Did the Catholic Church Get Away with Murder?
A KEOUGH HIGH SCHOOL SEX-ABUSE VICTIM,
AWARDED $40K BY ARCHDIOCESE FOR INJURIES,
SAYS POLICE, CHURCH KNOW WHO KILLED NUN
The Abuse Victim, Now a 60-Year-Old Attorney,
Alleges that “Priest and Two Cops” Attacked Her
During Her 4 Years at Baltimore Catholic School
Other Witnesses Detail How Murder of “Sister Cathy”
Occurred as Nun Was Trying to Go Public with Abuse
By Tom Nugent
October 2014 – Forty-five years after the murder of a Catholic teaching nun who was reportedly trying to alert authorities to widespread sex abuse at her Catholic high school in Baltimore, a victim of the alleged abuse has come forward to say that Church officials and local police “know the priest was involved” in the murder – but have been engaged in a decades-long cover-up.
Baltimore attorney Teresa Lancaster, now 60, also says she was awarded $40,000 for her abuse-related injuries – along with cost-free psychological counseling – by Church officials four years ago. She was given the money, she says, in return for signing a release document drawn up by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. A letter to her from Archdiocesan officials to that effect was reviewed by Inside Baltimore and confirms Ms. Lancaster’s statements about both the award and the terms of the release.
The same Archdiocese of Baltimore sent Ms. Lancaster a letter of apology for the crimes that were reportedly committed against her as a child at Archbishop Keough High School in southwest Baltimore. The letter to Ms. Lancaster from the Archdiocese of Baltimore Office of Child & Youth Protection Director Alison D’Alessandro and dated December 7, 2010, reads in part as follows:
Please accept my apology on behalf of [former] Archbishop [Edwin] O’Brien and the Archdiocese of Baltimore for the suffering that has resulted from your experiences.
It has long been the policy of the Archdiocese to offer counseling assistance to anyone who may have been harmed by a cleric or other representatives of the Church. . . .
As we discussed, we would like to assist you with counseling services. We will make payments directly to the counselor of your choice. . . .
I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to speak with me about this. Again, I am deeply sorry for what has happened.
In spite of the compassion and concern displayed in the letter, however, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has never publicly admitted that the Keough sex abuse – now alleged to have affected at least 50 students in the late 1960s and early 1970s – actually took place.
Instead of coming clean about the reported abuse – which has been documented in about 100 police interviews, according to Baltimore law enforcement officials – the Archdiocese of Baltimore vigorously contested a 1994 lawsuit by the victims. That suit, which sought a total of $40 million in damages, was dismissed on a legal technicality involving the admissibility of “recovered memory” evidence in cases affected by statute-of-limitations restrictions.
“The Catholic Church in Baltimore knew very well in 1994 that the abuse had taken place,” said Ms. Lancaster, while noting that Church officials eventually defrocked the accused priest over it. “But they went to court anyway and did everything they could to prevent the facts from coming out. Their legal maneuverings were cynical and despicable – especially when you consider the fact that lives have been destroyed by the abuse.
“As everyone involved knows, there have been suicides and deaths from drug and alcohol addiction that were the direct result of the abuse . . . to say nothing about the broken marriages and the years that were spent in and out of mental institutions and psychotherapy.”
Covering Up the Murder of a Nun?
While describing the rapes and other sexual assaults she endured at the hands of the alleged abuser-priest – the late Father A. Joseph Maskell, the chaplain at the high school during her years there (1967-71) – Ms. Lancaster said she begged a second priest at the school (the late Father E. Neil Magnus, then the Keough Director of Religious Services) to help her fend off the sexual assaults by Father Maskell.
“I asked Father Magnus in 1970 if he’d be my counselor because I was being sexually abused by Father Maskell,” said Ms. Lancaster. “But Father Magnus said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Try to stay away from him.’
“And then he shut his office door in my face.”
After pointing out that “I was afraid of the man [Father Maskell] because he had a gun,” Ms. Lancaster described how the priest was also serving as the chaplain to the Baltimore Police Department, and how he would sometimes take her on “police runs” with policemen and then encourage them to sexually assault her in his presence.
“On one occasion, Halloween night of 1970, I was sexually assaulted by two policemen in uniforms, while Maskell looked on,” she said. “He also took me to a gynecologist in Towson [Dr. Christian Richter]. While Maskell raped me, the gynecologist felt my breasts.”
Ms. Lancaster said that Father Maskell threatened to have her committed to a Baltimore-area facility for “troubled teenagers” if she refused to submit to the abuse or tried to report it. “The threat of being locked away was terrifying,” she added.
She also said that a high-ranking Baltimore law enforcement official who was involved in investigating the alleged Keough abuse in 1994 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.”
