—All six of the still-unsolved killings may be connected
to rapes by two “serial abuser-priests” at former Archbishop Keough High School, investigators say.
“That’s beyond coincidence – something’s going on.”
–A Top Maryland Law Enforcement Official, July 2017
By Tom Nugent
BALTIMORE – More than four decades after the still-unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun who was reportedly killed while attempting to blow the whistle on widespread sexual abuse at her Catholic girls’ high school, law enforcement officials in Maryland say they’re concerned about new findings that may link six different unsolved murders to two priests who were involved in the abuse during the late 1960s and much of the 1970s.
“This [new information] is deeply troubling and it absolutely should be checked out,” said one former high-ranking law enforcement investigator in Maryland recently, after reviewing the new findings by Inside Baltimore. Added the now-retired officer: “As a former investigator, I’m concerned that there may be a pattern here which points to involvement by the abusing priests.”
Another top law enforcement official in Maryland said after learning about new information related to the cold cases: “That’s beyond coincidence – something’s going on and these unsolved murders should be reviewed carefully.”
Three of the unsolved murder victims were teenaged girls and another was a 14-year-old boy. The nun was 26 at the time of her death, and Joyce Malecki was only 20 years old when she died. Malecki’s still-unsolved murder took place only a few days after the disappearance of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in November of 1969.
All but one of the killings, which occurred between 1969 and 1981, involved victims with alleged ties to two priests involved in the abuse – Father A. Joseph Maskell and Father Edward Neil Magnus, both of whom taught at the former Archbishop Keough High School in southwest Baltimore – or to two Catholic Baltimore-area parishes (St. Clement in Lansdowne and Our Lady of Victory in Catonsville) where Maskell served or lived frequently for many of the years during the 11-year period of the unsolved murders.
Recently described in a seven-part, Emmy Award-nominated documentary (The Keepers) that was shown on Netflix, the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik took place after she disappeared on November 7, 1969. The body of the second victim, 20-year-old Joyce Malecki – who had been Father Maskell’s parishioner for many years and went to confession and attended summer Bible camps with him – was found dead in a creek at the Fort George G. Meade U.S. Army base six days later.
Father Maskell, who died at age 62 on May 7, 2001, reportedly served as a military chaplain at Fort Meade for several years.
The Malecki cold case was complicated by the fact that the FBI – which is charged with solving murders on U.S. military bases – told this reporter in 2004 that it had “never investigated” the Malecki killing and had “no records at all” related to any investigation of the case by the FBI. (To read a City Paper story about the Cesnik and Malecki murders: http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-who-killed-sister-cathy-one-of-maryland-s-coldest-murder-cases-heats-up-20170504-story.html.)
But about three years ago, in response to a Freedom of Information request, the FBI reportedly confirmed that it had actually compiled thousands of pages of investigative materials related to the Malecki murder over the years – and then reportedly promised to release them publicly.
As of today, however, almost three years later, nearly 6,000 pages of FBI documents related to the unsolved murder of Joyce Malecki have still not been released, according to sources.
Meanwhile, new information related to four other unsolved killings from that era – all of them involving teenagers – has left cold case investigators asking themselves if the murders might be connected . . . and if they might also be related to the sexual abuse that was taking place at Archbishop Keough High School and several other Baltimore area Catholic parochial schools and churches during that period.
Only a few months ago, a special cold-case task force organized by the Baltimore County Police Department announced publicly that it was reviewing the unsolved murders of two Baltimore-area teenagers in the early 1970s to see if they are linked to Father Maskell’s widely reported sexual abuse at Keough and elsewhere. (To read a Washington Post story about the cases: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/05/05/police-exhume-body-of-priest-as-they-investigate-1969-slaying-of-baltimore-nun/?utm_term=.98ebc04e02a3.)
One of those unsolved murders – the September 1971 slaying of 16-year-old Grace Elizabeth Montanye, whose body was found behind a Catholic Church in South Baltimore after she was reportedly abducted and then killed – has been complicated by the fact that a former Baltimore City Police Department homicide detective told this reporter in 1993 that his 1970s efforts to solve the Montanye murder had been blocked by police officials who were covering the murder up in order to “protect someone”.
According to the now-deceased police investigator, whose story appeared in a 1993 edition of Baltimore Magazine, the Baltimore City Police first ordered him to drop the investigation of the Montanye murder . . . and when he refused to do so, punished him by requiring him to take early retirement because he had been found to be “overzealous” in his efforts to solve the case.
While confirming publicly that they have been re-investigating Grace Montanye’s death in recent months to see if she might have been linked to Father Maskell, the Baltimore County Police task force has also been reviewing the still-unsolved murder of 16-year-old Pamela Lynn Conyers in October of 1970. That Anne Arundel County murder featured an abduction and many of the same physical characteristics that marked the Cesnik, Malecki and Montanye murders, according to police, and the time frame also raised questions about possible links to priestly sexual abuse.
More recently, law enforcement officials in Maryland say they’ve begun looking at two additional unsolved murders of teenagers with circumstantial links to two Catholic churches where Father Maskell lived or preached during the era when the killings took place.
Killed in 1975 was 14-year-old Francis (“Danny”) Crocetti, a Catholic altar boy for many years, whose body was found in a wooded area only a short distance from Our Lady of Victory Church and parochial school. Crocetti had reportedly been stabbed to death with an icepick. Father Maskell served at Our Lady of Victory Church and lived at the church rectory from 1968 to 1970, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He also visited other priests frequently at Our Lady of Victory during the years leading up to the Crocetti killing, while living during much of that time at St. Clement, according to numerous witnesses.
Six years after the Crocetti teenager died, a 13-year old girl named Heather Porter, whose family lived in Lansdowne and reportedly attended St. Clement Church, was abducted and killed.
Her body was found the next day, strangled and stabbed, in a wooded area near Goucher Boulevard in the north Baltimore suburb of Towson. That still-unsolved killing took place in September of 1981.
While police investigators have not ruled out coincidence as the link that connects all six of these unsolved killings, they also say it seems highly unlikely to account for the mysterious deaths – based on their many years of experience as investigators.
“That’s beyond coincidence,” said one veteran Maryland law enforcement official, when asked about the likelihood that five different unsolved murders (Cesnik, Malecki, Montanye, Crocetti and Porter) would all involve victims with alleged ties to Father Maskell or the two Catholic churches (St. Clement in Lansdowne and Our Lady of Victory in Catonsville) where Maskell often lived and/or worked during the period when the killings took place.
The possibility of a police cover-up of the six unsolved killings has also complicated the investigation of these six murders, say experts. In recent months, several witnesses have told the Baltimore news media that they were raped by policemen, as well as by Catholic priests, during the period in which most of the killings took place.
Said one retired Maryland law enforcement official who is familiar with the case: “I think the fact that all of the murders remain unsolved to this day – and that they seem to have so many similarities and links to priestly sex abuse – is very troubling.
“All these killings should be checked out, to see if there’s a pattern here.”
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