Gerald Robinson, Priest Convicted of Killing Ohio Nun, Dies at 76

By John Schwartz
New York Times
July 4, 2014

The Rev. Gerald Robinson at an appeal hearing in 2011.

The Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Catholic priest who was convicted in 2006 of murdering a nun more than 20 years earlier, died on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 76.

Father Robinson had a heart attack in May, and since then, he had been in a hospice at Franklin Medical Center, which is run by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. His lawyer, Richard Kerger, confirmed his death.

Father Robinson had worked at Mercy Hospital in Toledo with Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71, when she was killed the day before Easter in 1980. She was found in the hospital chapel, where she had been preparing for Easter services. She had been strangled, draped with an altar cloth and stabbed 31 times, including nine wounds in the shape of an upside-down cross. There was a smear of blood across her forehead, as if she had been anointed in last rites.

Father Robinson was questioned, and he would later admit to making up a story that someone else had confessed to the murder. But the case was soon dropped for lack of evidence.

In 2003, however, the case was reopened after a woman accused Father Robinson and other priests of having molested her when she was a child. (Those charges were never substantiated.)

Investigators said they found imprints on the altar cloth that closely matched a letter opener of Father Robinson’s, and other witnesses placed him near the chapel at the time of the murder. Prosecutors argued that Father Robinson was angry about Sister Pahl’s domineering ways.

In 2006, he received a sentence of 15 years to life.

Father Robinson fought the conviction and filed appeal after appeal from prison; his lawyers argued that DNA evidence did not link their client to the crime. Even after agreeing to give up his ministry, Father Robinson became something of a counselor to inmates in the Hocking Correctional Facility.

A month before his client’s death, Mr. Kerger went to the hospital for a visit. “He said, ‘I don’t know — maybe this is where the good Lord wanted me to be,’ ” Mr. Kerger recalled. “In this prison, for those people.”








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