Ms. Lancaster’s description of the investigator’s comment that “we know the priest was involved” dovetails with numerous other reports from police, Catholic Church and Keough sources – all of whom have told Inside Baltimore that both the Church and Baltimore-area police have been covering up the murder for decades.
In recent months, for example, a retired high-ranking Baltimore police official confirmed that city police in the 1990s took statements from two students who said they visited Sister Cathy Cesnik’s Baltimore apartment to complain about the abuse only one day before she was abducted on Nov. 7, 1969.
According to the police statements, the two students were surprised when their visit to the nun was interrupted by Father Maskell, who was angry at Sister Cathy and vowed to kill one of the students, if that student reported the ongoing sex abuse at the school. The nun, who reportedly told a witness that she had given Father Maskell “a couple of days” to resign from his post at the high school or she would report him for abusing the students, was abducted one day later. Her body wasn’t found until January 3 of 1970.
Those police statements are supported by a now-retired School Sister of Notre Dame nun – Sister Mary Florita of Harrisburg, Pa. – who said: “I knew several of the kids at Keough, 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.”
Sister Mary Florita also said that “two older police detectives” from Baltimore visited her in the mid-1990s and told her “we know the priest was involved in Sister Cathy’s death.”
In addition, a Keough graduate told investigators during the 1994 lawsuit that she had been taken by Father Maskell to a Lansdowne garbage dump where the nun’s body was later found. There she was warned, she said, that the same thing could happen to her if she reported the sex abuse.
Another veteran Baltimore police officer, now retired, told Inside Baltimore that “several people in the police department” had mentioned “the cover-up on the Cesnik murder” in recent years. In addition, 1970 Keough graduate Jacalyn Bierman, who spent ten years as a police officer in the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said that when she tried to investigate the nun’s killing on her own, she was told not to ask questions about the case.
“I started digging around in the records, but I was advised by a high-ranking Baltimore City Police Department officer not to ask questions about the case,” Ms. Bierman told Inside Baltimore. “In my opinion, the odds are 99.999 percent that the priest was involved in Sister Cathy’s murder.”
Police Dig up Records Priest Ordered Buried
By Robert A. Erlandson and Joe Nawrozki
The Baltimore Sun
August 10, 1994
From the link: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/1994_08_10_Erlandson_PoliceDig_A_Joseph_Maskell_3.htm
Baltimore City detectives investigating sex abuse allegations against a Roman Catholic priest dug up a van load of confidential records yesterday the priest had ordered buried four years ago in Brooklyn’s Holy Cross Cemetery.
City police were accompanied by the two Baltimore County homicide detectives assigned to the revived investigation of the unsolved 1969 slaying of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik.
A high-ranking county police official said investigators were there because the name of the priest — the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell — had come up during their probe of the 25-year-old crime. Father Maskell and Sister Catherine were both on the faculty of the all-girls Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore in the late 1960s.
Father Maskell, 55, stepped down as pastor of St. Augustine’s Church in Elkridge on July 31 amid allegations that he had sexually abused students at Keough during his tenure as chaplain and counselor from 1967 to 1975.
In interviews with the police and The Sun, Father Maskell has denied all allegations that he abused former students or had any knowledge of the slaying of Sister Catherine.
The papers exhumed yesterday were buried in the cemetery in 1990 at the direction of Father Maskell, who was then pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Baltimore, according to two sources familiar with the burial. They included what appeared to be psychological test evaluations and canceled checks.
The city officers, who are investigating the sex abuse allegations and had obtained a search warrant, were accompanied by two Baltimore County homicide detectives.
“Our interest in being there was not the allegations of sex abuse,” said Capt. Rustin E. Price, commander of the county homicide unit. “We were there because of the Cesnik murder investigation. . . . Father Maskell’s name has come up in our investigation.”
Baltimore Assistant State’s Attorney Sharon A. H. May, head of the city’s Sex Abuse Unit, directed yesterday’s excavation but declined to comment on the operation. William D. Blaul, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said the archdiocese was aware of the excavation and is cooperating with city authorities. The archdiocese owns the cemetery, which is managed by Holy Cross, he said. Father Maskell’s attorney, J. Michael Lehane, said he could not comment on the search.
After Father Maskell’s departure from St. Augustine’s, officials told parishioners that he had requested leave to seek inpatient therapy for anxiety and stress brought on by “the prospect of civil litigation and a criminal investigation.”
The archdiocese said yesterday that the Rev. Gerard J. Bowen of Holy Trinity Church in Glen. Burnie has been appointed administrator of St. Augustine’s in Father Maskell’s place.
Eleven police officers arrived at the cemetery shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday. After a backhoe operator dug out the top layers of earth, officers dug down to the stacks of papers with shovels. From the pit, which was about 12 feet square and 10 feet deep, they spread the soggy records on the ground. After sifting through them, investigators placed selected documents in black plastic trash bags.
