Baltimore Witness Says She Was Shown Body of Murdered Nun by Abuser-Priest

 

Retired Cop Confirms 2 Witnesses Also Reported
“Death Threats” from the Later-Defrocked Cleric

“I Wiped Maggots from Her Face,” Recalls
Former Student at Baltimore Catholic School

Archdiocese Paid $40,000 to a Second Abuse Victim
For Injuries Dead Nun Allegedly Sought to Prevent

 

By Tom Nugent

[Editor’s Note: The two poems at the end of the following story are published with the permission of the author, who signed them as: “Jean Hargadon Wehner, Survivor.”]

November 2014 – After remaining anonymous for more than 40 years, a Baltimore woman has come forward to identify herself as a witness who was “shown the dead body of Sister Cathy” Cesnik by a Catholic priest who was allegedly involved in the nun’s murder as a way to keep her from reporting his sexual abuse of students at a Catholic high school in the city.

Jean Hargadon Wehner, known only as “Jane Doe” during a controversial 1994 lawsuit that sought to collect $40 million in damages resulting from alleged rampant sexual abuse at Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s, said she was taken to a garbage dump in Lansdowne by the alleged abuser-priest in the late fall of 1969.

The isolated and difficult to find dump was located only half a mile from the St. Clement Roman Catholic Church in Lansdowne, where the alleged – and later defrocked – abuser-priest served as pastor for several years.

“When [the now-deceased pastor, Father A. Joseph] Maskell told me he would take me to Cathy [murder victim Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, a former English teacher and drama coach at the high school], he led me to believe she was still alive,” said Wehner.  “I had no idea where we were going.  As I walked around a corner, I saw her on the ground.  I ran over, bent down, and began wiping maggots off her face.

“As I stared at my hands in shock, Maskell leaned over and whispered in my ear: ‘You see what happens when you say bad things about people?’”

Wehner, one of two plaintiffs in the 1990s lawsuit, said she had decided to come forward at this time because other former Keough students have also been speaking out about the alleged abuse in recent months – and because her own healing process has now reached the point where she can talk more openly about the years of abuse she allegedly endured at the former Catholic girls high school in southwest Baltimore during the late 1960s.

The plaintiffs in the widely reported 1994 lawsuit – eventually dismissed on a legal technicality after a Baltimore court ruled that the “statute of limitations” for bringing such a suit had been exceeded – charged that they had been required to endure sexual abuse at the hands of the priest, including rape, and that the abuse had sometimes taken place at gunpoint.  They also said in the lawsuit that they had been forced to submit to abuse from police officers who were friends of the priest.

Wehner’s astonishing details about her visit to the dead nun’s body at the garbage dump in Lansdowne are powerfully supported by comments from Baltimore police, as reported in a front-page story in the Baltimore Sun on June 19, 1994.

“In interviews with police and the Sun,” wrote two Baltimore Sun reporters, “she [Wehner] provided details about the body that were known only to investigators at the time, and detectives have not dismissed her claims.”

In addition, the autopsy on the murder victim’s body disclosed the presence of maggots in the throat, according to the 1994 story – a finding that appears to support Wehner’s description of “wiping maggots” from the victim’s face.

The tangled Cesnik cold case took another amazing twist last month, when Inside Baltimore reported that Wehner’s co-plaintiff in the lawsuit – Baltimore attorney Teresa Lancaster, known as “Jane Roe” in the lawsuit – had received a $40,000 payment three years ago from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in return for signing a “release” in which she agreed not to seek further payment for abuse-related damages in the future.

The agreement pointed out that the term “Conduct” in the agreement refers “to all activities by or at the direction of Maskell” – and then noted that “it is acknowledged and agreed that the payment of the amounts set forth herein is compensation for bodily physical injuries arising from the Conduct.”

According to Lancaster, herself an attorney, the language of the agreement is “crystal-clear,” and when coupled with a letter of apology the Archdiocese also sent to her, “is an admission by the Archdiocese that the sexual abuse took place.”

Another alleged abuse victim, who did not wish to be identified, also told Inside Baltimore that she had been offered a large cash payment in return for signing a release.

(The Office of Communications at the Archdiocese of Baltimore did not respond to several telephone messages and emails which asked how many similar payoffs have so far been made to other victims of the alleged abuse.)

