Parishioners Back Priest in Nun Slay Case

By John Seewer
The Associated Press, carried in [Toledo OH]
Downloaded April 27, 2004

TOLEDO, Ohio - Supporters of a Roman Catholic priest charged with the 1980 killing of a nun rallied around the cleric Monday, trying to raise money for his release and legal defense.

The Rev. Gerald Robinson, 66, wearing a brown jail jumpsuit and appearing tired and unshaven, didn't enter a plea at a Monday hearing in Toledo Municipal Court. He made no statement.

Robinson's lawyer, John Thebes, argued he was not a flight risk.

"He's not going anywhere," he said. "He hasn't gone anywhere in 24 years."

Bond was set at $200,000. Thebes said he hoped supporters of the cleric would raise the money. "We will take any financial, emotional and prayer support we can take," Thebes said.

Robinson, 66, was charged Friday with killing 71-year-old Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. Her strangled and stabbed body was found in a hospital chapel, surrounded by lit candles, her arms folded across her chest. Robinson later performed her funeral.

Parishioners at St. Anthony church, where Robinson was a pastor after the slaying, were setting up a legal defense fund.

"There's no way he could've done this," said Mary Ann Plewa, a distant cousin of the priest. "He couldn't have lived 24 years and had that on his mind."

Investigators reopened the case in December after the Lucas County prosecutor's office received a letter, assistant prosecutor Gary Cook said. He would not say who sent the letter or what it contained.

Later, based on rarely used technology that allowed investigators to analyze blood patterns, they concluded the murder weapon was "in the control of the suspect," said police detective Steve Forrester.

Robinson's arrest warrant described a weapon that was in his possession as an "instrument with unique characteristics" associated with the nun's wounds. It said numerous cuts were made after she was dead.

"Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes allows you to begin making connections," Cook said.

Last June, a woman testifying before the Diocesan Review Board initially prompted a re-examination of the nun's death. The woman had written a detailed statement alleging years of abuse by priests during her childhood - and mentioned Robinson. Robinson had years ago been questioned in the slaying.

The woman, now in her 40s, described satanic ceremonies in which priests placed her in a coffin filled with cockroaches, forced her to ingest what she believed to be a human eyeball and penetrated her with a snake "to consecrate these orifices to Satan."

Authorities said they could not substantiate her allegations.

A message seeking comment was left Monday for a spokeswoman of the diocese.


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