Who Killed Sister Cathy?

            From the BALTIMORE SUN/CITY PAPER

 

            Who Killed Sister Cathy?

45 Years Later, the Search for Answers Goes On.

sr cathy

COURTESY THE SETON KEOUGH HIGH SCHOOL

maskell

COURTESY THE SETON KEOUGH HIGH SCHOOL

joyce

COURTESY DON MALECKI

bud roemer

COURTESY JOHN ROEMER

YEARBOOK: (from top) Photographs of Sister Catherine Cesnik, Father A. Joseph Maskell, Joyce Malecki, and Baltimore County Police Capt. Bud Roemer dating from around the time Cesnik and Malecki were murdered

 By Tom Nugent

The old man sat on a metal folding chair in his Essex garage. His big right hand reached out to a wooden table, to a faded police autopsy photo lying there.“Do you see that hole in the back of her skull?” asked Louis George “Bud” Roemer, a retired homicide detective formerly with the Baltimore County Police Department. Wrinkled and white-haired, he pointed to one side of the yellowing photograph he had dug out of a box of files. “That hole is perfectly round, and about the size of a quarter.“I’ve studied that photo over and over again, trying to imagine how she might have died,” he said. “A hole like that—it looks to me like it could’ve been made with a ball-peen hammer.”He paused for a moment, as he recalled the still unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, whose body was discovered 35 years ago this month.

“It might have been a hammer,” Roemer continued. “Or maybe a tire iron. Or maybe it was a priest’s ring—one of those heavy gold rings a lot of Catholic priests wear. A priest’s ring would make a hole like that, if he hit her hard enough.”

He fell silent, and leaned back in his chair. He was struggling with diabetes, he said, and talking about the Cesnik case always left him feeling fatigued, and frustrated.

“Every homicide cop has one case that haunts him to the end of his career, and Sister Cathy is mine,” Roemer said. “I sure do wish we could close this one out, before I kick the bucket.”

The body of the 26-year-old nun was found Jan. 3, 1970, in southwest Baltimore County. The circumstances surrounding the case were mysterious and disturbing at the time; in the wake of a City Paper investigation, those circumstances seem even more disturbing now. Years after Cesnik’s murder, a lawsuit documented numerous findings of sexual abuse at the Catholic high school for girls where Cesnik taught shortly before her death. City Paper’s investigation also reveals that a second young murder victim (killed only four days after Cesnik vanished, and only a few miles from where the nun died) attended the same Catholic church where the alleged sex-abuser had been serving as parish priest.

The baffling crimes both remain unsolved to this day. And yet the FBI and Baltimore County Police Department—both of which have recently opened formal reinvestigations into the killings—say they haven’t attempted to make any connection between them.

Roemer helped to solve more than 150 murders during his 23 years as a county cop before retiring as a major in 1975. But he never found the killer of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik; he died of complications from diabetes on June 10, at age 79. But in interviews conducted before his death, he found these so-far-unexamined connections deeply upsetting. “The more you look at the Cesnik murder case, the more it looks like somebody was trying to cover something up,” he said.

“There was something wrong at the Catholic high school where Sister Cathy taught,” Roemer said while reviewing evidence previously unknown to him. “What you had there was a whole lot of sex going on among priests and students. Can you imagine the scandal, in 1970, if that stuff had ever come out in a trial? Hell, it could have blown the lid right off the Church!

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. Never did. No, there was something going on at that school, and it all came to a head. And when it did, Sister Cathy wound up on the garbage dump with her skull caved in.”

Bud Roemer always drank his coffee black. He was in the middle of his third or fourth cup on the morning of Jan. 3, 1970—a Saturday—when the telephone rang: “Captain Roemer, it’s for you. Halethorpe Precinct.”

Roemer picked up the phone. As the commander of the “M Squad”—the Major Crimes Investigative Unit at Baltimore County Police headquarters in Towson—he was in charge of all criminal investigations involving murder, rape, and armed robbery.

It had been a busy week. Along with their usual caseload of tavern stabbings and liquor store holdups, the dozen officers in the M Squad had been doing their best to help out with a continuing Baltimore City Police investigation into the strange disappearance of youthful teaching nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, two months before.

In heavily Catholic Baltimore, the apparent abduction of a well-liked, attractive member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame was big news. Day after day, The Sun and News-American had been giving the story prominent play, while running one dramatic headline after the next: “City Police Search for Missing Nun: 26 Officers Combing Area With K-9 Corps Dogs.”

Described by students and fellow teachers alike as a dedicated, enthusiastic English and drama teacher, Cesnik had vanished on Nov. 7 during a brief, early evening trip to a shopping center about a mile from the Westgate apartment she shared with another Notre Dame nun, Sister Helen Russell Phillips. For almost two months, state and local police investigators had been unable to find a trace of her.

The caller was an excited uniformed police officer in the Halethorpe Precinct of the county police department. Talking fast, the officer told the M Squad captain that two hunters had just called to report what looked like a “woman’s body” lying near a garbage dump off Monumental Avenue, in an isolated, wooded area in the southwest Baltimore County community of Lansdowne.

Moments later, Roemer and several members of the M Squad climbed into one of the department’s unmarked black Plymouths for the 20-mile ride to Lansdowne.

“It was snowing when we got to the dump, and cold as a sonofabitch,” the detective recalled in the spring of 2004. “The body was pretty much covered by snow, but it didn’t take us long to figure out who she was. When I walked up on that dump, I said, ‘Hello, Cathy Cesnik.’

“She was lying on her back, on the slope of a little hill, with her purse and one shoe a few feet away. As soon as we opened the purse, we found a prescription bottle with her name printed on it.

