Police: TV weatherman who killed self was suspect in rape case

SOUTH PARIS, Maine — A TV weatherman who took his life last month after serving as a celebrity judge at a ski resort's margarita competition was a suspect in a rape that happened days before his death, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The assault happened the evening of April 1 in a private home near Sunday River ski resort after WCSH-TV employee Tom Johnston participated in the margarita mix-off, and there was enough evidence to charge him if he were still alive, Sheriff Wayne Gallant said.

Johnston was reported missing April 3 by his girlfriend in Old Orchard Beach after he failed to return home from Sunday River.

His body was found days later in woods in Auburn; an autopsy indicates he cut wrists and died from hypothermia, officials said.

The accuser told police she'd gone to Sunday River in Newry to attend Springfest. She said she'd been drinking before she decided to take a nap and then awoke to find the 46-year-old Johnston in bed with her, according to an affidavit. Police said she didn't know Johnston before the attack but recognized him as the popular meteorologist from WCSH-TV in Portland.

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant told reporters on Thursday that he thinks Johnston was aware that he was a suspect in the sexual assault because people at the Newry home confronted Johnston, who hastily dressed, ran outside and drove away.

Brian Cliffe, president and general manager of WCSH-TV, said the revelation was disturbing.

"We share in the community's shock and our thoughts are with the victim and the families involved," Cliffe said in a statement posted online.

Police say Johnston was seen after the assault in a restaurant in Newry, where he had some food and performed a weather skit for patrons.

Later, he bought some razor blades at a convenience store and sent his girlfriend a few text messages, including one of hands clasped in prayer, police said.

Police say the investigation is now closed.