Warning: Big spoilers for The Keepers ahead!
After binge-watching seven episodes of Netflix's gripping new true crime series The Keepers, it seems we've been left with more questions than answers regarding the shocking murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik back in 1969. And to this day, the killing of the Catholic nun in Baltimore remains unsolved, as does the case of Joyce Malecki, the 20-year-old woman who was found dead only a few days later.
However, after wading through an incredible amount of evidence and upsetting allegations of sexual abuse embedded within the documentary, there are a select few that crop up time and time again as the potential perpetrators of the horrific crimes. So, without any further hesitation, here are some of the theories regarding the decades-long question of who actually killed Sister Cathy.
1. Monstrous Father Joseph Maskell
From the outset, Father Joseph Maskell — the counsellor and Chaplain at the Archbishop Keough High School — remains the man at the center of the heinous crimes in The Keepers. For years, he systematically sexually abused scores of young girls under his care, and after one of the victims ("Jane Doe," or Jean Wehner) came forward to Sister Cathy regarding the extensive sex ring, the nun swore to "do something" about it. In doing so, many believe that she marked herself out as a target.
Later in #TheKeepers, the fact that Maskell was behind the murder was solidified following Wehner's distressing recollection of being taken to the nun's dead body by the priest himself. She vividly remembers being confronted with her rotting body and "brushing maggots off her face" as the Chaplain whispered in her ear, "You see what happens when you say bad things about people?"
However, while Maskell remains the main culprit, it is worth noting that following the recent exhumation of his body for testing, his DNA did not match the evidence left at the scene of Cathy's body. Instead, it is more credible to believe that the priest — who harbored a lot of authority in Baltimore at the time — didn't carry out the killing himself. Instead, it seems probable that he hired someone else to do it for him.
2. Broken-Hearted Gerald Koob
When news of Sister Cathy's first came out, the Baltimore police force first examined her connections to Gerald Koob, a former priest who was a close friend to Cesnik. Over the course of the documentary, it also comes to light that he even once proposed to the nun before they both officially joined the Church. She declined.
Although Koob doesn't appear to be the culprit, many question his reliability. In The Keepers, it is reiterated over and over again that he was the first person that Sister Russell called to tell of her roommate's disappearance, and he rushed over to the apartment to pray and await her return. The question is: Why would she first and foremost call him and not the police?
Another aspect that raises an eyebrow is Koob's repeated emphasis on his alibi; he was reportedly out with a friend at dinner and went to see Easy Rider at the cinema. He also says that Cathy never told him anything about the supposed sexual abuse at Keough, even though they were close enough for him to propose to her.
Finally — and this is perhaps the most unsettling part — many have found issue with the letter that the nun supposedly wrote to Gerry. Toward the end of the series, the intimate contents within it suggest that Cathy and Koob were far more involved than he initially let on. Whether or not he downplayed the nature of their relationship to preserve her reputation within the Church (the letter discusses her having her period and wanting him "inside her"), it's clear that he's holding back some information. Then comes the allegation that he forged the letter in the first place with one Reddit user pointing out the following:
"The 'love letter' to Koob from Cathy is not genuine. A woman would not write a love letter that way... to start with typing about her period and being in a mood (?) This is a girl who was so sheltered her parents were concerned [with] her living outside the convent. And typing that they were sexually intimate with each other.... I find difficult to believe that a nun with all the girls on her plate, possibly uncovering a sex ring, all the abuse going on and no one doing anything about it... to have all that to focus on, plus some casual sex on the side? No, I think she had more important things going on..
Also in the letter — the bit about wanting to have children and to "be inside you".. ugh as a woman I gagged, [and] in that moment I knew the letter was written by Koob. Cathy was an English teacher after all. Her writing was much more eloquent than that... remember that poem? To say she wrote that letter is almost insulting."
Finally, there's the problem of the revelation that a local detective presented him with Cathy's vagina wrapped in newspaper — following interviews with the police, this claim is smacked down as being highly improbable. But, who do we believe?