Lancaster also said that a high-ranking Baltimore law enforcement official who was involved in investigating the alleged Keough abuse in the 1990s told her during an interview that “we know the priest was involved” in Sister Cathy’s murder in November of 1969, “but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

In addition, a former School Sisters of Notre Dame nun has said she was told by two Baltimore County detectives in the mid-1990s that “we know the priest killed the nun” . . . and a retired high-ranking Baltimore police official has recently confirmed that two witnesses told police investigators in a formal statement that the alleged abuser-priest had made death threats in their presence when they visited the nun’s apartment.

Sister Cathy was abducted one day after their alleged visit to her apartment.  The nun’s badly decayed body was discovered at the Lansdowne garbage dump by two hunters on January 3rd of 1970.

Jean Wehner said that she decided to speak out now because she wants to help provide support to other people who may be able to provide information about the Cesnik case.

“The reason I clarified my experience was so anyone having similar details will feel supported,” she said.  “I am concerned for the other survivors.  Hopefully, if they have any new information, they will contact the [Baltimore County Police Department Cold Case] detective and tell him.”

[To reach Detective Dave Jacoby of the Baltimore County Police Department cold case unit, call 410-887-3943 or email him at djacoby@baltimorecountymd.gov.  Detective Jacoby has said he welcomes any new information about Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder, including information that is provided anonymously.]

Wehner said she has struggled for many years to deal with the emotional impact of being taken to the dump and shown the nun’s body as a warning to her about what would happen if she spoke out about the abuse.

Part of the healing process, she said, has been to write poetry about her painful experience.  In one poem, for example, she tried to describe what it feels like to have a gun held to your head during a sexual-abuse incident.  That poem is titled The Gun.

 

The Gun

The gun is

on the table.

The table is between him and me.

The gun is

on the table.

Then it is in his hands.

I look at the gun.

Do I see him?

Do I see anything but the gun?

I see the bullets,

one by one…

removed and placed

on the table.

One then the other…

until all six are

on the table.

What does he look like?

Is he even there?

The gun is small and dark grey,

the holes empty.

The gun is held by a hand

next to my head.

It feels cold.

Is he speaking?

I can’t hear anything

over the deafening sound

of the click of the trigger!

 Jean Hargadon Wehner

Survivor

 

In a second poem, Wehner described her continuing efforts to heal psychologically from her experience at Keough.

 

Forgive Myself

I forgive myself!

I forgive myself for…

What others did to me.

What others made me feel like.

What others made me believe.

What others made me do.

What I’ve done to survive.

What others made me do.

I forgive myself!

I forgive myself for…

Being afraid~

Being afraid~

Being afraid~

Being afraid~

when I needed to be strong

for me.

I forgive myself for being human!

Jean Hargadon Wehner

Survivor

###

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34 responses

  1. Thank you Jean. You and Theresa are courageous. Theresa and I attended Keough together, and I went to the lawyers to tell them what I remembered Terri telling me. My sister was good friends with Sister Cathy, and Mr Koob often picked up my sister at our house in his van.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Jean and Teresa for stepping forward. Friday will be the 45th anniversary of Sister Cathy’s abduction and subsequent murder. I think that she would be proud to see Keough students and others joining together to seek some measure of justice for her. I hope your stories and your courage will help us in our quest, you should both know that many in the community are grateful for your help.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My heart aches for you Jean for what you have been through. I just never knew that one of my class mates was forced to endure such pain. You are so brave and I admire your courage to speak. I will pray for your continued recovery from the atrocities that the evil one brought into your life and Sr Cathy’s. I hope his soul is rotting in hell. He truly belongs with the devil.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jeannie, you have touched the lives of hundreds of men and women tonight, who are now witness to your story. Thousands more will soon know you and that ripple effect will honor you and the others who survived unspeakable pain and horror at the hands of a monster. We celebrate your life and the courage that inspires all of us. Thank you for believing in yourself and your higher power. I hope you can feel our love and support. ,

