Police: Exhuming Priest’s Body For DNA ‘Absolutely Something That We Had To Do’

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Nearly 50 years ago, the body of Sister Cathy Cesnik was found in a ditch.

For months, WJZ has been investigating the case that’s haunted the community.

Baltimore County Police revealed only to WJZ that they’ve dug up the body of a powerful priest, Father Joseph Maskell, to get his DNA. Maskell, a former guidance counselor at Archbishop Keough High School, has long been suspected in Cesnik’s death. Cesnik also worked at the school.

In January of 1970, Sister Cathy’s decomposed body was discovered in a field in Lansdowne.

A recent WJZ investigation revealed that the 26-year-old was about to blow the whistle on widespread sexual abuse at the hands of Maskell.

Nearly 50 years later, police are focusing in on him.

“Maskell was a suspect in the murder of Sister Cathy,” says Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County.

Many of Maskell’s victims, including Teresa Lancaster, have told WJZ they went to Sister Cathy, telling her about Maskell’s abuse, right before she was killed.

“She confronted him and she lost her life for it,” Lancaster says.

When WJZ first began investigating the murder of Sister Cathy, we discovered Baltimore County Police were once again conducting interviews in the case.

What’s more, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney authorized police to dig up the body of Father Maskell, who died in 2001, and now, they’ve taken his DNA. And even though there’s very little physical evidence to compare it to, they’re hoping this finally answers the decades-old question: Who killed Sister Cathy?

“We’ve been looking at this case intensely for awhile and there’s absolutely no question that in leaving no stone un-turned, that looking at Maskell’s DNA and comparing it to that physical evidence, is absolutely something we had to do,” Armacost says.

Police tell WJZ it will take four to six weeks before they know if Maskell’s DNA matches the evidence. Maskell denied the accusations against him until his death.

WJZ will continue to investigate this story and bring you every development.

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(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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