3. Uncle Billy Schmidt
Billy was a man who lived across the hallway from Cathy's apartment and following his involvement with someone named "Skippy," his family believe he and his brother Ronnie may have gotten themselves into trouble. What's more is that his nephew Brian has explicitly said that he was there when Billy got rid of what he presumes to be a body rolled up in a carpet, vowing never to say a word.
After the nun's disappearance, Ronnie's wife Barbara recalls that the brothers' behavior changed dramatically. Ronnie — someone who had never been a heavy drinker — turned to alcohol and heavy drug use. He also reportedly once said:
"We killed a girl and buried her behind the shop."
Similarly, Billy also had a mental breakdown and became a social recluse, raving on about a "nun in the attic" — upon further inspection, Barbara did in fact discover a mannequin dressed up in a habit hanging from the rafters upstairs.
After five unsuccessful suicide attempts, Billy did end up killing himself months after Cesnik's disappearance and to this day, his niece — Sharon Schmidt — is adamant that her uncle was somehow involved. When investigations were reopened in the '90s, she directly asked the police whether any Salem cigarette butts were found at the scene where Cathy's body was found (it's the brand that Billy smoked). As it turns out, one was found and it matched the type, however no other leads came to fruition.
4. Blood-Soaked Edgar Davidson
One night, Edgar Davidson reportedly came home covered in blood on the night of Cesnik's abduction, failing to provide a decent explanation to his wife as to why. After a few days, when news of Sister Cathy's disappearance came on TV, he made this odd comment:
"By the time they find her body, it’s going to be wintertime, she’s going to be buried in snow.”
Alongside this damning evidence, Edgar's ex-wife "Margaret" — who asked to remain anonymous during interviews — revealed that her husband soon after surprised her with an expensive necklace. It had a wedding bell on it, a fact she thought strange considering they had already been married for over a year and green wasn't her birthstone. Coincidentally, we know that Sister Cathy had been out shopping for an engagement present for her sister the very night she went missing. Could Edgar have snatched it from her body after disposing of it?
Indeed, throughout the series, many fingers point toward Edgar. We also know that he was incredibly abusive to his wife, threatening to hurt her if she left him and was even arrested for trying to lure young girls into his car after their eventual divorce.
What's more, Davidson once allegedly called a radio station saying he knew where the nun's rosary was. Later, an investigation also found out that dirt was found on both pedals of Cathy's car — we know that Edgar drove with both feet.
However, after The Keepers team got in contact with an elderly Edgar, who is still very much alive, he was still adamant that he had nothing to do with the murder. Having said that though, the interview segments with him were rather unsettling, with many viewers claiming that he didn't seem "quite all there."
5. Elusive 'Brother Bob'
Finally, there's "Brother Bob," who remains an elusive figure throughout the #Netflix series. A man who heavily participated in Maskell's sex ring, he also abused Jean after being provided with the sickening opportunities to do so time and time again. Apart from this however, we never learn much about him other than the fact that Wehner was a far more terrified of him than the chaplain.
It's a tough one because Jane Doe herself struggles to remember much about him, revealing that post-traumatic stress has blocked out all facial recognition. However, what she does remember is him hitting her after finding out about Jean's plan to go to the police about Cathy's murder. He then explicitly told her that he did not mean to kill her.
Who Really Killed Sister Cathy?
Ultimately, we still don't know. However, it appears that following the release of The Keepers, the investigation into Cesnik and Malecki's deaths has begun gaining pace once again. As mentioned above, Maskell's body was exhumed as recently as May, signaling strong developments in attempts to solve the horrendous crimes that have been haunting Baltimore since the '60s.
As for director Ryan White himself, he has high hopes that the wide-reach of The Keepers will probe other people and institutions to come forward with information to ensure that one day, true justice is served. Ultimately, he believes:
"In the beginning we definitely didn’t set out to solve the murder [but] it’s completely reasonable that this murder could be solved. [...] My hope is that the end of this period will force the hands of the institutions in some way to get answers, and I think the answer to who killed Cathy is one of those."
Who do you think killed Sister Cathy?
(Source: The Daily Beast)