“We worked that crime scene all day long. We called in the medical examiner and we asked for an autopsy right away. We went through our standard procedure, that’s all. I guess we spent four or five hours out there, and it was nearly dark when we finally sent the body off to the morgue.”

Like Roemer, retired Baltimore County Police Capt. James L. Scannell says he has never forgotten finding the nun’s body on the frozen field that day. “I remember her blue coat, and the purse nearby,” says the 74-year-old Scannell, who spent 37 years as a county police officer before retiring in 1992.

“You gotta remember, she’d been laying out on the dump all this time, and the varmints had gotten to her,” Roemer added. “So whether she was raped or sexually molested, I don’t know. And I don’t think anybody ever will know, because the [Baltimore County] medical examiner reported [in his autopsy] that it was impossible to determine if the nun had been sexually assaulted.”

Although the grisly scene would trouble some of the investigators for years, Roemer remained unfazed. “I was used to it by then,” he recalled. “I’d seen a lot of violence during my years as a detective, and after a while you realize it’s just part of the job.

“But I took my job to heart, and I put everything I had into it. When we were working a murder case like the one with Sister Cathy, a 12-hour day was strictly routine.”

The next morning, a Sunday, Capt. Roemer and his M Squad detectives threw themselves into what would become a fruitless five-year quest to identify Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murderer.

They started with the Maryland Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, which stated that the teaching sister from Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School for Girls had been beaten to death. The nun had died of blunt-force trauma to one side of her head—along with a blow that had left a round hole in the back of her skull.

Mulling the autopsy, Roemer soon found himself contemplating a likely scenario: A stranger had probably abducted Cesnik from the Edmondson Village Shopping Center on Edmondson Avenue near her apartment, where she’d gone to cash a check and buy some dinner rolls at about 7 p.m. on the evening of Friday, Nov. 7. In all likelihood, the unknown assailant had then killed the nun and dumped her body about five miles away, in Lansdowne.

But his hypothesis was contradicted by one troubling fact: The nun’s car, a green 1969 Ford Maverick, had been parked near her Carriage House apartment complex only a few hours after she drove off to the shopping center.

“I’d been working homicide for about 10 years when Sister Cathy was killed,” Roemer said, “and I’d never heard of a ‘random killing’ where the stranger who kills you carefully returns your car to your apartment house. In that situation, the killer usually wants to get the hell away from there. The last thing he wants is to return to the area, where he might be spotted driving the victim’s car.”

How had the dead woman’s Ford gotten back to her apartment complex? In an effort to solve the puzzle, Roemer sat down with two Baltimore City detectives—Harry Bannon and Tony Glover, now both retired—who had directed the search for the missing nun during the previous two months. What Roemer learned from the city detectives was also deeply troubling.

For starters, Roemer was surprised to discover that the nun’s roommate—Sister Helen Russell Phillips—had not called the police after becoming alarmed when Cesnik failed to return from the brief shopping trip by 11 p.m. Instead, Phillips had phoned a Catholic priest living in a Jesuit community known as Manresa, located near Annapolis. Within a few minutes, Jesuit Father Gerard J. (“Gerry”) Koob—accompanied by a second Catholic brother, Peter McKeon—climbed into his car and drove to the Carriage House Apartments.

Koob and McKeon questioned Phillips about Cesnik’s shopping trip, and somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m. the three of them called the police and gave them a telephone report describing the nun’s disappearance. After several more hours of conversation, they later told detectives, they decided to take a walk around the neighborhood in order to calm their nerves. Around 4 a.m., while walking, they spotted Cesnik’s green Ford Maverick, parked at an odd angle, directly adjacent to the Carriage House parking lot.

Roemer listened carefully to all of this and quickly decided that he didn’t like it. “We made the decision that it was time to ‘put the heat on Koob,’” he said in the spring of 2004. During the many hours of interrogation that followed, Roemer asked the Jesuit priest again and again: “What, exactly, was the nature of your relationship with Sister Cathy Cesnik?”

At first, Roemer recalled, Father Koob insisted that the two were simply good friends who enjoyed a great deal of purely “platonic affection” for each other. “That’s fine,” he told the priest. “But why would Sister Russell have called you instead of the police after Cathy disappeared that night?”

Roemer understood the reason better a few days later, after visiting Father Koob’s residence at the Manresa Jesuit community. There, he said, he came across a letter Cesnik had written to the priest on Nov. 3, only a few days before she disappeared. (In an interview, Koob told City Paper he willingly gave the letter to the detective, in order to help the police with their investigation.)

Roemer read the letter, which did not reach Koob until after the nun’s murder, and concluded that the actual relationship between nun and priest had been far from platonic.

Interestingly enough, the letter begins with a reference to a song about what might happen if the nun suddenly vanished:

My very dearest Gerry,

“If Ever I Should Leave You’ is playing on the radio. I’m all curled up in bed. My ‘period’ has finally arrived, ten days late. . . . So you might say I’m moody. . . . My heart aches so for you.

The letter goes on to outline Cesnik’s struggle with her relationship with Koob:

I must wait on you—your time and your need—even more than I had before. . . . I think I can begin to live with that more easily now than I did two months ago, just loving you . . . within myself. . . .

Regardless, Cesnik had a future outside the church with the priest firmly in mind: “I must tell you, I want you within me. I want to have your children. . . .”

When Roemer showed the priest the letter, the detective later recalled, Koob “quickly broke down and admitted he was having sex with the nun. That didn’t make any difference to me, of course—that was their business. But it did put me on guard, because it told me that the Catholic Church would have a whole lot to lose, if that letter should ever get out.”

But Koob, today a 63-year-old married Methodist minister living in another state, has insists that he never had a physical relationship of any kind with Sister Cathy Cesnik.

