Sister Cathy's Death Comes With Many Questions

by Caralynn Lippo

Sister Catherine Cesnik's murder has gone unsolved since the 26-year-old nun was killed back in 1969. Though Netflix's new true crime show The Keepers features an amateur investigation into her death (and the docuseries participants have their own theories as to who killed her and why), authorities have never charged anyone in connection with the crime. Given that Cesnik's murderer and the motive behind her death are still obscured in mystery, many are now focusing on the known variables in the case and asking questions such as: Where was Sister Cathy killed?

Generally, it's known that Cesnik was murdered somewhere in or around the city of Baltimore, but the exact location of her death is unknown. That's because a substantial amount of time passed between the nun's initial disappearance and the recovery of her body. Cesnik, a former Archbishop Keough High School teacher who had switched schools in the months immediately prior to her death, vanished on Nov. 7, 1969, according to The Baltimore Sun. She was found dead roughly eight weeks later, on Jan. 3, 1970.

Cesnik went missing after being apparently abducted from a shopping center about a mile from her southwest Baltimore apartment. She'd been out on a bank errand and shopping for an engagement gift for her cousin, her roommate Sister Helen Russell Phillips had told authorities. Specifically, The Huffington Post reports that, on the evening of her disappearance, she left her apartment, cashed a check at a bank in Catonsville, Maryland, and then drove to Edmondson Village Shopping Center, where she made a purchase at Muhly's Bakery. Officers searched for her and didn't find a trace, which begs the question — where was her body during all that time?


The location of her body in the time between her death and the discovery of her corpse is not known for certain. But according to an allegation by former Keough student Jean Hargadon Wehner, Cesnik must have died relatively soon after she went missing. Wehner reported that Father Joseph Maskell, who she claimed sexually abused her during her time at Keough, took her to see Cesnik's body, which was found by a pair of hunters two months later.

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."


But where precisely Cesnik was killed is, ultimately, a moot point — what is important is the fact that there has been a renewed inquiry into her murder. Hopefully Cesnik's killer, whoever it may be, will eventually be identified and give this case some much-needed closure.