BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For nearly 50 years, the disappearance and murder of a beloved, young nun, who taught at Southwest Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School, has been a mystery.
Now, WJZ has learned Baltimore County Police may be closer than ever to solving the murder of 26-year-old Sister Cathy Cesnik.
Two women, both with close ties to an unnamed man who may have been recently questioned by police, tell WJZ they believe her death may be linked to widespread sexual abuse by a powerful priest that took place decades ago.
They say they’ve revealed some critical clues to investigators.
One of those women asked not to be identified. We’ll call her “Ann.”
“I instinctively felt that when Sister Cathy was murdered, that my husband at the time had committed the murder,” Ann told WJZ’s Denise Koch.
“The night that she was murdered sticks out in my mind so clearly because when my husband came in, I remember looking up at him in shock because he had blood all over his white shirt. And he said, ‘I got into a fight.'”
Nearly two months later, in January 1970, Sister Cathy’s decomposed body was found.
For years, the investigation has looked at two men — Ann’s husband and Father Joseph Maskell, who is now dead, but is believed to have sexually abused dozens of young girls. He served as the guidance counselor at Archbishop Keough High.
Many students who confided in Sister Cathy believe Father Maskell wanted her dead before she could expose his dirty secret.
Ann’s husband, a friend of Maskell’s, may have helped.
“Something evil was going on,” Ann said.
Debbie Yohn tells WJZ she witnessed that evil firsthand.
She said these two men were working together — even sharing victims. She tells WJZ that she was one of them.
Denise: “This is hard to ask you, but this person we’re talking about, did he also abuse you?”
Denise: “At the same time that you were suffering abuse at the hands of the priest?”
Debbie believes the man recently questioned by police was paid by priests to pick up girls and deliver them for sex.
“I remember being a small child, I don’t know how old I was, in the car with him and I would call it — he would go steal girls,” Debbie said. “He grabbed a girl and threw her into the middle of the car and he punched the girl in the stomach and she was having a hard time breathing. I know he was involved with those priests.”
Brazen crimes, hidden for nearly half a century.
“It was easy for them to do what they were doing because it was institutional abuse,” Debbie said. “It wasn’t just one priest, it wasn’t just one parish… it was widespread.”
As the Catholic church reaches settlement after settlement with survivors of Father Maskell’s abuse, Ann and Debbie tell WJZ it is time for the world to know who killed Sister Cathy.
“There are still women in Baltimore that are terrorized by the events of back then and I want them to know that they don’t have to be anymore,” Debbie said. “There’s nobody out there that’s going to haunt them. The boogeyman, so to speak, is either dead or old, and there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Baltimore County Police confirmed this is a very active investigation and they’ve recently uncovered new information.