She lies buried on the side of a steep hill in Sharpsburg, Pa., a threadbare suburban town directly across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. Her granite headstone offers the eye only four stone-carved words: sister catherine cesnik ssnd 1942-1969.

Her father, Joseph Cesnik, a former Pittsburgh postal worker, rests a few feet higher up the slope, along with several of his Slovenian-American ancestors.

Cathy Cesnik’s cousin Gregory Cesnik, now 46, attended his aunt’s burial service in January 1970. “I was only 12 years old at the time,” recalls Gregory Cesnik, today a certified public accountant. “But I’ve never forgotten the sorrow everybody felt or the look of anguish on her father’s face.”

Shrouded in snow on a recent winter morning, St. Mary’s Cemetery could be seen only dimly from the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, on the other side of the slate-gray river. It was here, in a crowded neighborhood punctuated by half a dozen clattering steel mills, that Catherine Ann Cesnik lived out her 1950s childhood.

Early each morning during the school year, Cathy and her sisters left their family’s modest bungalow at 1023 Downlook St. and walked half a mile to the tiny parochial school that adjoined St. Mary’s Assumption on 57th Street. There she absorbed a thoroughly typical 1950s Catholic grade-school education—the kind of prayer-laced, deeply reverent tutelage provided in that era by the School Sisters of Notre Dame teaching order of nuns, who operated the school during Cathy’s childhood.

Intensely religious, Cathy was deeply impressed by some of her dedicated Notre Dame teachers—so impressed that by the time she moved on to St. Augustine Catholic High School in 1956 she was already thinking about entering the Notre Dame convent and becoming a School Sister herself. After graduating, Cathy entered the Baltimore Province convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame on Sept. 29, 1960, as a “postulant,” or candidate for the sisterhood. After seven years of study, she professed her “final vows” on July 21, 1967.

The youthful nun had already begun her teaching career in 1965 at the newly opened Archbishop Keough High School on Caton Avenue in Southwest Baltimore. During the next four years, she would teach English and drama to several hundred students from the mostly working- class, Irish-American community nearby.

Gemma Hoskins, who would later enjoy a 30-year career as a public-school teacher—she was “Maryland Teacher of the Year” in 1992—remembers Cesnik as a deeply inspirational figure and a “terrific” teacher. “Catherine Cesnik is the reason I became a teacher,” says Hoskins, 52, today. “I still regard her as the finest teacher I ever had.”

More than a dozen other former Keough students described Cesnik as an outstanding teacher. “She was our ‘Pied Piper,’” said one, “the kind of teacher you never forget.”

Although Cesnik loved teaching, she appeared to be struggling with some inner turmoil during the spring of 1969. “To me, she seemed stressed out, perhaps even on the edge of a nervous breakdown,” one former student who asked not to be identified says. “She was exhausted and extremely nervous, and she missed a lot of school during the spring months.”

One of the possible reasons behind Cesnik’s apparent stress became clearer in June of that year, when she asked permission from her Notre Dame superiors to enter a period of “exclaustration,” an experiment in which she would live outside the convent, while also substituting civilian dress—skirts, blouses, dresses—for the traditional nun’s habit.

Permission was granted and Cesnik moved into a two-bedroom apartment at the Carriage House on North Bend Road. At the same time, the nun decided on a second experiment: Instead of teaching at Keough during the 1969-’70 school year, she would serve as a “missionary” teacher at a public school, Western High.

During the first few months of that school year, Cesnik shared her Carriage House apartment with a friend and fellow nun, Sister Helen Russell Phillips, who had also stopped wearing the habit and was also teaching at Western.

In interviews with City Paper, two former Keough students remembered their frequent visits to Cesnik at her Carriage House apartment, only a few months before she died. “I was also friends with Sister Russell, her friend and roommate, when they moved to the apartment on North Bend Road,” Kathey Payne of Ellicott City recalls. “I visited them there during that summer and I did some sewing for Sister Russell.”

Did one or more of the students who were visiting Cesnik’s apartment in the summer and fall of 1969 tell her about the sexual abuse that was taking place at the school? One former student later recounted in a City Paperinterview how she had gone to Cesnik for help after being abused by a priest at Keough, but the most startling evidence comes from now-retired Sister Mary Florita, a former School Sisters of Notre Dame teaching nun.

“I knew several of the kids at Keough,” says Marian Weller of Harrisburg, Pa., the former Sister Mary Florita. “And one of them described to me how three or four girls who were being abused by this priest had gone to Sister Cathy for help. There’s no question but that she knew about the abuse that was taking place during the months leading up to her death.”

Interviewed at length by City Paper, Koob essentially repeated what he’d told Roemer 35 years ago. He says he and Brother Peter McKeon immediately drove to the Carriage House. He says they talked with Sister Helen and then phoned the police to report Cesnik as a “missing person” somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m. A few hours later, around 4 a.m., Father Koob took a walk with the other priest and blundered into Cesnik’s car near the Carriage House.

Koob says that there were no indications that a struggle had taken place in the Ford.

“When we discovered the car, I was careful and I told [McKeon] to be careful,” Koob tells City Paper. “I think we both saw a little wastebasket spilled over—but that did not suggest a struggle to me. I believe Cathy would have frozen up and not struggled.”

For his part, Roemer was convinced that the absence of signs of struggle in the car clearly suggested that “whoever killed Sister Cathy had to be someone who knew her. That’s the only thing that makes sense, once you remember that her car was returned to her apartment complex after she was killed.”

Koob passed two separate lie-detector tests soon after the murder. His alibi—he had eaten dinner and taken in the movie Easy Rider with his priest friend in Annapolis before the call from Sister Helen—proved airtight. According to Baltimore County Police investigators then and now, Koob has never been a suspect in the murder. But some former police detectives continue to believe Koob knows more about what happened that night than he has told investigators.

