BALTIMORE, MD —The unsolved 1970 murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, who taught at an all-girls Catholic school near Baltimore, is surrounded with strange mysteries and horrific secrets.
The body of the 26-year-old nun was found January 3, 1970, by hunters, covered in snow near a garbage dump in Lansdowne, Maryland. Cesnik had been beaten to death, and her skull was crushed by an unknown blunt object.
At the time, Cesnik was teaching at Western High, a public high school. She had been at the Archbishop Keough High School since 1965, but in 1969 she applied for permission to take an “exclausation” — which allowed her to live outside the convent and wear “civilian” clothing.
Cesnik was last seen by her roommate, fellow nun Sister Helen Russell Phillips, leaving their apartment at the Carriage House complex on November 7, 1969. Police records show she bought dinner rolls and cashed a paycheck. Concerned when her roommate had not returned by 11 P.M., Sister Helen called two priests, Father Gerald J. “Gerry” Koob and Father Peter McKeon. The two men drove to the Carriage House apartments, where they called police at 1 A.M. to report Cesnik missing.
The priests aroused suspicion when they told police that they decided to take a walk at around 4 A.M. to “calm their nerves,” and found Cesnik’s green Ford Maverick in a nearby parking lot. After Cesnik’s body was found, investigators focused on Koob — especially after they found a romantic letter from Cesnik in his quarters.
Dated November 3, 1969, it read:
“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. 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…I must tell you, I want you within me. I want to have your children.”
Koob denied that the relationship was ever physical, and police have said his alibi for the night Cesnik disappeared is “airtight.”
The case went cold, and did not make headlines again until a quarter of a century later when two women filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Archdiocese, claiming they had been sexually abused by Father Anthony Joseph Maskell in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when they were students at Archbishop Keough High School. One of the plaintiffs, identified only as “Jane Doe,” testified that late in November of 1969, Father Maskell took her to a garbage dump in Lansdowne and showed her the body of Sister Catherine.
Former students who have shared their stories say that Cesnik was aware of the alleged abuse, and that they believe she planned to speak out.
The Baltimore Archdiocese reassigned Father Maskell to clerical duties in the St. Augustine Parish in Elkridge, Maryland, where he died of a massive stroke on May 7, 2001, at the age of 62. Maskell’s body was exhumed from a Baltimore cemetery earlier this year as part of the investigation into Cesnik’s murder. But detectives revealed this week that after weeks of testing, Maskell’s DNA did not match evidence found from the murder scene nearly 50 years ago.
In addition, an investigation by City Paper revealed that a second young murder victim, who was killed only four days after Cesnik vanished, attended the same Catholic church where the alleged sex-abuser had been serving as parish priest.
Both cases remain unsolved, and though the FBI and Baltimore County Police Department have recently reopened investigations into the killings, they have reportedly not attempted to make connections between the two.
The investigation continues.
Main photo: Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik [DailyMail.com (screenshot)]