Netflix's upcoming series The Keepers is about the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a young nun in Baltimore who mysteriously vanished and was found dead in early 1970. The case ran cold, and no suspect was ever charged. Cesnik's death is the subject of renewed interest for her former students, many of whom have come forward in the decades since with abuse allegations against Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain at Archbishop Keough High School, where Cesnik once worked. But Cesnik's isn't the only unsolved death to occur during that time, leading many to wonder: How did Joyce Malecki die?
According to the Baltimore Sun report on Cesnik's death, Malecki was a 20-year-old from nearby Lansdowne at the time of her death. She "was found strangled and stabbed to death in a small creek located on the U.S. Army's Fort Meade military base in Anne Arundel County." The place where Malecki's body was found was just a few short miles from where Cesnik's body would be discovered weeks later. Malecki had vanished just a few days after Cesnik, disappearing at around 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, 1969 after being abducted from the parking lot of a department store in Glen Burnie while Christmas shopping. Like Cesnik, Malecki's car had also been found abandoned, which suggests that each woman may have known her killer well enough to leave willingly with them.
According to the same Baltimore Sun report, Malecki's hands had been tied behind her back and she was found lying face down in the Little Patuxent River. Her autopsy listed strangulation as the cause of death, though she'd been both strangled and stabbed several times in the throat. It was a horrifically gruesome death, and no suspect has ever been charged.
The four-month investigation into the crime "Who Killed Sister Cathy?" found several similarities between the two cases, significantly suggesting that Malecki may have known Maskell personally. Interviews with Malecki's family members revealed that they'd attended St. Clement Church, where Baltimore Archdiocesan records confirmed that Maskell had served from 1966 to 1968. That church was less than a mile from where Cesnik's body was eventually recovered, and an anonymous former Baltimore County Police investigator said that the perpetrator who left Cesnik's corpse there likely knew the area: "Whoever dumped the nun’s body there had to know the area well. That dump was difficult to get to, if you didn’t know your way around, and the nun did not vanish until after dark." However, there is no hard evidence that Maskell had any involvement with Malecki or Cesnik's deaths.
Romper reached out to the Baltimore Archdiocese for a statement regarding 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."
Hopefully, The Keepers will do as Serial and Making a Murderer did for their respective crimes: give a renewed focus on finding the true killer (or killers) of these women.