Priest Indicted for Murder; Robinson Released on Bond in 1980 Nun Slaying

By Mark Reiter and Ignazio Messina
Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
Downloaded May 4, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest was released on bond yesterday after being indicted for aggravated murder in the strangulation death 24 years ago of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a chapel at Mercy Hospital. The Rev. Gerald Robinson, a semiretired priest who was a chaplain at the hospital when Sister Margaret Ann was killed, was released from the Lucas County jail yesterday amid a frenzy of media attention.

The Rev. Gerald Robinson, a semiretired priest who was a chaplain at the hospital when Sister Margaret Ann was killed, was released from the Lucas County jail yesterday amid a frenzy of media attention. Family and friends posted their homes along with Father Robinson's for a property bond.

Robinson supporters

Charge stuns those who recall clegyman fondly

Hours later, a celebration for the priest's release turned violent when a woman who carried a doll of a nun began screaming and attacked one of Father Robinson's supporters.

About 70 people had gathered at the Scott Park Banquet Room on Nebraska Avenue. After the event the woman, who identified herself as Paulina Garcia Cleveland, began yelling at the crowd.

"I am here for Sister Margaret. She is the one who suffered," Ms. Cleveland said inside the banquet hall. ". . . . Justice for Sister Margaret!"

As the woman was leaving the banquet hall, she struck one of the priest's supporters with the nun doll because he didn't hold the door for her. The altercation escalated when the man, Rick Napierala, took the doll away from her as she tried to hit him with it a second time.

Ms. Cleveland yelled at him repeatedly to return the doll and when he refused, she pulled off his jacket, ripped his shirt pocket, scratched his face, and knocked off his eyeglasses.

He went back inside the building and Ms. Cleveland followed him, where she threw a pitcher of water at Mr. Napierala. She then took the doll and left the banquet hall.

"We came here and had a very peaceful press conference and I think she got mad because we ignored her [yelling]," said Mr. Napierala, who filed a police report after the incident.

The woman later yelled at

reporters: "To honor Sister Margaret, I will go to jail."

Lucas County prosecutors presented evidence in the April 5, 1980, murder of the nun to a grand jury on Friday. The document containing the panel's decision to indict the priest for the murder in which the nun was stabbed 32 times wasn't filed with the clerk of court until yesterday morning.

Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks, who randomly drew the case, held a hearing to determine bond for Father Robinson, who was being held on $200,000 bond set last week in Toledo Municipal Court.

Judge Franks granted a request from the defendant's team of attorneys - John Thebes, Alan Konop, and John Callahan - to continue the bond at $200,000. Father Robinson, 66, was not present for the hearing and was not required by law to attend.

However, Judge Franks, citing a potential conflict of interest if she were to remain on the case, recused herself. Although she did not give a reason for the potential conflict, she is married to a retired technician with the Toledo Police Department's criminal investigation unit and she was an assistant prosecutor when the murder occurred.

The case was then reassigned to Judge Patrick Foley.

While the bond was set at $200,000 cash, it requires at least $400,000 in property equity in order to secure release, which was posted with the clerk of court.

A house at 2401 Nebraska Ave., which Father Robinson jointly owns with his brother, Thomas Robinson, of Maumee, was among the properties. Mr. Robinson and his wife, Barbara, also posted their home on Cranbrook Drive. Gary and Kathleen Glowski of North Crestridge Road in Sylvania Township and Dorothy Sieja of Glenview Road of South Toledo also used their homes to post bond.

The bond set by Judge Franks did not include any conditions. However, if Father Robinson fails to show up for scheduled court dates, prosecutors could petition foreclosure action in Common Pleas Court and evict the homeowners who posted their properties.

The Robinsons, Glowskis, and Mrs. Sieja were among the family and friends of Father Robinson in the courtroom for the hearing. They later went to the jail, waiting outside for more than hour until the priest was released.

Supporters, including Father Robinson's brother, refused to answer questions during the gathering at the banquet hall.

Father Robinson, who was arrested April 26, was dressed in a white clerical collar and black shirt, trousers, and jacket when he emerged from the back entrance of the jail.

The supporters eagerly greeted Father Robinson, who clung tightly to the arms of his attorney, Mr. Callahan, and Barbara Robinson. Surrounded by family and friends, Father Robinson did not speak as the group escorted him to a sport utility vehicle on Jackson Street.

Mr. Thebes and Mr. Konop refused to answer questions and asked the media to refrain from following their client's vehicle. Mr. Thebes later said that family members were angered because Father Robinson's vehicle was followed by television reporters as he left the jail.

Father Robinson will be arraigned later, possibly this week, before Judge Foley. The priest is expected to enter a not-guilty plea. If convicted of aggravated murder, Father Robinson could face life in prison with eligibility for parole after 20 years.


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