Detective Donna Askew, who is leading the police investigation, declined to identify the records piled into the city-owned van but said, “We took what we needed after I looked them over based on the information we’ve developed.”
The pit is located in a remote section of the cemetery, surrounded by woods and undergrowth, where excess earth and old flowers are dumped. Police were led to the spot by a former cemetery employee who said he was ordered to dig the pit at Father Maskell’s direction.
Ex-worker recalls event
The former employee, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said he was called by the cemetery supervisor in July 1990 and ordered to dig a pit 12 feet square and 13 feet deep.
“I could have buried a backhoe in there. I was told, ‘Don’t ask why,’ ” the man said.
That afternoon, he said, a pickup truck, driven by a man he believed to be a relative of Father Maskell, arrived packed with boxes of documents. He said he and the driver threw the papers into the pit; then the driver returned to the Holy Cross rectory in the 100 block of E. West St. for two more loads. While he was waiting between loads, the former employee told The Sun in March, he examined some of the papers, which appeared to be psychological evaluation sheets of men and women. He said he did not note any details, however.
When they were through, the former employee said, he was ordered to backfill the pit and seed it so that it couldn’t be found. The man said he kept the location in his head until he became aware of the investigation of Father Maskell. Then he sketched a map, which he placed in a safe deposit box of a local bank.
A source close to Father Maskell, who also spoke under condition of anonymity, denied that there was anything “sinister” about the buried documents. He said the priest and a psychologist used a federal grant to set up a psychological testing center in 1975 and that Father Maskell took the records to Holy Cross with him in 1985. Because of a ban on open burning, the priest decided to dispose of them by burial at the cemetery, the source said.
The link between the allegations of sex abuse against Father Maskell and the slaying of Sister Catherine was forged this spring by one of the women who alleged that Father Maskell had abused her while she was a student at Keough.
The woman told her attorneys, police and The Sun that she had told Sister Catherine about the abuse at the end of the 1969 school term.
Shortly afterward, Sister Catherine left the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent and her position at Keough to teach in Baltimore City schools.
The nun disappeared Nov. 7, 1969, after she left on an evening shopping trip from her residence at the Carriage House Apartments on North Bend Road in Southwest Baltimore.
Police conducted an intensive search but turned up nothing until Jan. 3, 1970, when two hunters stumbled upon the partially clothed body on a frozen field in Lansdowne. An autopsy showed that she had died from a blow to the head.
But the former Keough student said that Father Maskell drove her in his car to the body of Sister Catherine before it was discovered and told her that she was responsible for the nun’s death because she had told Sister Catherine about the alleged sexual abuse. After a silence of more than 20 years, the woman first brought her allegations of sexual abuse to the Archdiocese in 1992, while Father Maskell was still pastor at Holy Cross.
The Murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik; Maryland, 1969
By Laura Wilkerson
JUNE 27, 2012 6:58PM
Baltimore Unsolved Case: Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik File
Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik
1970 Homicide Victim
On January 3, 1970, the decomposed body of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik was discovered at a dumping area on Monumental Avenue in Halethorpe, 21227. Sister Cesnik had been reported as a missing person on November 7, 1969, from her residence at 131 North Bend Road in Baltimore City, 21229. At the time of her disappearance, Sister Cesnik was on a sabbatical from the Roman Catholic Church and was teaching at Western High School in Baltimore City.
Detectives believe that Sister Cesnik had been accosted in front of her residence as she was returning from the store, and forced back into her car. She was driven to Monumental Avenue where she was assaulted and murdered. Her car was recovered in the early morning hours of November 8, 1969, parked within walking distance of her residence. Therefore, detectives believe the person responsible lived in the area of Sister Cesnik’s residence.
Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact the Homicide Unit’s Unsolved Case Squad at 410-887-3943 or Communications Team at 410-307-2020. Callers may remain anonymous and can also contact Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCKUP (1-866-756-2587) to be eligible for a cash reward of up to $7,000. To text a message to Metro Crime Stoppers, send to “CRIMES” (274637), then enter the message starting with “MCS.”
KEOUGH WOMEN FIGHT BACK
45 Years after Their Inspiring Teacher Was Murdered, Former Keough High Students Are Still Asking Why
By Tom Nugent
From the link: http://insidebaltimore.org/45-years-later-keough-women-ask-why/
When Gemma Hoskins was a student at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School back in the late 1960s, she had an English teacher who was “bigger than life” and possessed “a gentle and loving heart.”
That wonderful teacher became a role model for Hoskins, as well as “a symbol of integrity, honesty and strength.”
Indeed, the Keough High student was so inspired by the School Sisters of Notre Dame nun that she went on to become a teacher herself.
