make his missing case public through a flyer containing his information.

Later in the evening on April 6, the Auburn Police Department found Johnston's vehicle before finding his body in a wooded area.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner deemed Johnston's death as a suicide caused by hypothermia. He also had self-inflicted wounds to his upper extremities.

READ: Medical Examiner says Maine meteorologist died from hypothermia, self-inflicted wounds

Johnston may be connected to a sexual assault case before his death, according to allegations made by a Maine radio station and two advocacy groups.

READ: Advocacy groups connect sexual assault case to Maine meteorologist who committed suicide

Officer Josh Aylward submitted a report to the Oxford County Sheriff's Office on April 2 at 1:25 a.m. stating that deputies responded to Bridgton Hospital and met with a woman in reference to a sexual assault that occurred at a residence in Newry.

The police report said the suspect fled the scene and was later reported as a missing person.

This report came hours after family members of Johnston last heard from him and one day before his girlfriend reported him missing to police.

WGAN, a Maine radio station, stated in a talk show Friday that there may be a possible connection between this sexual assault incident and the apparent suicide of Johnston.

The radio station added that Johnston was the only missing person in Oxford County around the time of the sexual assault incident before police found him deceased on April 6.

Chief Deputy Hart L. Daley of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office would not comment if Johnston is a suspect in this case, but did say they are "pretty confident" with who the suspect is.

READ: Sheriff 'pretty confident' of sex assault suspect ID; Maine meteorologist speculation swirls

More information regarding the case is expected to be released once the Sheriff's Office is 100 percent sure they have the right perpetrator.

NH1 News will continue to update this story.

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