Even more troubling, two retired investigators tell City Paper that while they were “putting the heat” on Koob, Catholic Church officials conferred with high-ranking police officials about the case. “We thought Koob was about to break,” retired Baltimore City homicide investigator Harry Bannon says. “And then the church lawyers stepped in and they talked to the higher-ups at the police department. And we were told, ‘Either charge Koob with a crime or let him go. Stop harassing him.’

“After that, we had to break away from him,” Bannon continues. “And that was a shame, because I’m sure Koob knew more than he was telling. We never did solve the case, and I think part of the reason was that we had to back away from Koob.”

Roemer agreed that his murder investigation “seemed to dry up” after Koob was allowed to walk away from the case. “Nobody ever told me to back off the investigation in order to protect the Catholic Church,” Roemer said. “And if they had, I wouldn’t have done it. But the word did come down from higher levels of the police department that we had to lay off Koob. And I couldn’t help wondering if maybe one of the Catholic officials had gotten to somebody high up in the police.”

For his part, Koob continues to insist that he gave the police everything he knew about Cesnik. He also says she never told him about sexual abuse at Keough, or about any alleged threats against students or teachers who spoke out publicly against the abuse.

In 1994, former Archdiocese of Baltimore spokesman William Blaul told reporters from The Sun that the church didn’t send lawyers to the Baltimore County Police Department to demand Koob be left alone. Current Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine confirms that the Archdiocese did not interfere in the investigation.

By the time Bud Roemer retired from the Baltimore County Police Department in 1975, the Cesnik murder case had gone completely cold. For the next 20 years, the files and the evidence in the sensational killing would gather dust in a back room at police headquarters in Towson.

And then the case suddenly flared up again in 1994 after more than 30 men and women with firsthand knowledge of alleged abuse came forward to offer testimony in a shocking $40 million lawsuit. The suit sought damages for two former Keough students who claimed to have been injured by rampant sexual abuse at the school. According to the lawsuit, the abuser had been the school chaplain, a Diocesan priest named A. (Anthony) Joseph Maskell.

As listed in the plaintiffs’ formal complaint, the abuse included “vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, vaginal penetration with a vibrator, administration of enemas, . . . hypnosis, threats of physical violence, coerced prostitution and other lewd acts, physically striking Plaintiff, and forcing Plaintiff to perform sexual acts with a police officer.”

The list of charges troubled many Catholics in Baltimore. But those dramatic charges were soon eclipsed by testimony from one of the plaintiffs, identified only as “Jane Doe” for her protection, in which she claimed to have been taken to the Lansdowne garbage dump by Father Maskell in late November 1969 and shown the body of a dead nun, as a warning that she should say nothing public about the sexual abuse.

The sensational allegations of “Jane Doe” stunned Baltimore, and no one was more shocked than Roemer, who years later still reacted with amazement: “When I heard about the woman who was supposed to have been shown the nun’s body by Maskell, I could hardly believe my ears. If that was true, it meant the priest would have been involved in this thing up to his eyeballs!”

Until the lawsuit in 1994, Roemer said, he had never heard of Father Joseph Maskell or of the alleged abuse at Keough. His team of sleuths had completely missed this aspect of the investigation.

Although the abuse lawsuit brought in Baltimore County Circuit Court by the two former Keough students (“Jane Doe” and “Jane Roe”) was eventually dismissed on a technicality involving the courtroom admissibility of “recovered memory” evidence in Maryland, the testimony and depositions were so compelling that the Archdiocese conducted its own investigation of Maskell. After reviewing the evidence, church officials formally “revoked the faculties” of the priest and relieved him of his administrative duties as the pastor of St. Augustine’s parish in Elkridge.

Maskell, meanwhile, insisted he was completely innocent of all charges, then died at age 62 from the effects of a major stroke on May 7, 2001. The Archdiocese of Baltimore never reinstated him, after finding the evidence against him to be “credible,” according to archdiocesan spokesman Caine. The Archdiocese also confirmed for City Paper longstanding reports that Father Maskell had kept handguns at the parish rectory where he lived: “After his departure from St. Augustine’s in 1994, guns were found in the residence.”

Shortly before the lawsuit (Jane Doe et al. v. A. Joseph Maskell, et al.) was filed in 1994, “Doe” began telling police and newspaper reporters alike about her alleged trip with Father Maskell to the garbage dump to view the body of the dead nun. As The Sun reported on June 19, 1994, “in interviews with the police and Sun, [Jane Doe] provided details about the body that were known only to investigators at the time, and detectives have not dismissed her claims.”

Former priest Gerry Koob also recalls that investigators of Father Maskell in the mid-1990s told him that Doe had remembered the garbage dump accurately. “I heard nothing about this [the alleged abuse by Maskell and Doe’s trip to the dump] until the mid-1990s,” he says. “It seemed credible when I heard it, because the [police investigator] who told me about it said that the woman who was reporting the sexual abuse said that her abusers had taken her to see Cathy’s body, and that she knew details that had never been publicized.”

Although the preponderance of evidence suggests that Father Maskell committed acts of sexual abuse at Keough, many of his former parishioners, family members, and friends continue to defend him—including former police officers.

“I knew him for many years, and for about 10 of them he was the Baltimore County Police Department chaplain,” says former Baltimore County Police Capt. James B. Scannell, now 73 and retired. “Father Maskell loved to ride around in our police cars, and more than once he rode with me. He was a wonderful priest and a loyal friend.”

Retired Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Jim Jones, former director of personnel, says that Maskell had “done a terrific job” as the chaplain for the State Police for more than decade: “He was a wonderful priest, and he counseled many of our troopers and helped them a great deal.”

