Netflix has had some trouble following up on the success of its first true crime docuseries Making a Murderer. The show's second season is pretty long-delayed by Netflix standards, and its only true crime project in the meantime has been Amanda Knox, which was a feature-length documentary. But its latest series The Keepers has the potential to be a new Making a Murderer. The seven-part documentary series unpacks the brutal murder of Baltimore area nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik. Another murder followed hers, but were Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki's deaths related? There are disturbing connections between the two women's deaths.
Cesnik, who was a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, worked as a drama and English teacher at Archbishop Keough High School for Girls until her disappearance at age 26 in 1969. She had briefly transferred to work as a "mission teacher" in a public school that year and, during that time, several former students came to her and confided that they were allegedly being sexually abused by Keough's guidance counselor Father Joseph Maskell, who denied the allegations up until his death in 2001.
Cesnik was well-liked by her students and several have been quoted as saying she was one of the finest teachers they'd ever had. Two months after her disappearance, her body was found in a remote dump. A former student, then known only as Jane Doe in court documents, came forward in 1994 to report her sexual abuse allegations in what turned into a $40 million lawsuit with multiple plaintiffs against Maskell and the school. Doe claimed that Maskell showed her Cesnik's body before it was discovered by police as a threat to keep quiet about the sexual abuse she had suffered.
One theory behind the case is that Father Maskell was somehow responsible for Cesnik's murder, although that's never been proven. In fact, 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."
Six days after Cesnik's murder, another 20-year-old woman named Joyce Malecki was found murdered a few miles from where Cesnik's body would eventually be found. Malecki's family also lived less than a mile from where Cesnik's body was discovered. They were members of St. Clement Church, where Father Maskell was a parish priest while Malecki and her siblings reportedly attended "retreats" there as high school students, during which they would have engaged with the parish priests for an entire week.
St. Clement Church is also located less than a mile from where Cesnik's body was found, and, said one Baltimore County Police officer to the Baltimore Sun City Paper in 2013, "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." But again, nothing was ever proven regarding Maskell's involvement in either woman's death and he was never convicted of any charges.
Surely, the Netflix series plans to unveil new information gathered about the case, which is still churning up clues, almost 50 years later. You can catch The Keepers when it premieres on May 19.