$6,000 reward offered in nun's slaying

November 04, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson and Joe Nawrozki | Robert A. Erlandson and Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writers

After months of negotiations, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a private anti-crime group are prepared to offer a $6,000 reward for information leading to the solution of the 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik.

The reward -- the first in the case -- is being offered through the archdiocese and Metro Crime Stoppers Inc., a Baltimore organization that gives tipsters anonymity in identifying crime suspects and forwards information to authorities.

The funds were to be placed in escrow in a local bank today, and the reward soon will be publicized through the anti-crime group's television announcements, said William Blaul, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

He said the reward will be for information leading to the conviction of the killer of Sister Catherine.

Maj. Allan J. Webster, commander of the Baltimore County Police Department's Criminal Investigative Services Division, said yesterday, "We are still pursuing some leads. This is not a dead case," he said.

The 26-year-old nun's body was found Dec. 3, 1970, in a field off Monumental Avenue in Lansdowne. She had been missing since Nov. 7, 1969, when she left her Southwest Baltimore apartment.

In June 1969, Sister Catherine left the School Sisters of Notre Dame convent at the all-girls Archbishop Keough High School to teach at Western High School.

Although many people were questioned, including a Jesuit priest with whom she had formed a romantic relationship, no one was charged in the slaying.

County police renewed the investigation last spring after a woman came forward with allegations of sexual abuse by a different priest, the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, Keough's chaplain from 1967 to 1975, and implicated the priest in the nun's death.

City police have been conducting a criminal investigation of the sexual abuse allegations.

On Aug. 10, city investigators excavated a pit at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn Park seeking records buried there in 1990 at Father Maskell's order while he was pastor of Holy Cross Church.

The investigators have not disclosed what they have learned from the records, which are believed to be primarily psychological evaluations and tests conducted by Father Maskell and William C. Urban, a psychologist with whom he worked in the 1970s and early 1980s at Keough and later at a private office.

On Aug. 24, lawyers for two women, former Keough students, filed $40 million lawsuits against Father Maskell, the archdiocese and the SSND, alleging that the priest abused them sexually at Keough. The priest has denied any improprieties.

Also named as a defendant was retired Ruxton gynecologist Christian Richter, who told The Sun that Father Maskell referred Keough students to him at least twice. The doctor said he allowed the priest to be in the examining room while performing a pelvic examination.

The plaintiffs' lawyers say more than 40 former Keough students responded to an August 1993 blind advertisement in The Sun seeking information on sexual abuse at the Catholic girls school.

The Sun has interviewed several of the women, including the two plaintiffs, as well as Father Maskell.

The priest, 55, resigned his pastorship at St. Augustine's Church in Elkridge on July 31 to seek inpatient treatment for stress and anxiety caused by the allegations and investigations, the

archdiocese said.

Phillip G. Dantes, one of the attorneys representing the women in the lawsuit, said yesterday his legal team and city prosecutors have been unable to confirm the whereabouts of Father Maskell.

"We have heard that he fled the country to Ireland and have attempted to get some answers from the archdiocese," Mr. Dantes said.

"But those representing the church tell me and the people in the city state's attorney's office that is privileged patient information," he said.

J. Michael Lehane, Father Maskell's lawyer, has denied that his client is in Ireland but will not disclose where he is being treated.

Sharon A. May, chief prosecutor in the city sex abuse unit, was ill yesterday and unavailable for comment, according to her secretary.

Friends of Father Maskell have formed a defense fund for him. The Rev. Robert Hawkins of St. Rita's Church in Dundalk said yesterday that he is treasurer, but he de- clined to give any details about the fund.

"He's my friend," said Father Hawkins, who has known Father Maskell for 35 years and with whom he attended St. Mary's Seminary.

"I believe in him and his innocence. . . . He is an honorable human being."

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