Other friends and family members point to the fact that Father Maskell’s brother, Lt. Tommy Maskell, had served with distinction as a member of the Baltimore City Police from 1946 to ’66.

But that same information—that Father Maskell maintained close connections with high-ranking state, county, and city police officials throughout his career as a Catholic priest—troubles several former students at Keough.

“He used to ride around at night in an unmarked patrol car with a cop,” says one woman who told City Papershe’d been abused. “They had a portable flasher they could stick on top of the car, and they would sneak up on kids who were making out and harass them. I remember feeling very frightened and very angry when I saw how Father Maskell and the police were getting away with that.”

On Nov. 13, 1969, six days after Sister Cathy Cesnik vanished, not to be found murdered for two long months, a second young woman—20-year-old Joyce Malecki—was found strangled and stabbed to death in a small creek located on the U.S. Army’s Fort Meade military base in Anne Arundel County, only a few miles from where Cesnik’s body would later turn up. That crime also has never been solved.

Malecki, a secretary for a liquor distributor in the Baltimore area, had been abducted from the parking lot of an E.J. Korvette’s department store in Glen Burnie. After disappearing around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11, Malecki resurfaced the following morning with her hands tied behind her back, lying face down in the Little Patuxent River at the military base. According to the autopsy, she had been strangled and stabbed several times in the throat; cause of death was strangulation.

Understandably, police investigators and newspaper reporters were intensely interested in the possibility that there might be some connection between the two killings, and their speculations were often reported on the front page in Baltimore. But no such link between the murders has ever been established, according to FBI and Baltimore police officials today. (The FBI held the original jurisdiction on the Malecki case because the body was found on a “government reservation.”)

A four-month investigation by City Paper did find some disturbing links between the two crimes:

  • An examination of the 1968-’69 Keough yearbook, The Aurora, shows that a gift was made to the school during that year by “The Malecki Family,” the name of which appears on the “Patrons” page.
  • Interviews with remaining family members reveal that the Malecki family, which lived in Lansdowne (less than a mile from where Cesnik’s body was found), attended the nearby St. Clement Church. The Malecki siblings, including Joyce, also attended week-long “retreats” as high school students—during which they spent entire days engaged in religious instruction with priests.
  • Baltimore Archdiocesan records confirm that alleged abuser-priest A. Joseph Maskell served “at St. Clement (Lansdowne) from 1966 to 1968 and at Our Lady of Victory [located on nearby Wilkens Avenue, about three miles distant] from 1968 to 1970.” The official Archdiocesan record continues: “[Father Maskell] lived and assisted at St. Clement (Lansdowne) while serving at Archbishop Keough High School from 1970 to 1975.”
  • Clement Church is located less than a mile from where Cesnik’s body was found, in a very remote area. Says one former high-ranking Baltimore County Police investigator who preferred not to be identified: “Whoever dumped the nun’s body there had to know the area well. That dump was difficult to get to, if you didn’t know your way around, and the nun did not vanish until after dark.”

Archdiocesan records make clear that Father Maskell was Joyce Malecki’s parish priest during a two-year period shortly before she was killed. Meanwhile, Archdiocesan records and the Keough yearbook show that he was also serving as a chaplain at Keough from the mid-1960s until 1975.

Says Joyce Malecki’s older brother Donald Malecki today: “One thing I can’t understand is why no law-enforcement officials have ever made this connection or asked us about it.”

When asked about the possible connection between the killings, Baltimore-based FBI Special Agent Barry Maddox tells City Paper that the Bureau “didn’t actually do the investigation” into Joyce Malecki’s death, but turned all of its information over to the nearby Anne Arundel County Police Department. But a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police insists that no investigation of any kind had ever been conducted by his police department and referred the inquiry back to the FBI.

For his part, a totally mystified Bud Roemer said he couldn’t understand why “they haven’t all gotten together and run down these leads. If it was me, I’d sure as hell want to check everything out!”

Donald Malecki says he visited the FBI’s Baltimore office three years ago and was told only that “‘we conduct a periodic review of the case, we we’ll contact you if we find anything new.’” He added: “They kept me in the lobby and sent down two 25-year-old kids who tried to reassure me, but they wouldn’t show me the files or talk to me about the case. Instead, they told me that my best chance of finding the killer was to talk to the producers of Unsolved Mysteries on television and try to get them interested in the case.”

After reviewing the new information uncovered by City Paper, FBI spokesman Maddox concluded : “All of these coincidences certainly rise to the level of possible significance for solving both killings. We haven’t ruled anything out, including Father Maskell, and we have gone back to reinvestigate the Malecki killing and possible links to the Cesnik case.”

And 35 years after Sister Cathy Cesnik’s body was found on the garbage dump at Lansdowne, the Baltimore County Police Department’s Cold Case Squad is once again investigating her murder. During a December 2003 interview with City Paper, two detectives on the squad provided a sketchy account of their latest findings.

The two detectives, who preferred not to be identified, acknowledged, “We don’t know what happened to Sister Cathy.” But they go on to say that, having initially reopened the case as part of a periodic review, they don’t consider Father Maskell to be a suspect, based on “early interviews with witnesses” and “signs of struggle” in her car. They said they were operating on a theory that Cesnik was abducted by “a stranger or maybe by someone who knew her” on the night she disappeared. They said they were exploring a theory that an intruder forced his way into her car, drove her to the dump and killed her, then simply returned the car to her apartment complex because he needed transportation in order to get back home.

They said they didn’t believe Father Maskell was involved because of earlier interviews by other investigators with him in 1994 (after “Jane Doe” came forward), although they gave no specifics about those interviews, and because “Jane Doe got some of the details wrong” when she described her alleged visit to Cesnik’s body at the dump. But they cannot account for the fact that Baltimore County Police officials in 1994 were quoted as saying that “Doe” had described details about the dump that had never been made public before.

