The Murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik; Maryland, 1969
By Laura Wilkerson
JUNE 27, 2012 6:58PM
Former Keough Student Detailed Incident in 1990s Statement:
“A Policeman Showed Me Sister Cathy’s Body”
Alleged Witness Also Said Cop
Warned Her to Keep Silent — Then Raped Her
January 2015 – A second witness in the brutal 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik told Baltimore-area criminal investigators 20 years ago that she was shown the dead nun’s body by a policeman, according to two former Maryland law enforcement officials who did not wish to be identified.
The former law enforcement officials said the witness alleged that after showing her Sister Cathy’s body, the policeman warned her to keep silent and raped her “on the back of a police car.”
According to the former officials, the witness added that she was shown the corpse “at another location” than the Lansdowne, Maryland, remote wooded area where the nun’s badly decomposed body was discovered 45 years ago this month, on January third, 1970.
The former Maryland law enforcement officials also said the woman’s written statement “went up the chain of command, per standard operating procedure” at the Baltimore County Police Department – but that it was never acted upon by cold case investigators who were charged with working on the unsolved murder.
(Baltimore County Police conducted the murder investigation after the nun’s body was found lying in the dirt near a trash dumpster, in a remote area located in their jurisdiction a few miles south of the city of Baltimore.)
“Eventually the word came down that her information had not persuaded the [cold case detectives] to re-open [an active] investigation,” said one of the former law enforcement officials.
According to the former official, however, the county police did not pursue the information reported by the witness because they were engaged in a cover-up of the crime.
“In my opinion, they washed their hands of it,” said the official. “They had no intention of working the case again, because the murder had been covered up by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the [Baltimore-area] police from the very beginning.”
The startling disclosures by former Maryland law enforcement officials appear to support the recollections of another woman who last month told Inside Baltimore that she had been shown the body of the dead nun by an alleged abuser-priest who also served as chaplain to several Baltimore-area police departments during the period in which the nun’s murder took place.
That witness also said she was sexually abused by a policeman at the direction of the priest, the late Father A. Joseph Maskell, who was later defrocked by the Archdiocese of Baltimore after numerous accusations of sexual abuse of students during the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition, two other former Keough students have told Inside Baltimore they were sexually assaulted by Baltimore-area police at the direction of the priest, who served as chaplain at Archbishop Keough High School during the late 1960s.
One of those former students described how the Keough chaplain would take them on “ride alongs” with Baltimore-area police, during which they were sometimes sexually assaulted.
Baltimore attorney Teresa Lancaster – a former Keough student who was recently given $40,000 by the Archdiocese of Baltimore along with a letter of apology for “injuries” she allegedly suffered while being abused – two months ago told Inside Baltimore that the priest and his policeman friends terrified her as a teenager.
“I was afraid of the man [Father Maskell] because he had a gun,” said Lancaster. “He took me on ‘police runs,’” she said, during which he and policemen would ride around in a police car harassing teenagers who were necking.
“On one occasion,” said Lancaster, “I was sexually assaulted by two policemen in uniforms, while Maskell looked on.”
According to a former Maryland law enforcement official familiar with the still unsolved, 45-year-old murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, the alleged police participation in the sex abuse has played a key role in the investigation from its very beginning.
“Over the years, the cover-up itself has become a major problem for the Baltimore-area police,” said the former official. “The police commanders have known all along that if the information about the cover-up ever gets out, it could be devastating. It would have a huge impact on their reputation, and might even raise legal questions about other criminal convictions in the past.”
Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik vanished on the evening of November 7th, 1969, after leaving her apartment in southwest Baltimore to conduct a banking transaction and buy dinner rolls.
When she failed to return, her frightened roommate at the Carriage House Apartments – the late Sister Helen Russell Phillips – phoned two Jesuits in Annapolis . . . one of whom was romantically involved with Sister Cathy. (To learn more about what happened at the Cesnik apartment complex that night, read the 2005 Baltimore Sun City Paper story about the case by scrolling to the top of the Inside Baltimore website and clicking on “Who Killed Sister Cathy?”)
The two Jesuits hurried to the apartment and later that night discovered the vanished nun’s car at the edge of the Carriage House parking lot.
In recent years, Baltimore County Police cold case detectives have said they believe Sister Cathy was “carjacked by someone who lived in the neighborhood.” They said they continue to believe that the assailant killed her and then dumped her body in the remote Lansdowne wooded area, located about half a mile from the church rectory where the abuser-priest lived for two years in the late 1960s.
Asked why the assailant would then return the nun’s car to the edge of the Carriage House apartment lot, a Baltimore County homicide investigator told this reporter in 2004: “He needed a ride back to his neighborhood, so that he could get back home.”
But a former Baltimore law enforcement official who’s familiar with the case has a different theory.
“The way that car [the nun’s green Ford Maverick] was parked [at an odd angle, and with one end sticking out into a nearby street] is the way a car ends up when it has been pulled over hurriedly by an alarmed driver – during a police stop.”