Police exhume shamed priest’s body half a century after nun’s unexplained murder

Nearly 50 years after a nun’s murder, Baltimore County police announced they have exhumed the body of a disgraced priest who died in 2001 amid their investigation.

The Baltimore Sun reported that police spokeswoman Elise Armacost announced Thursday that Father A. Joseph Maskell’s body was exhumed on February 28 from the Holy Family Cemetery in Randallstown. Authorities said that they dug up Maskell to compare his DNA with samples left behind the crime scene of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, whose body was found in a field in January 1970.

A beloved nun who taught English at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Cesnik, 26, disappeared in November 1969 while at a local shopping center. Her decomposed body was recovered from a field in Lansdowne months later. An autopsy revealed that she died from blunt force trauma to the head, according to The Washington Post.

The main suspect in the case is Maskell, who was the chaplain at Keough and was a chaplain for Baltimore city and county police.

Authorities began reexamining this case within the last four years due to ongoing tips about sexual abuse at the high school. Maskell was a counselor at Keogh during the 60s and 70s when dozens of students later accused him of molestation. Many of his supposed victims, including Teresa Lancaster, told WJZ that Cesnik was the person they confided in about Maskell’s egregious acts.

“Sister Cathy went to Father Maskell on behalf of the girls who were being abused,” Lancaster told the station.

“She confronted him and she lost her life for it.”

Maskell duties were relinquished in 1992—when the accusations first came to light. He fled the country in 1994.

Attorney Sheldon Jacobs said 13 women (12 of them within the last year) received settlements ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, in addition to remittances for counseling. The women were paid despite the statute of limitation being expired.

The unsolved slaying will be explored in “The Keepers,” a seven-part documentary series set to premiere on Netflix on May 19. Authorities said the documentary’s airing had no influence on their decision to exhume the late priest’s body.

The spokeswoman also claimed that they are looking into Maskell’s possible involvement in the slayings of three other Baltimore women. Like Cesnik, Grace Montanye, 16, Joyce Malecki, 20, and Pamela Conyers, 16, were last seen alive at shopping centers. The Baltimore Sun pointed out that Malecki disappeared a few days after Cesnik and her body was found in Fort Meade.

“Sister Cathy was a nun,” Armacost told The Post. “So the theory that she was killed because of something she knew in the Catholic Church was something we’ve been looking at. However, we’ve never proven that’s why she was killed. So there are other theories we are looking at as well.”

Maskell was never charged in connection with Cesnik’s murder nor the sexual abuse allegations—that he went to the grave denying.

WJZ reported that it will take four to six weeks to determine if the late priest’s DNA matches samples left at the crime scene.

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