Netflix's The Keepers primarily follows an investigation into the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a 26-year-old nun who vanished nearly 50 years ago. She turned up dead nearly two months later, and her killer was never identified. But the stars of The Keepers — including several of Cesnik's former students — hope to discover who killed their beloved teacher. They believe her death may have been connected to a sex abuse scandal that allegedly took place at the school she worked for. But she wasn't the only young woman to be killed around that time. So, did Joyce Malecki and Cathy Cesnik know each other?
According to The Huffington Post, Cesnik was last seen alive on Nov. 7, 1969. Her roommate, fellow nun Sister Helen Russell Phillips, told authorities that Cesnik had told her she was going to go to the bank and then shopping for a cousin's engagement gift. She was never seen again. Malecki was a 20-year-old secretary for a liquor distributor when she disappeared just four days after Cesnik did. Malecki's body turned up two days after her disappearance on Nov. 13, 1969. Malecki had been strangled and stabbed to death, whereas Cesnik had been strangled and beaten to death, found with a round, quarter-sized hole in the back of her head.
At the time of the murders, investigators did not consider the two cases to be related and didn't investigate them as such. But now, many are increasingly theorizing that both women may have been killed (or ordered killed) by Father Joseph Maskell, the then-chaplain of Archbishop Keough High School who would years later be accused of having sexually abused many of his young students at the time of Cesnik's and Malecki's deaths. Cesnik's former students, including Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, have even created a Facebook group" Justice for Catherine Cesnik and Joyce Malecki" to discuss and investigate the murders of the two women. Maskell denied the allegations right up until his death in 2001.
Romper also 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."
It's not known with any certainty whether the two women knew one another prior to their deaths, though there are clear parallels between the two crimes — and particularly links from both women to Maskell.
Malecki was six years younger than Cesnik and lived in nearby Lansdowne (just half a mile from where Cesnik's body would eventually be recovered), while Cesnik had an apartment in southwest Baltimore. However, thanks to information given from the victim's older brother Donald, Inside Baltimore reported that Malecki also had ties to St. Clements Church, where Maskell "lived and assisted" while chaplain at Keough, around the time of her death. The family had attended St. Clements, according to Malecki's brother, and the Malecki siblings had reportedly gone on week-long "retreats" as high school students and received religious instruction from Maskell while there.
Hopefully some light can be shed on what happened to both of these women and allow these tragic cases to finally be put to rest.
The Keepers premieres on Netflix on Friday, May 19.