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jean, you are very strong and brave to to have endured and survived. We all have our own timing for when we are strong enoug to come forward with our story. I am sorry that you never got justice. But your voice and those of the other strong Keough women might finally get it for Sister Cathy.This is truly “selfless courage”. Your forgive myself poem made me cry.Continue to be strong and forgiving .
    Another survivor
    (not him)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeannie, I graduated from Keough many years later, but I remember my mom always talking about Maskell and the “nun” he killed (it haunted my younger years). I wish you peace and continued healing from the horrors you endured. You have the love and strength of all Keough alumnae coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Jeannie, for coming forward today! We told our stories to those church lawyers in 1994. They mocked us and said awful things to us, about us…. We didn’t win our lawsuit in 1994, but look at the support we have today. Stay strong. The truth is out. The church lost in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Jeannie for telling your story. It is so hard for most of us to imagine what you lived through. I didn’t know Teresa but I will certainly always keep both of you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing with so many. You are so brave and you are my heroes!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Your courage is inspiring and is a true testament of your love for Sr. Cathy. After so many years of darkness, your story is shedding light on the criminals involved in an ugly cover up. Years of prayers for all the victims in this atrocity may be answered with justice and closure. Thank you for your strength and resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jeannie – whenever I saw Joanne or Joey I’d ask about you. You truly are a hero to me for all you have endured in your life and still by your writing is the same sweet Jeannie I remember. I hope you feel the love from all your Keough sisters!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Jean, thank you for your strength to tell your story of the unspeakable horror your delicate spirit had to bear for all these years.
    He called me into his office in my sophmore year, I sat in the chair on the other side of his desk. He sat in front of me telling me that my family had approved him bringing me in for an evaluation. He ran his hand up my leg in a way that was very wrong. He went behind me to the bathroom & left the door open while he urinated. I took that moment to escape his office.

    I spent the better part of a year hiding in the French lab or the gym. He gave up calling my homeroom for me to come to his office.
    I confided in an adult at the school about the abuse I was suffering thru at home & I think he was told & I think he thought I would be easy prey. I was very lucky to have made it out of there with only a very scared view of priests!!!

    All my love to you for the healing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • God bless you for being the brave and courageous person you are. Sister Cathy’s roommate was my neighbor for many years when I lived in Sykesville. My heart ached for her and the pain she was living with knowing the truth of what happened to her sister. Words were unspoken as you could see the pain in her eyes. All Gods Blessings and mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sadly, another example of the Roman Coward Church. We can expect the truth from brave survivors, but only lies from church hierarchy and the corrupt police and politicians who side with dysfunctional sex freaks instead of innocent children.

    Like

    • Mike: Perfect description of that nut case (Maskell): “dysfunctional sex freak(s)”. Just a side note. Maskell and another of his pedophile friends (William Simms) were both at Saint Martins Camp in 1957; long before they were ordained. Both were not 21yo yet. Both were known to have issues and yet both were ordained and both subjected many children to the horrors which they live with everyday. So many people covered up for these “freaks”. Sad to say, even the murdered Nun sort of turned her back as well instead of reporting Maskell to Police as she was required by law to do . Also, several of Maskell (and Simms) peers turned there back too; one of them told me, “can’t you just forgive”. And the answer is Hell No !

      Like

  13. Jean your actions are a brave-heart speaking Truth to Power.Power to love through the pain to help heal all. Power to Love those that were victims and the families and communities scurged by this insane mans action. The love of future generations where victims are cared for and abusers are treated appropriatedly.
    Love you , donna

    Like

  14. Jean You are truly brave and invincible now. Let the truth set you free. Sister Cathys roommate was my 2nd cousin and our family knew of her suffering and the tragedy of the murder. Hopefully the Church will do the Right thing and acknowledge their sins finally.

    Like

  15. Jean, I never knew this was going on. Debbie Hannon told me about it last year. You are a courageous person. Many of us are sending prayers your way.

    Like

  16. Jean, Your poems are so powerful. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself. I am sure everyone who has read this is wishing there was a way to turn back the clock to help you and the others escape this horror. Your strength is truly amazing. Thank you for coming forward to tell your side to help others heal. I wish you peace and happiness and a sense of closure now that all of this is out in the open. .

    Like

  17. Dear Jean – having a hard time finding the right words. Your story would have torn the very soul out of almost anyone. I looked up yearbook pictures of our younger selves; we were all so heartbreakingly young. No one at that age -or any age- should have to face the horror that you faced. I am so sorry that this happened to you and to others. Thank you for cleaning off Sr. Cathy’s face. Your legacy is of strength and courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This case could have been solved 45 years ago with the record keeping both Baltimore County Police and Baltimore City Police kept at the time…ride alongs. Maskell was a ride along with few police officers from both jurisdictions. Showing the witness pictures, which are still available of the officers who: 1. Maintained a close friendship with this priest. 2. Took him on patrol during their shifts. 3. Several of whom are still alive. If the investigators want to close this case, they can delve into the personnel files of both departments, produce pictures of the officers who worked the case, were known friends of Maskell, took him on ride alongs and worked the post cars around these locations and show these pictures to the victims. CASE CLOSED. The coverup has gone on too long and the solution is simple. Why no one finds this puzzle speaks volumes about cash payments and protection. Those officers involved in this crime, conspiracy and coverup are still alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. This episode continues to haunt all of us who knew these monsters. Even though it has taken all these years to finally reach an ,excuse the saying, “come to Jesus moment”, it is well worth the wait. I am constantly amazed at the moral resillance that people have. You are everyone’s voice and hero.We will all be waiting and watching for this to end with some type of closure for you, and all of us ,in which events has touched our lives. I also wish you peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jean, I have just recently heard about this case, from the last article from Inside Baltimore. I was appalled by all aspects–not only the rampant, long term abuse but the police coverup,and the o how holy Catholic Church coverup. Absolutely sickening! I am so glad I veered away from the corruption of Catholicism.

