New Evidence Points to Church, Police Cover-up in Sexual Abuse-related Murder of Baltimore Nun

By Tom Nugent
Inside Baltimore
September 1, 2014



“After his departure…in 1994 [from a Catholic rectory where he'd been serving as a Baltimore-area parish priest], guns were found in the residence.”

–Sean Caine, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, describing the results of a Church investigation into priestly sexual abuse at Archbishop Keough High School

By Tom Nugent

September 2014 – More than 44 years after Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik was brutally murdered while reportedly attempting to blow the whistle on widespread sexual abuse at her Catholic high school in Baltimore, there is startling new evidence to suggest that she was killed to prevent her from speaking out.

The same evidence sheds new light on the murder of a second victim – 20-year-old Joyce Malecki, whose body was found only a few days after the nun died from a blow to the head. Increasingly, investigators believe Malecki may also have been killed in an effort to keep Church-related sex abuse hidden from the public.

Obtained during a two-year investigation by this reporter, the new findings also include testimony indicating that one or more local police officers participated in the sex abuse . . . and that both the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and Baltimore-area police officials then orchestrated a cover-up of the two killings that has lasted for more than four decades.

The new evidence shows that the second murder victim had close ties to the same Catholic parish – St. Clements in Lansdowne, located only a few miles from Archbishop Keough High School in southwest Baltimore – where two Catholic priests who were later defrocked for rampant sexual abuse lived off and on during the period in which the nun was killed.

One of those later-defrocked priests was serving as the chaplain at Keough when the nun (a beloved English teacher and also the drama coach) was abducted and killed on the evening of November 7, 1969.

In recent months, Baltimore police sources have confirmed that Baltimore police took statements (in the early 1990s) from an alleged eyewitness who said that she and a friend were in the murdered nun’s apartment the day before she was killed – and that they had come there to ask her help in reporting the sexual abuse at the high school. The statements given to police reportedly noted that during the visit to the nun’s apartment, an eventually defrocked abuser-priest – who was the subject of their complaints and the chaplain at the high school – also showed up at the nun’s apartment and seemed intent on discussing an urgent matter with her.

According to the statements taken by police, the priest became angry and threatened to kill one of the visitors if information about the abuse were to become public.

Sister Cathy was killed less than 24 hours later.

These police statements about the visit are supported by a now-retired School Sister of Notre Dame nun – Sister Mary Florita of Harrisburg, Pa., later known by her non-religious name, Marian Weller – who said: “I knew several of the kids at Keough, and one of them described to me how three or four girls who were being abused by this priest had gone to Sister Cathy for help.”

Sister Mary Florita also said that “two older detectives” from the Baltimore County Police Department visited her in the mid-1990s and told her “we know the priest was involved in Sister Cathy’s murder, and we know it happened because she was about to report the sex abuse at the school.”

These are only a few of the startling new findings to emerge recently in the still unsolved murders of the two Baltimore women. Both killings, long ago relegated to “cold case” status, have not been investigated in significant detail during the past 20 years.

But a recent review of the cases and interviews with more than 20 former Keough students, retired police officials, FBI agents and former Keough High School personnel have uncovered significant links between the two killings. Among the recent disclosures were the following:

—An interview with Joyce Malecki’s older brother, Donald Malecki, reveals that the Malecki family which lived in Lansdowne (only about half a mile from where Cesnik’s body was found), attended the nearby St. Clement Church. Their home was located only two blocks from the rectory where the two alleged abuser-priests lived for several years during the period when both women were killed.

—The Malecki siblings, including Joyce, also attended week-long “retreats” as high school students, during which they received religious instruction with the defrocked priest who was also the chaplain at Keough, according to Donald Malecki.

—The 1968-’69 Keough yearbook, The Aurora, notes on its “Patrons” page that a gift was made to the school that year by “The Malecki Family.”

—Baltimore Archdiocesan records confirm that alleged abuser-priest Father A. Joseph Maskell, whose “faculties were removed” by the Archdiocese after it reviewed dozens of 1970s-era abuse accusations against him in the mid-1990s, “lived and assisted at St. Clement (Lansdowne) while serving [as chaplain] at Archbishop Keough High School.”

—St. Clement Church is located only about half a mile from where Cesnik’s body was found, in a very remote area. According to a high-ranking Baltimore County Police official who asked not to be identified, “Whoever dumped the nun’s body there had to know the area well. That dump was difficult to get to, if you didn’t know your way around, and the nun did not vanish until after dark.”

–After Joyce Malecki’s body was found in a creek at nearby Ft. Meade, the FBI was assigned the case – since Ft. Meade is a federal reservation. But the Baltimore office of the FBI told this reporter in 2005 that the Bureau could find no record of an investigation into the Malecki killing.