They also confirmed that they had called Bud Roemer in October 2003 and discussed the case with him. They describe Roemer as a “fine detective, reliable and trustworthy”: “We’re sure that whatever he told you is straight, to the best of his memory.”

Only a few weeks before his death last June, Roemer said that he still hoped the murder of Sister Cathy would be solved some day.

“If all of these new findings are accurate, it looks to me like we’ve got two murders, four days and a few miles apart. And both of the victims seem to be tied directly to the school and the church,” he said. “I just hope they’ll figure it out. I hope we can get closure on Sister Cathy, before I go to meet my maker.”

Story courtesy of BALTIMORE SUN/City Paper

 

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  1. Jean, I am watching this and I think about you everyday. I wish I could speak to you directly. I don’t agree with a lot of what you think goes on in the documentary. I believe you. I wish I could be your friend at age 14. I could help.I would know you to do, should you ask. I just want you to know, at one point you think people wont agree but I know – I see it in your eyes. We will figure this out. I went to Catholic school but certain reasons I do not believe like my family does. Everything I learned in John Carroll is a lie. How can I help? I haven’t ended the documentary – so I dont know if you need money or a friend or someone to listen – I would be happy to,

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  2. Has anyone considered that bobby schmitt who distracted his nephew with shooting while his brothers disposed of her wrapped body in the dump may possibly be ‘brother bob’?

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  3. Dear Tom, I know you must be getting a million crazy takes on this mystery. But if I may add my own take, I’d be grateful if you would at least consider it. I think the key to the murder is Sister Russell. If you make one daring and distasteful leap of conjecture, and assume that Sister Russell was having an affair with Father Magnus, then the entire murder makes sense.
    Testimony clearly suggests that Billy and Ronnie Schmidt were in Cathy and Russell’s apartment early in the evening of November 7. Why? Well, if Sister Russell was faced with choosing between protecting her lover and her own reputation, by intimidating Cathy into silence, I think she would have caved in and conspired to protect Magnus. I think Maskell forced her to enter into a conspiracy to silence Sister Cathy, but not kill her. Sister Russell triggered all of the events, and her own testimony points to her as the person who controlled the reported “timing” of the events on the night of November 7, something that should always raise red flags.
    It seems clear to me that Billy Schmidt’s nephew Brian’s interview with Alan Horn is the key to understanding the events of that night. If you accept his version of events, then a look at the timeline would place Billy and Ronnie Schmidt in Cathy and Russell’s apartment at 8:30 pm. Sister Russell had to be there. Keep in mind that a witness said she heard shouting and a fight around 8:30 coming from the direction of the parking lot outside of Cathy and Russell’s apartment. According to Brian, at that time, Billy and Ronnie brought in something large into Russell’s apartment, and then wrapped it in a rug and carried it out to the parking lot. (Also keep in mind that Sister Russell maintained that Cathy left to go shopping at 8:30 pm not 7pm as most people understood.)
    I think Sister Russell may have been ordered to trigger the whole thing in an effort to silence Cathy and keep Russell’s lover, Father Magnus, out of trouble. I also think that Father Maskell wanted somebody to “rid him of this troublesome nun” and eventually Edgar Davidson, Billy Schmidt and Ronnie Schmidt were recruited to intimidate Cathy. I do not think the original intent was to kill her. (After all, they were satisfied with intimidating “Jane Doe” simply by showing her Sister Cathy’s body.) But when they ambushed Cathy after she came back from her shopping errands, Cathy defied them, started to run and Billy and Ronnie Schmidt panicked and hit her on the head with a ball peen hammer and a handheld sledge hammer. Billy and Edgar had to carry her body into Sister Russell’s apartment (thus the bloody clothes) where Cathy’s body was wrapped up in a rug. (Did anybody check to see if either Sister Russell or Billy Schmidt was missing a rug from their apartments?)
    I think at least six people were present when Cathy’s body was dumped the first time. (I think it was later moved.) Billy Schmidt, Ronnie Schmidt, Edgar Davidson, “Skippy”, Bob Schmidt and little Brian Schmidt were there. They came in at least two, possibly three cars. I think Edgar left early, as soon as he could, and made it home by 9:30 pm. I personally don’t place a lot of importance on Edgar driving Cathy’s car with two feet, as the detective says. How many feet did Skippy use?
    Cathy’s car was parked away from her normal parking place, possibly because it was already taken by Father Koob’s car. It was parked across the street, behind a bush where it wouldn’t be immediately noticed. Thus its odd location.
    I haven’t worked out how Edgar Davidson, Billy Schmidt and Rather Maskell all knew each other, but I think sexual perversion answers for a lot of it.
    Maskell, like all good villains, needed henchmen. And Edgar Davidson, Ronnie and Billy Schmidt answered the calling.
    So, this is my take on the murder. I think it holds water, but I’d be curious to see what you have to say. You can reach me at:
    spoles@juno.com. And may I say, I am not a nut.
    Yours truly, Al Spoler

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  4. I came from a devout Catholic family. I spent two years in a seminary. While my time in the seminary was relatively short, I learned a great deal about its teachings. Along my life journey, I left the church and its faith.

    Let me share with you something.

    On the one hand, Jesus said ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’. Matthews 18:6.

    Yet, He let His Chosen shepherds such as father Maskell raped and sexually abused those young and innocent girls under His watching eyes, with ease and got away with it. And with the Baltimore Catholic Church’s protection. Over the ages, hundreds of thousands of young and innocent children were sexually abused while receiving church’s teachings for their own salvation!

    This is in contrast to God’s interventions, when it pleases Him, such as on sister Mary MacKillop’s intercession, He cured some Australian cancer victims. For supposed miracles like these, sister Mary was canonized in Rome in October 2010.