    You and Ms. Lancaster are lighting the way of truth! Your lights are overpowering the evil and darkness that lurks still after all these years. I hope the healing will continue for you and for all who have endured abuse. You are setting a powerful example! May God bless you.

    Cindy Sansone

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Honored & Proud to have such a STRONG & BRAVE women in our family!
    GOD bless you Jeanie! 🙏🙏🙏🙏
    We LOVE you! 💚💜💛❤️💙

    Like

  22. Thank you for all of your loving support! When I began remembering this horror in 1991 I went to the church, which lead to many meetings and ultimately a lawsuit. I hold the representatives of the church responsible for keeping this sexual abuse buried under the statute of limitations. They re-traumatized me and my family, when we needed them most. May Cathy rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I hold teachers who ” know”that he was a weirdo as I would cry not to send me down to his office when being overhead paged. The counsellors who heard complaints fr om children that did not have vocabulary to discribe horrors.The police who covered up. The police that took advantage of girls that were exploited .The church authorities that discredited these women later again. These are a few that I had to learn to forgive.

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  24. Dear Jean, Teresa and other Keough sisters – in a previous job, I worked as a psychology associate in a private practice. Our specialty was sex offenders. I’ve heard all of their whiny, pathetic excuses to try to justify their actions: “I thought she was 18”, “I only did it once” and “My aunt told me that my mother didn’t breast-feed me”. I ripped into some of these guys pretty good. And, I learned many lessons including that predators can not be rehabilitated. One day, a devil in human disguise became a client. He terrified me so badly that I quit this job and to this day cyber-stalk him so that I know where he is. These guys are good at what they do. For whatever reason Fr. Maskell targeted you, you didn’t stand a chance against him. HE was the adult; HE was the authority figure; HE was the abuser. He was the expert at grooming young girls to fulfill his repulsive whims. It was HIS fault. Add a few policemen and teachers who should have protected you, and how could you possibly not be overwhelmed? The tide is turning, finally. His “Mask” (so interesting that this is in his name) has come off, and the world will know him for what he was and what he did. And, the world will know you for the courageous women that you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I was going through the 1971 year book and looked at Jeannie’s senior picture. Her “write up” describes her as bright, and a medley of spunk and determination. It also says “knows just what to say, just can’t say it”. I know she went through a lot of pain and mental anguish to get to this point but Jeannie, you are saying it now !!! You are so courageous to share your story and I hope it is just the beginning chapters and the ending coming soon with exposing all who were responsible for the cover up of your abuse and for the murder of Sr Cathy. Love and Hugs to Jeannie !

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Tom, If you remember me my name is Buck Basel. My wife and I are semi-retired missionaries of thirty +years. We are non-denominational Christians. I would like to make contact with you. We live in Brownwood TX.

    Like

  27. Thank you for your courage and bravery but especially for speaking to me through your poems. I too am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. If anyone has second thoughts about why the statute of limitations for child abuse needs to be extended or removed, this story should explain why. The Maryland legislature ( esp Joe Vallerio) has consistently blocked efforts to extend the SOL.They are in the pocket of the Catholic Church

    Like

  28. Unfortunately, I remember this horrible incident well. I was and am a long-time participate of St. Clement’s in Lansdowne. I remember Fr. Maskell when her was at St. Clement Parish…..It will remain as a very dark time in our parish history! I know that sexual abuse is everywhere…but for it to be done by a trusted priest in a Catholic High School was/is horrible. Sister Cathy did not deserve what happened to her. No one does. Maskell, although now dead, deserves punishment…..I am certain he is in Hell where he belongs.

    Like

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