Father Maskell’s DNA Doesn’t Match with Evidence from Murdered Nun’s Crime Scene, Baltimore Co. Police Say

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Image via Netflix

In a case that’s becoming more worthy of its own Netflix show every month, police have now determined that DNA from a late priest named as a suspect in Sister Cathy Cesnik’s 1969 murder in Baltimore County doesn’t match with DNA found at the crime scene.

In February, Baltimore County police exhumed the body of the Father A. Joseph Maskell, who died in 2001, to test his DNA with evidence from the infamous unsolved murder case. In a release put out today, authorities said they sent a sample of his remains to Bode Cellmark Forensics in Lorton, Va., “for development of a DNA profile” that they compared with crime scene evidence.

A department spokeswoman told Baltimore Fishbowl two weeks ago that police decided to dig up his body so many years later not because of the timing of the release of a new Netflix docuseries’ this week, but simply because they have more advanced technology now to revisit the case.

Today, the department announced the results have come in: Maskell’s DNA is no match.

A photo of Sister Cathy Cesnik, via Baltimore County Police

Police said they’ve tested other suspects’ DNA over the years – about a half-dozen peope, in fact. “None of these suspects’ profiles have matched,” the department said. Searches of the FBI’s national DNA database searches also turned up empty.

So where does this leave the investigation?

“[Investigators’] best hope for solving the case now lies with people who are still alive and willing to come forward with conclusive information about the murder,” the department said.

Maskell’s name had reappeared up for other insidious reasons recently. In November, the Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed it had been paying out tens of thousands of dollars in settlements to former students at Archbishop Keough High School, where Maskell was a clergy and faculty member nearly four decades ago. Maskell’s former pupils had accused the priest of sexually assaulting them.

One accuser also claimed Maskell threatened her in 1970 when she said she wanted to report his alleged abuse. She told former Baltimore Sun reporter Tom Nugent that Maskell took her to see the body of Cesnik, a beloved nun at Western High School in Baltimore who had gone missing.

Police say Cesnik was last seen at her apartment in Baltimore before she ran out for some errands “in the Edmondson Village area” one day in November 1969. Authorities think whoever killed Cesnik “accosted” her in front of her home when she got back from the store, according to a fact sheet now posted by police online.

From there, she was shoved into a car, taken to Monumental Avenue and assaulted before she was killed, police say. Her car was found within walking distance of her apartment days later.

Authorities found her body in a dump in Lansdowne two months after she disappeared.

All of this will be laid out with more granularity in “The Keepers,” Netflix’s new show about the unsolved murder case premiering this Friday. A trailer is below. Meanwhile, the investigation continues.

Ethan McLeod
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