    So it’s clear to me that God would intervene when He wanted to.

    In other words, God must be busy either drinking or having orgies up in heaven that He could not hear the sufferings of those Keogh High School girls or those young and innocent children at a Milwaukee orphanage and around the world in Ireland, Australia and so on. For He did hear what sister Mary asked of Him. Nothing else can explain it. Really.

    What a shallow, womanising and uncaring Being up there. I dare call HIM a fraudster, a con artist and a figment of imagination by people of a primitive time. A time when thunder was believed to be a sign of God’s anger that only the sacrifice of young virgins would calm His sexual frustration!

    ‘Nuff said.

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    • I’d like to add something to your post.

      It’s time to remind good-intention and warm-hearted Americans of the following common perceived threats:

      ‘If we don’t invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein, he will use his WMD on us’. George W. Bush’s justification to wage a costly war in Iraq that was estimated to cost some US$3.5 trillion by Economics Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, while significantly damaging the US strategic position in the process. On the other side, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died and their country became a new battleground for sectarian fighting. And out of the Iraqi war’s ashes, arose ISIS.

      The above threat probably started from here. ‘If you don’t stop crying, a monster is coming to get you’. A mother’s quick trick but damaging to her crying child’s early childhood mental developments. These children grow up easily becoming blind believers (see next).

      ‘If you don’t worship (our version of) God, you’ll burn in hell for eternity – Now we need your donations to do His works on earth.’ A clergy to congregation members. The sad thing is God did not bother helping tens of thousands of young and innocent children from being sexually abused by His chosen shepherds throughout the ages!

      Simply put, the threat of eternal damnation by a so-called Benevolent Being is so contradictory by itself for it was invented to keep believers firmly inside the dogma for control purposes. It has its root in the four books (by unknown writers other than their given names) that were selected out of a dozens or so of contemporary books at Nicaea council in 325 by Constantine’s order. By referring the four Gospels by Luke, Matthews, John and Mark as words of God, those Bishops at Nicaea council made their agendas beyond challenge and their positions of powerful authority. And the rest is history as the saying goes.

      Now you have heard the biggest hoax in human history: Christianity.

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      • …..and you are now a world expert. Perhaps that is all your small mind could absorb with your ,extended, time spent in seminary. Remember, the beautiful apple you ate for lunch came from a barrel of good and ,,not so good,, fruit. Your choice!

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        • If you can debate the points Ex-Believer raised, do so.

          Resorting to sarcasm is simply a form of intelligence deficiency as well as ad hominem. A far cry from what your God teaches you: Love you enemy.

          I don’t think he is even your enemy.

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          • What you are saying is quite true. Apologies!! Christians appear though, to be constricted to fight with their hands tied behind their back, all too often. I’m somewhat over political correctness…this is half the problem.

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    • I know you don’t want to hear this, but I want to say it any way. I am praying for you. God loves you, but Satan hates you. Yes there is God, and there is Satan. God didn’t do this, evil did. This is a fallen, evil, cursed, and corrupt world we live in. But, God is still good and He is still love. I honestly mean no offense when I say this to you, and I sincerely pray that the rage you feel will disappear and you can begin to see goodness again.

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    • Read your bible, then you might understand the Creator.. We have freedom to chose, men doing their will not God’s will are the consecuenses of their acts. I was catholic from a very religious family, but until you’re born again, you won’t be able to understand God, his Love and his Grace. Remember you will see Him face to face. Blessings !

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  5. I am left scratching my head and wondering how the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik has taken this leap in the comment section here to arguments for and against God and Christianity. Who really thinks that everyone who attends or belongs to a Christian Church is a true Christian by definition and that Christianity should be judged thereby? And why would anyone believe that just because some people do horrible and despicable things to others and seemingly get away with their crimes. that any of this has anything to do with the character of God? People who choose to do evil things will happily use anything to conceal and/or protect themselves. They have no qualms about using the church or any other strong organization that might be available to them. Even so, there are also many sincere people who have done much good in the world in the name of Christ. For those of you who condemn Christianity based on your own experiences and the actions of some, I will tell you that the beautiful, helpful programs are out there and so are many self-sacrificing people who work tirelessly for the good of others. Are they perfect? No. Are you perfect? No. Am I perfect? No. We are not perfect and I believe that every one of us can point to something that we have thought, said or done that we are not proud about so while we can discern the right or wrong actions of others we should be careful about judging the person. I know from first hand experience that victims of abuse are often filled with anger and outrage and sadness. Abuse changes lives. As was mentioned in the above documentary, some of the victims of that priest went on to live their lives quietly and as invisibly as possible.Some turned to alcohol or drugs or both. And they are not the only ones. Other victims of abuse have followed a similar path. But not everyone. Some do turn toward God. We are not promised that we will not have to endure some things in this life time. We are not promised that we will not suffer or that our loved ones will not suffer at times. But God does promise that if we believe in Him and turn to Him, He will be with us and He has already overcome all evil. This is what true Christianity is all about, believing God, believing that Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God, who came into the world to live and walk in sinless perfection among us and ultimately give His life for us, dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. So that we could, by turning to Him in faith, receive forgiveness and life. I hear people judging Christians harshly,overlooking any good and pointing out every wrong thing that they see. And then jeering at them saying, “You don’t look like a Christian to me.” So it becomes confusing. True Christians have a desire to be pleasing to God and they want to grow spiritually but they can still say and do things that are at odds with their faith at times.because it is a growth process and in this lifetime no one reaches perfection. Then there are those who say they are Christians but they do the sort of extreme things we read about in the documentary above. Can people like that really be Christians? This is a question that only God can answer but Scripture talks about “Wolves in Sheep’s clothing” and a day when some will stand before God and brag about what they did in His name and His answer to them is, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” So it would seem that just because someone tells you that they are a Christian, it doesn’t necessarily make them one, not in the true sense. Then there is this question. What about professing Christians who live sincere lives and impact the world around them in positive ways? Should their lives be discounted because of the example set by the priest (and others like him) in the article above?

