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Unsolved Baltimore Homicide: The Death of Sister Cathy

In November of 1969, Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a teacher at Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland disappeared. In January of 1970 her body was found. The autopsy revealed that she had died of blunt force head trauma. But who killed Sister Cesnik?

This case is still unsolved. Baltimore police continued to investigate her murder as recently as 2017. The most likely suspect is Reverend A. Joseph Maskell, chaplain at Archbishop Keough High School.

Cesnik is thought to have known a dirty secret about the Catholic Church, and Maskell allegedly killed her before she could reveal it. Maskell had been accused  of sexually assaulting young women who attended the high school he taught at. Only in 1992 did another victim of Maskell’s abuse, Jean Wehner, step forward and report him.

At that point, Maskell was removed of his position in the ministry. Soon after, he got a new job as the pastor of Holy Cross Church.

Wehner alleged that Maskell had shown her the body of Cesnik to intimidate her and keep her quiet. Wehner and Teresa Lancaster, another victim of abuse, later sued Maskell and the church for allowing the abuse. However, the statute of limitation for minor rape cases in Maryland had passed.

When Maskell was questioned by police, he denied all allegations of murder or sexual assault before fleeing the country.

In the end, 13 women were received financial compensation from the church as recently as 2016 for the trauma they experienced  at Keough High School. Many of the victims said they were satisfied with the settlement and felt that it had been a cathartic experience.

The murder case was reopened in 2017, when Baltimore police exhumed Maskell’s cadaver. They were hoping to collect DNA evidence to prove his connection to Cesnik’s murder.

Surprisingly, the DNA at the crime scene and Maskell’s DNA did not match, leading to another dead end. The DNA evidence from the crime scene has been inputted into the FBI’s database, but has not had a successful match yet.

After the failed match, the police were forced to alter the path of their investigation.

Cesnik disappeared in the Edmondson Village Shopping Center after going into a bakery and cashing a check. Similarly, three other women – Grace Montanye, Joyce Malecki and Pamela Conyers – disappeared in Baltimore shopping centers around the same time. All four murders are unsolved. The police are looking into a possible connection between the four disappearances.

November 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik. To learn more about her disappearance, check out the Netflix series “The Keepers”, which follows and explores her story.


Freshman at JHU, from Maryland
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