Sister Cathy's Murder Case From 'The Keepers' Spans Decades


The true crime documentary series The Keepers premieres on Netflix on May 19 and it investigates the unsolved murder of Maryland teacher and nun Sister Catherine "Cathy" Cesnik in 1970. The details that later emerged in the ongoing investigation of her death are horrific and devastating. Since the case has spanned many decades, you may want a timeline of Sister Cathy's murder case in The Keepers to know what happened when and how.

In 1969, Sister Cathy was a popular 26-year-old teacher at Baltimore's Archbishop Keough High School, where she taught English and drama, according to The Huffington Post. She would go on a Friday night errand run that year and never return alive. Three months after she went missing, Sister Cathy's body was found. Decades later in 2017, her killer has not yet been identified in the complex case, which many have theorized is linked to alleged sexual abuse committed by Father Joseph Maskell that had occurred at Archbishop Keough High School in the '60s.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore issued the following statement to Bustle regarding Father Maskell's actions:

Since the 1990s, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore first learned of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Maskell, and on numerous occasions since, the Archdiocese has publicly acknowledged and apologized for the horrific abuse committed by him. The Archdiocese reported the allegations to civil authorities in the 1990s and cooperated fully in any investigation, removed Father Maskell’s faculties to function as a priest, apologized to victims and offered them counseling assistance, sought additional victims, and provided direct financial assistance to 16 individuals abused by Maskell. Though it was unaware of the abuse at the time it occurred approximately 50 years ago, the Archdiocese deeply regrets the damage that was caused to those who were so badly harmed and has worked diligently since becoming aware of their abuse to bring some measure of healing to them. The Archdiocese is wholly committed to protecting children, holding abusers accountable—clergy and laity alike, and promoting healing for victims. These are hallmarks of the Archdiocese’s child protection efforts, which we strive to constantly strengthen. There is no room in the Archdiocese for anyone who would harm a child and every effort must be made to ensure what happened before never happens again. It is our hope that “The Keepers” advances this pursuit, just as we hope the series helps those who have kept alive the memory of Sister Cathy and our collective hope that justice will be won for her.

Nov. 7, 1969: Sister Cathy Is Last Seen Alive

In 1994, The Balitmore Sun reported that this is the last date Sister Cathy was seen alive: she cashed her $255 paycheck at a local bank and purchased buns at bakery at the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. According to The Keepers, there is no proof that Sister Cathy ever returned home from that errand run.

Sister Cathy's housemate (now former) Sister Helen Russell Phillips told The Baltimore Sun that she became worried when Cathy did not return home after 11 p.m. Sister Russell Phillips called Father Gerard "Gerry" Koob and Peter McKeon for help. In The Keepers, Koob says they called the police to file a missing person's report. Sister Cathy's green Ford Maverick is later found with its rear sticking out in the road nearly 50 feet away from her apartment with Sister Russell. Koob says he thinks that someone else brought the car back to the area.

Jan. 3, 1970: Sister Cathy's Body Is Found

On this date, hunters found Sister Cathy's corpse in a snowy field in Lansdowne, reported The Baltimore Sun, and she was partially clothed. According to The Telegraph, a forensic exam concluded that Sister Cathy had been choked and then killed via a blunt trauma to her head.

Despite this development, the investigation into her murder stalled.

1992-1993: Recovered Memories

Former Archbishop Keough High School students Jean Hargadon Wehner and Teresa Lancaster begin to remember the sexual abuse that they experienced at the school, The Huffington Post reported. “My whole body shook,” Wehner told the publication. “I knew.” (Remember this, because it will be important soon.)

June 9, 1994: New Information Comes To Light

According to The Baltimore Sun, Sister Cathy's murder case was reopened on this date due to new evidence found: former student "Jane Doe" at Archbishop Keough High School claimed to police that Father Joseph Maskell, who had sexually abused her, had taken her to see Sister Cathy's dead body at a garbage dump before it was found.

The Huffington Post reported that another student known as "Jane Roe" also came forward. "Jane Roe" and "Jane Doe" filed $40 million civil lawsuit against against Father Maskell, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and Baltimore gynecologist Dr. Christian Richter, who aided and abetted the abuse. After these allegations became public, Maskell resigned from the school, reported The Baltimore Sun.

Later, "Jane Doe" would be identified as Wehner and "Jane Roe" would be revealed to be Lancaster.

May 7, 2001: Father Maskell Dies

According to the Baltimore Sun, Maskell died in Ireland in 2001. He was never charged with any crime.

2004: The Father Koob Investigation

Baltimore City homicide investigator Harry Bannon had suspicions that Father Koob knew more than he was letting on, but in 2004, Bannon revealed that he was once told to halt his investigation of the priest.

“And then the church lawyers stepped in and they talked to the higher-ups at the police department," the now-retired detective told the Baltimore City Paper. He continued:

"And we were told, ‘Either charge Koob with a crime or let him go. Stop harassing him.’ After that, we had to break away from him. And that was a shame, because I’m sure Koob knew more than he was telling. We never did solve the case, and I think part of the reason was that we had to back away from Koob.”

According to The Huffington Post, Koob and Sister Cathy were involved in a romantic relationship, a fact confirmed by Koob himself. Koob denies having any further knowledge of what happened to Sister Cathy in the Netflix docuseries.

2015: Putting The Pieces Together

Wehner and many other former Archbishop Keough students began speaking publicly about what they claim to have gone through at the school and even launched their own investigation into Sister Cathy's murder, according to The Huffington Post.

Feb. 27, 2017: Father Maskell's Body Is Exhumed

And that brings us to 2017. Earlier this year, CNN reported that police opened Maskell's grave in order to take more modern DNA samples for the murder case. "Determining whether Maskell's DNA matches the evidence remaining from the crime scene is a 'box' that must be checked," Elisa Armacost, director of public affairs for Baltimore County Police, told CNN.

And now, The Keepers is streaming on Netflix, shedding even more light on Sister Cathy's unsolved murder case.