08 Nov Splitting the Stonewall on a Nun’s Murder: A Press reporter’s Story
It was the sort of minute that an investigative press reporter always remembers.
Severe allegations were informed to WJZ by a lot of [Father] Maskell’s victims. We have actually talked to 2 of these ladies, and now a 3rd is stepping forward with a genuine bombshell. She informed WJZ she was abused not just by Daddy Maskell, however likewise by law enforcement officer …
It took place last February 27, when Baltimore’s CBS outlet, WJZ-TV, reported that regional cops were examining reputable reports of polices raping teens at a Catholic high school for women in the city, back in the late 1960 s and early 1970 s.
Sibling Catherine Ann Cesnik. Picture courtesy Baltimore County Authorities
However the stunning TV news report likewise marked a big pivotal moment in this investigative press reporter’s 22- year effort to reveal the fact about the murder of a mentor nun, Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, who had actually apparently attempted to blow the whistle on extensive sexual assault of trainees at her high school in southwest Baltimore.
The February 27 newspaper article was an unforeseen advancement, for sure.
For the very first time ever, a significant tv station in Baltimore was talking honestly– live and on the air– about the possibility that the nun’s murder had actually been concealed by cops authorities for more than 4 years due to the fact that an open examination may expose that “numerous” regional police officers had actually been participated in the sexual assault, together with numerous law-breaking Roman Catholic priests.
Up Until then, the story of the 22- year battle to reveal and report the abuse– together with a supposed Church and cops cover-up– had actually been a dismaying chronicle of stonewalling, aggravation and main indifference.
However then came the exceptional night last winter season when the dam lastly broke and the accusations of cops misbehavior unexpectedly flooded onto airwaves and front pages all throughout the Baltimore-Washington area.
The reporting battle had actually not been a simple one. Once again and once again, as a series of mainly regional press reporters dug at frightening accusations of rape by priests and polices, they were stymied by Baltimore-area “cold case” private investigators and unique representatives at the FBI– all whom consistently chose not to go over information about the unsolved killing of the nun or the abuse that had actually apparently activated it.
Daddy A. Joseph Maskell (left) was defrocked by the Archdiocese of Baltimore (AOB) after many accusations of sexual assault, and after the AOB verified that “weapons were discovered” at his last church rectory in Maryland. His pal Daddy Neil Magnus (now deceased) was likewise implicated of rape by trainees at a Catholic women’ high school in Baltimore, where he functioned as Director of Spiritual Research Studies. Picture thanks to Netflix.
This press reporter, for instance, was informed numerous times throughout the years by cold-case private investigators at the Baltimore County Authorities Department and the FBI that the nun had actually certainly been eliminated by a “random attacker” who abducted her throughout a Nov. 7, 1969, shopping journey, then raped and killed her.
When I then discovered considerable proof connecting the murder of the nun to the school abuse, both the cops and the FBI chose not to analyze it. Rather, they explained that they had no interest in studying any situations besides the “random attacker” situation they had long earlier chose was the appropriate description that lay behind the nun’s murder.
Baltimore Authorities Captain James L. Scannell (now deceased) was a friend of Daddy Maskell and frequently owned the priest on “ride-alongs” in his team automobile. Some female high school trainees stated they were sexually attacked by priests and polices throughout such ride-alongs. Picture thanks to Netflix.
It took more than a years of reporting and composing stories about the nun’s murder prior to the stunning brand-new info about sexual assault by priests and cops, and possible links linking it to the killing, lastly started to acquire momentum.
Certainly, Baltimore-area law enforcement officials now state they think that 6 various unsolved killings might in truth be linked to the abuse.
The battle to inform the story of the nun’s murder and the occurring supposed cover-up started in 1994, in Baltimore, when I and numerous others talked to the very first abuse victim. Throughout the occurring years, I continued to talk to both abuse victims (more than a lots have actually by now gotten “apologies” and more than $500,000 in “settlement” payment from Church authorities) and those police authorities who wanted to talk with me.
I invested numerous hours burning shoe leather in Baltimore, while speaking with lots of previous trainees at the Catholic high school– together with numerous cops investigators and FBI representatives who had actually dealt with earlier examinations of the nun’s killing. I gradually established numerous high-ranking sources in Baltimore police.
As I acquired their trust over more than a years of scrupulously cautious reporting, they started to supply increasingly more revealing information about the abuse, the murder, and a supposed cops cover-up of both.
I likewise went to Pittsburgh and talked to relative and buddies of the killed nun, in order to inform that side of the story in particular, engaging information.
Significant papers firmly insisted the truths I ‘d discovered weren’t enough to support accusations of cops participation in sexual assault
Once Again and once again, I attempted to interest papers (including my previous company, the Baltimore Sun, and the neighboring Washington Post) in letting me cover the story for them. For numerous years, they chose not to run the copy I sent them, while firmly insisting that the truths I ‘d discovered weren’t enough to support accusations of cops participation in sexual assault– together with supposed cops and church cover-ups of murder.
However then I got a break.
In early 2005, I lastly handled to encourage the City Paper, an independent paper in Baltimore to run a huge, 5,000-word story about the nun’s killing and the occurring examinations.
That story drew some crucial assistance from some media-savvy abuse-research volunteers, among whom ultimately was successful in drawing in the attention of the Huffington Post.
Picture courtesy Netflix
The prolonged 2015 HuffPo piece assisted to set the phase for this year’s Emmy-nominated real criminal activity documentary, The Keepers, which brought global attention and countless audiences to the terrible story of Sibling Cathy and the accusations of sexual assault and declared cover-up by Baltimore-area cops and the FBI.
By the time The Keepers premiered in Might of this year, the regional news media– consisting of print, tv and publications (such as Baltimore Publication, which ran a prolonged investigative story on the nun’s murder)– were currently reporting the story in stunning information.
If there is a lesson for investigative press reporters in all of this, it now appears clear.
Find out the best ways to inform your story in a range of formats (print, tv, publications and documentary and video) so that you can reach a range of audiences and hence optimize the story’s effect.
The bottom line: once the powers-that-be in Baltimore recognized that the story of the killed nun, the sexual assault and the accusations of cops cover-up was going to be the topic of a smash hit, seven-part documentary on Netflix, the governmental stonewalling paved the way to increasing disclosures of exposing truth by police authorities in Maryland.
Obviously, the story isn’t really over yet.
With regional police in Maryland now talking openly about “brand-new findings that might connect 6 various unsolved murders to 2 priests who were associated with the abuse throughout the late 1960 s and much of the 1970 s,” there might extremely well be extra surprises ahead.
The effort to reveal the truths will continue.
Ideally, the around the world interest provoked by The Keepers will likewise continue to assist reporters conquer the sort of stonewalling that so frequently occurs when police authorities choose not to share info with the general public– for intentions that frequently appear suspicious and self-serving.
Tom Nugent is the author of Death at Buffalo Creek(W.W. Norton), a book of investigative journalism about a coal mining-related catastrophe that eliminated 125 individuals and left thousands homeless in Appalachia. He is likewise the publisher of an online paper, Inside Baltimore Tom invites remarks from readers.