Nun's '69 slaying is reshelved

April 27, 1995|By Robert A. Erlandson and Joe Nawrozki | Robert A. Erlandson and Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writers

An article Thursday incorrectly reported that a former Archbishop Keough High School student was undergoing therapy for alleged sex abuse by the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, the school's chaplain, when she implicated him in the unsolved 1969 slaying of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik. Phillip G. Dantes, her lawyer, said she was not in therapy when she recalled memories of her association with the priest.

The Sun regrets the errors.

After a year pursuing leads here and around the country, Baltimore County Police have returned the unsolved, 25-year-old slaying of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik to the "cold case" file where it had rested for many years.

"We had several leads that looked real good," Capt. Rustin E. Price, head of the homicide squad, said yesterday. "But we have exhausted all we had and no more leads are coming in."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

An initial surge of calls followed The Sun's June 19 report of the re-opened investigation. They led detectives as far afield as Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and the West Coast. But in January, a $6,000 reward offered by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Metro Crimestoppers produced nothing new, police said.

The 26-year-old nun, who had left the convent at Archbishop Keough High School to become a public schoolteacher at Western High School, disappeared Nov. 7, 1969, while on 5/8 5/8 TC shopping trip from her Southwest Baltimore apartment.

City police launched a search for her and questioned her friends extensively but found nothing.

When two hunters found her body Jan. 3, 1970, in a field off Monumental Avenue in Lansdowne, the missing persons case became a Baltimore County homicide. The nun died from a severe blow to the head and from neck injuries, the autopsy showed. It could not be determined if she had been sexually assaulted.

Police resumed questioning the popular teacher's friends, particularly a priest with whom she was very close. But again, no evidence was found to identify the killer.

The case file remained closed until last spring, when a former Keough student undergoing therapy for alleged sexual abuse by a priest at the school implicated him in the nun's disappearance.

Detectives questioned the priest, the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, who denied to The Sun all knowledge of Sister Catherine's disappearance or death as well as any sexual misconduct with students.

Police have not found any hard evidence to connect Father Maskell to the nun's death, and investigators are now operating under the theory that she was abducted and killed by a stranger.

However, after archdiocesan officials and lawyers interviewed several former Keough students who also alleged sexual abuse, Cardinal William H. Keeler removed Father Maskell from his parish, St. Augustine's in Elkridge, and stripped him of his priestly functions in December.

A criminal probe of the alleged sexual assaults was concluded several months ago after investigators determined that the statute of limitations and changes in sexual abuse laws over the decades would make prosecution difficult.

However, civil hearings are scheduled to begin Monday in Baltimore Circuit Court in a $40 million suit brought by two former students who allege Father Maskell abused them while they were at Keough. Judge Hilary D. Caplan will determine whether the women's recovered memories of the alleged assault are valid and whether the suit can proceed. One of the plaintiffs is the woman who implicated the priest in the slaying.

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