During a 36-year career in which she taught at elementary and middle schools in Harford and Baltimore Counties, Hoskins relied on the lessons she’d learned from her teacher at Keough. Fiercely determined and deeply passionate about her own vocation as a teacher, she set the highest standards for herself.
Nobody was surprised when Gemma Hoskins – while teaching fifth-graders at Jarrettsville Elementary – was named the 1992 Maryland Teacher of the Year.
Asked later how she developed the skills and attributes required for excellence in teaching, Hoskins credited her former teacher, “Sister Cathy” – 26-year-old Catherine Ann Cesnik of Pittsburgh, Pa. Said Hoskins: “Those traits [of hers] I have tried to exemplify, no matter what the situation.”
But Sister Cathy also taught Hoskins a lesson about tragedy.
That lesson began in earnest when the gentle nun with the bright smile and the boundless energy was brutally murdered during Gemma’s senior year.
The nun’s mutilated body was found more than 44 years ago – January 3, 1970 – on a garbage dump in Lansdowne, a few miles south of Baltimore.
The case has never been solved.
For nearly half a century, Hoskins and many of her fellow Keough alumni have been wondering why Cathy Cesnik met with such a terrible fate. They’ve also been deeply troubled by numerous allegations that have emerged over the years . . . allegations of widespread sexual abuse at their school which were enumerated in a $40 million, 1990s Baltimore sex-abuse lawsuit and have been frequently reported in the news media.
The carefully documented reports by more than a dozen former Keough students paint a dark picture of rampant sexual abuse at Sister Cathy’s southwest Baltimore Catholic high school – abuse that she reportedly tried to confront and expose during the days right before her mysterious death. Indeed, in recent days, two different witnesses have reported that they visited the nun’s apartment the day before she died . . . and begged her to help stop the sexual abuse. They say she told them she was about to “go public” with her information about the abuse – and then vanished less than 24 hours later.
In an effort to better understand what happened to their beloved teacher, who died after suffering severe head injuries and is buried in a Pittsburgh hillside cemetery, several Keough graduates recently formed a social networking group devoted to learning as much as possible about her unsolved murder.
After creating a Facebook page – “Justice for Catherine Cesnik and Joyce Malecki” (a second Lansdowne murder victim, her killer also never found, who died four days after the nun and who has recently been linked to the same confirmed priest-abuser who reportedly injured at least 20 Keough students during that era), the social activists say they’re hoping to uncover the truth about both of the murders.
Said Gemma Hoskins, while describing the Keough group’s urgent mission: “Cathy was once there for many people and did the right thing.
“Now we all need to try to do the right thing for her.”
Memories of Sister Cathy
After nearly 45 years of hoping that Sister Cathy’s murder would eventually be solved, many of the Keough grads who recently created the “Justice for Sister Cathy and Joyce Malecki” coalition fear they’re running out of time.
“Sister Cathy’s murder has always haunted me,” said Abbie Schaub, a retired nurse and 1970 Keough grad. “They describe her killing as a ‘cold case,’ but it’s never felt cold to me.”
Another 1970 graduate, retired Maryland Human Services Administrator Mary Jo Woods, said that “Sister Cathy was a wonderful teacher who taught us how to think for ourselves. She wrote a lovely play about young girls who are growing up, called ‘Lollipops to Roses.’ She often stayed after school with me to make sure I got caught up.”
Mary Spence, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital RN, said, “I want to see this case solved, because there are so many people that were affected by it. They need to be able to put it behind them and move on.”
Like her classmates, retired Baltimore-area bookstore manager Susan M. Getka said she was deeply touched by the killing of Sister Cathy. Getka recently wrote a poem about her death, titled “The Pen in the Palm of her Hand.”
. . . God, her head ached now.
What hit her?
A fist, a stone, a hammer?
Fragile bones shattered – flying
a mystery exploding – solved . . .
Her faint thread of consciousness
Enough time to see the pen
to feel her hand touch the grass &
find the tree root.
Her hand rested on it
Her Spirit now in God’s Embrace
Said Getka, “I think Sister Cathy would want her students to speak up about what happened, and to try and help young women who are still being abused today.”
While declining to comment on the unsolved murders of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki, an FBI spokesperson said that “If anybody has any information about [these cases], they need to call the Baltimore County Police Department cold case unit [at 410-887-3943].
To read the Baltimore County Police Department Unsolved Case Squad report on Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/police/homicide/unsolved_homicides/
Who Killed Sister Cathy?
From the BALTIMORE SUN/CITY PAPER
From the link: http://insidebaltimore.org/who-killed-sister-cathy/
45 Years Later, the Search for Answers Goes On.
COURTESY THE SETON KEOUGH HIGH SCHOOL
COURTESY THE SETON KEOUGH HIGH SCHOOL
COURTESY DON MALECKI
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
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.”