Wow. A doozy of a longread just went up over at the Huffington Post. It begins with the unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun in 1969 and spirals quickly into a nightmarish world of sexual abuse and corruption within Archbishop Keough High School and area police departments. Now Keough alumnae have taken it upon themselves to solve the case and help their classmates heal.
WARNING: The following contains descriptions of alleged abuse.
In 1969, the body of Sister Catherine Cesnik was discovered in a garbage dump with “choke marks on her neck and a round hole about the size of a quarter in the back of her skull.” The detective who initially led the investigation into Cesnik’s disappearance suspected the culprit was someone in the church, but found that “[t]he Catholic Church had a lot of input into the police department, a lot of power.” He told the Huffington Post that investigating a Catholic priest in Baltimore in 1969 was exceedingly difficult. And the priest he suspected in particular, Father Joseph Maskell, “was a difficult target.”
At the time, he served as the chaplain for the Baltimore County police, the Maryland State Police and the Maryland National Guard. Maskell kept a police scanner and loaded handgun in his car, drank beer with the officers at a local dive bar, and often went on “ride-alongs” with his police friends at night to respond to petty crimes or catch teenagers making out in their cars.
Eventually, the city had to turn the investigation over the county. No one was charged, and the case went cold.
Starting in the ’90s, several Keough alumnae have come forward with horrific stories of abuse at the hands of Maskell, Father Neil Magnus, several police officers, a gynecologist, and other men. One woman recalled Maskell threatening her by placing a loaded gun in her mouth:
“He said, ‘You’re a troublemaker. You’re trash. Nobody would ever believe you.’ He said, ‘Look at my degree. I went to school at Johns Hopkins.’”
But most incredible of all, one of the women claimed that Maskell had taken her to see Cesnik’s body two months before it was discovered. She was able to give details that were, at the time, not public knowledge.
The main alleged abusers — Maskell, Magnus, and the gynecologist — are now dead, but several Keough alumnae have been investigating the case and calling for their classmates who suffered abuse to come forward with their stories. The picture that has emerged is one of a vast network of abusers and abetters and one lone nun, Cesnik, who tried to protect her students.
One of those students told the Huffington Post that she was with Cesnik at her apartment the day before she disappeared when Maskell and Magnus barged in.
“Maskell glared at me,” she said. “He knew why I was there.” The woman said she left Cesnik’s apartment at that point. The following day at school, Maskell called her into his office. With a gun in his hand, he warned her that if she ever told anyone about the abuse, he would kill her, her boyfriend and her entire family. “That I remember as though it happened yesterday,” she said, “because I have been protecting my family ever since.” Cesnik vanished that night.