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  6. As a practicing Catholic, I am amazed how people seem to screw up something so powerful as the church. There was once a great concept of creating relationships and getting to know the good of people, but the dark side of humanity seems to creep in. No one ever know the power of
    God and the reason why things happen. I pray the grace of God’s Holy Spirit will free the victims of this unholy act, that justice will prevail and that end the end, people with strengthen their faith.

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  7. Just because the bishops, convened under the emperor Constantine’s order, at Nicaea council in 325CE decided the chosen four Gospels words of God does not make them words of God. Neither those books that asserted Jesus was not a deity but discarded by them less words of God, had the bishops applied a consistent assessment of their historical value. In other words, it was a political expediency exercise. Pure and simple.

    Just think.

    An Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent and Benevolent Being one day decided to play around with His power. He created humans in his image, knowing full well that they would commit sins. So much so that He flooded the earth to kill them all in 40 days, except the Noahs.

    But that was not enough for He had to come down to earth, born in a manger, lived like an itinerant person. And in the end, get crucified and died in agony just in order to atone for their sins. On wonders why He could not just have forgiven them by flicking a finger! Perhaps, like Harry Potter.

    Ah, that was not all. Christianity doctrine reveals that one day in future, he will come down again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

    Given the almighty that He is, He would have known what was going to happen to many of his own creations: Burning in hell for eternity just so that He can feel powerful as the Almighty!

    A neutral observer with a reasonably mind can only conclude that the said BEING is more like a psychopath rather than a Loving Being.

    Sure the story is about poor sister Catherine. But one can’t fail to see a bigger picture of mankind and what they can do to one another under the cover of religions. Not long ago this country had slavery, sanctioned by the Bible and exploited by Christian churches. Mind you, despite a majority of population being Christians, the US has the highest gun homicide rate. It’s more than 25 times the average of other developed countries.

    Does that tell you and me about the relevance of morality, faith and reality?

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    • Blessings ! It’s a relationship with Jesus not religion. The Holy Spirit made it possible to let the world know Jesus is God.

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      • So why bother with religion in the first place. For it is under the cover of teaching salvation that millions young and innocent children were RAPED, over the ages, by the CHOSEN few God selected to be His shepherds on earth!

        Latest news: More than 500 boys were subjected to physical or sexual abuse at a Catholic choir school in Germany between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday. This school was run by the brother of Pope Benedict XVI.

        On the other hand, you spin like a politician. It reminds me of Donald J. Trump, the pu$$ie$-grabber-cum-president.

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        • You know right is right and wrong is wrong, but Jesus even picked disciples that were flawed. I do not think Jesus wanted these kind of crimes to happen in his church that he started. There is evil that influences people in every organization but you just cannot throw away this institution. For every scandal that tries to destroy the catholic church some how God ‘s grace seems to hold it together. People are people and you hope that evil people would get their Devine Justice, this is why we must maintain faith. Although this rips your heart out for the victims of these crimes, God knows and he will handle this. Pray for peace, pray for healing and pray that the church will find ways to prevent this from ever happening again.

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  9. After watching the documentary, it seems to me that the person who murdered Sister Cathy could have been Maskell’s brother, who was a policeman or another cop who he recruited who also was involved in raping these young girls. The coroner noted her head had been struck with a hard object (?billy club). Not only was the archdiocese covering up everything about the abuse but it seems the police and the court were also vested in hiding the facts i.e. losing the depositions of the women who came forward in the 90’s, losing the records Maskell had buried in the cemetery, the chief sex crimes prosecutor claiming there was nothing in those records to use against him, the list goes on and on. Too many important people were going to go down if it the truth came out. I admire the courage of Sister Cathy and the women who came forward to try to correct this horrific injustice. I believe justice will prevail in the end.

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  10. Of all the people and organisations involved in this blatant miscarriage of justice, the FBI allegedly having fingerprints and forensic evidence, but saying a lack of money and manpower is the reason they won’t process is asinine.
    I hope someone with enough personal or political clout, applies pressure and publicly calls them out on this, until they process the evidence. I realise the perpetrators may be deceased at this time, but it could potentially lead to those responsible being brought to justice, and bring some long overdue closure to the families. I can’t imagine what the abused women have had to endure for decades. Working up the courage to come forward, only to be denied justice by a systematic cover-up by the church, police, and justice system.
    As a parent, having to endure the pain, of my daughter being murdered, with no answers, is something I don’t think I could deal with, and remain stable.
    My hat is off to all those who chose to share their story with the world, in such a raw and unscripted manner. You have immeasurable courage, and I hope this exposure, leads to those responsible being brought to justice, and at the very least, more scrutiny of those involved in the blatant and wilful effort to protect the church.

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  18. I am more surprised that so many people are so surprised of the atrocities that this church, For the lack of another word, is capable of. Its entire history is nothing but that. The only good thing that ever gave credence is Sister Cathy and NO, NO, NO! they couldn’t have any of that and so they destroyed the only light that ever shined within this evil establishment.She was fooled so easily but she trusted everyone and loved everything and that’s what made her a target for creeps like these.

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  19. THE POLICE ARE DEFINETLY INVOLVED, THE PRIEST BROTHER WAS A POLICE OFFICER AND HE WAS THE MUSCLE. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES THAT THEY DID POOR INVESTIGATION WORK A COVERUP FOR SURE! WAS HIS DNA TESTED,I BET NOT COVERUP!!!!

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