—When asked about a possible connection between the killings (especially in light of the fact that the Keough chaplain was also chaplain to the Maryland National Guard, headquartered at Ft. Meade), Baltimore-based FBI Special Agent Barry Maddox, now retired, said in 2005 that the Bureau “didn’t actually do the investigation” into Joyce Malecki’s death, but forwarded all of its information to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, so that it could investigate. But a spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Police insisted that no investigation had ever taken place and sent the reporter back to the FBI. Agent Maddox then said that he did not know why there was no record of any law enforcement agency ever investigating Malecki’s death.

—But Donald Malecki, Joyce’s brother, says the FBI told him “on several occasions over the years,” that “they still have fingerprints and forensic evidence from my sister’s murder. Why can’t they review that evidence?” Malecki asked.

—A witness in a 1994 Keough sexual abuse lawsuit in Baltimore, “Jane Doe,” testified that she had been taken to the Lansdowne dump and shown the body of the dead nun and warned not to tell anyone what she knew.

In addition to all of these anomalies and inconsistencies, a former Anne Arundel County Policewoman (she is also a graduate of Keough High School) said that when she tried to investigate Sister Cathy’s murder on her own, she was told that she should not ask questions about the case.

Jacalyn Bierman, a 1970 Keough graduate said: “I started digging around in the records, but I was advised by a high-ranking Baltimore City Police Department officer not to ask questions about the case.”

The FBI, itself, has confirmed that the links between the two killings deserve further study. FBI spokesman Barry Maddox concluded in 2005: “All of these coincidences certainly rise to the level of possible significance for solving both killings. We haven’t ruled anything out including the Malecki killing and possible links to the Cesnik case.”

Nagging Questions

After two hunters reportedly found the nun’s body on the garbage dump in Lansdowne on January 3, 1970, the Baltimore County Police Department responded by sending its homicide unit to the scene. Describing that scene later to this reporter, Detective Louis G. “Bud”) Roemer would recall: “It was snowing when we got to the dump, and cold as a sonofabitch.

“The body was pretty much covered by snow, but it didn’t take us long to figure out who she was. When I walked up on that dump, I said: ‘Hello, Cathy Cesnik.’”

What followed that moment in a wooded section of Baltimore County was a 44-year on-and-off investigation by Baltimore County and City Police, the FBI, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and various news reporters who worked the case again and again but never solved it.

From the very beginning, the nun’s heartbreaking death has been surrounded by some of the strangest and most complicated circumstances in the annals of Maryland crime.

Abducted on the evening of Nov. 7, 1969 – two months before her decaying body was discovered – the teaching nun was at first thought to have been carjacked by a stranger, during a 7 p.m. shopping trip from an apartment she shared with another nun to the Edmondson Village Shopping Center.

But that scenario was called into question by the fact that the nun’s automobile (a 1969 Ford Maverick) had been seen by neighbors parked in her usual parking space at the Carriage House Apartments on Frederick Road at 8:30 that same evening, according to police reports of the day. If the nun had been abducted by a stranger in Baltimore and then murdered and abandoned on the Lansdowne dump, how had her car gotten back to her apartment building?

And why was the car found parked only a few feet away from the Carriage House lot, early the next morning – with “twigs and leaves in the front seat” and “branches caught in the radio antenna,” according to later police reports?

Said Bud Roemer, while describing this perplexing complication, “I’d been working homicide for about ten years . . . and I’d never heard of a random killing where the stranger who kills you carefully returns your car to your apartment house.”

The “carjacking by a stranger” scenario was also thrown into doubt by a published police report a couple of days after the nun vanished. According to the report, “residents of the apartment complex reported seeing the nun’s car back in its parking space at the Carriage House Apartments at 8:30” on the evening when she disappeared. In addition, according to police, another resident reported seeing a second car pull onto the lot around 8:30, after which the nun “waved to the occupant of the car and then drove off following it.”

Another witness (also a Keough graduate) who was walking near the Carriage House Apartments around 8 p.m. remembers hearing “a man screaming in a terrible argument that ended suddenly.”

In recent days, both the FBI and local police authorities have said that there “isn’t enough new evidence available to justify opening a formal investigation” into the unsolved murders.

While declining to comment on the unsolved murders of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki, an FBI spokesperson said that “If anybody has any information about [these cases], they need to call [Dave Jacoby of] the Baltimore County Police Department cold case unit [at 410-887-3943].”

To read the Baltimore County Police Department Unsolved Case Squad report on Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder:


To read “Who Killed Sister Cathy?”









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