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A Timeline Of Sister Cathy Cesnik’s Disappearance

by Megan Walsh

Netflix's The Keepers takes a closer look at the disappearance of Sister Cathy Cesnik and the eventual discovery of her body months later, as well as who killed the popular nun and why. Cesnik was a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, where she was beloved by pretty much all of her students. Her disappearance shocked the city and the circumstances of her death were never able to be fully explained. Even now, decades later, the crime remains unsolved. However, the timeline of Sister Cathy Cesnik's disappearance could potentially provide answers and help piece together what exactly happened to her.

Years after Cesnik was killed, details began to emerge about Keough that might have had a connection to what happened to her. The girls at the school had reportedly trusted Cesnik so much that some of them confided in her that they had been allegedly subjected to horrifying sexual abuse by two priests who worked there: chaplain Father Joseph Maskell and Director of Religious Services Father Neil Magnus (both of whom denied the allegations and were never convicted). Cesnik supposedly promised the girls that she would take care of the situation, but she disappeared shortly afterwards. The link between the alleged abuse at Keough and Cesnik's disappearance was never proven, but it became one of the most commonly accepted theories.

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1968: Girls Confess Alleged Abuse

At least as early as 1968, former Keough student Kathy Hobeck was open with Cesnik about the abuse. According to her, Cesnik tried to protect her by intervening when Maskell would call Hobeck to his office. "She would make excuses for me when he would ask me to come down," Hobeck said. "She'd say, 'She's in a study, she can't get away,' or she'd make up a story."

Fall 1969: Cesnik Leaves Keough

Cesnik took a job at Western High School, a public school, but maintained contact with the Keough girls and often saw them outside of school.

Nov. 7, 1969 At 7:30 P.M.: Cesnik Runs Errands

Cesnik went out to run some errands: she cashed a check at the bank in Catonsville, Maryland and then went to a bakery at the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. She was planning to purchase an engagement present for a cousin, but the bakery was her last known stop before she was abducted.

Nov. 7, 1969 At 11 P.M.: Cesnik Does Not Return Home

When Cesnik had not returned by 11 p.m., her roommate Sister Helen Russell Phillips called two of their friends, who were priests. The friends then called the police, who found Cesnik's car had been parked near the apartment building, but not in her designated spot. That was the only evidence, and it wasn't much.

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Nov. 1969: Cesnik's Body Allegedly Shown To Student

One student, Jean Hargadon Wehner, who had allegedly been sexually abused by Maskell and Magnus, later claimed that after school one day in November, Maskell drove her to a garbage dump on the outer edges of Baltimore and showed her Cesnik's body. He supposedly did so as a threat to keep Wehner quiet, implying that she would suffer the same fate if she talked.

Romper reached out to the Baltimore Archdiocese for a statement regarding the accusations against Father Maskell and his potential involvement in Cesnik's death. The spokesperson commented that "Father Maskell was never considered a suspect in that murder. He was interviewed once. One of the victims claimed that she had a recovered memory of his involvement in her death, but he was interviewed and never charged."

Nov. 11-13, 1969: Joyce Malecki Is Killed

Around the same time as Cesnik's disappearance, a 29-year-old woman named Joyce Malecki also went missing and was found dead two days later. Both had been strangled, though the details of Cesnik's murder would not be known for a few more months. Malecki also disappeared from a shopping center and was around Cesnik's age, so the similarities in the cases led many to wonder if their deaths were connected. It was possible the same assailant had killed them both.

Jan. 3, 1970: Cenik's Body Is Discovered

Two hunters reported finding a body in a garbage dump in the Lansdowne section of Baltimore County. It was Cathy Cesnik. Despite the efforts of investigators, the case went cold after five years.

1992-1994: Abuse Allegations Made Public

In the mid-'90s, former Keough students Wehner and Teresa Lancaster filed lawsuits against Maskell and a gynecologist named Dr. Christian Richter. Maskell had reportedly taken them to Richter for examinations and also allegedly abused them at his office. Both Maskell and Richter denied being apart of abuse claims and died without being charged with anything related to Cesnik's death.

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So much time has passed that getting answers might seem impossible, but the case is still ongoing. There is a chance, however slim, that the mystery of Sister Cathy Cesnik's death could be solved.