As Seton Keough High School prepares for closure in June, Netflix’s new true crime series, The Keepers, is set to dig up some skeletons at the all-girls Catholic school. Almost 50 years ago, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun at the school, went missing. Then, in January 1970, a couple of hunters discovered her decomposed body in a garbage dump. But this isn’t a story about a nun getting murdered, the trailer teases, “the story is the cover-up of the nun’s story”. And it’s about to be the best post-Making a Murderer mystery since S-Town.
Trigger warning: rape and sexual assault
“I have a story I’d like to tell you”
Sister Cathy was a kind and sweet nun who lived a modest life. A beloved drama and English teacher at the Baltimore school, many of Sister Cathy’s students would drop by her apartment and confide in her. Students shared secrets with the Sister; dark secrets that may have lead to the woman’s murder.
Featured in the Netflix trailer are Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins who both attended Keough High School from 1966 to 1970. Schaub joined Hoskins, who heads up an amateur detective group, and the two women work together to investigate Sister Cathy’s murder and get to the bottom of the secrets she took to her grave.
Secrets started bubbling back up to the surface in the 1990s when two former students accused guidance counselor Father Joseph Maskell of rape. When the women filed the civil suit against the priest, they feared that Maskell’s deep connections with the Baltimore police force would put them in danger, so they remained anonymous until after the priest’s death in 2001.
Once those two women came forward, soon, more women revealed their own accounts of sexual assault from the priest and other men connected to the priest. When the allegations came to light, the Baltimore Archdiocese claimed they attempted to corroborate the stories but came up empty. However, when an ad circulated in the local newspaper, more than 30 women came forward with first or second-hand accounts, all consistent with each other’s stories.
Despite the reliable testimony, the case was thrown out of court due to a technicality. The church claimed that these were false memories – the fake news of the ‘90s – and that repressed memories of child victims of sexual assault wasn’t a thing. But the failed case wasn’t all in vain; it prompted the police to reopen the case.
That’s when things get all Making a Murderer-y.
Making a New Murderer
When the police reopened Sister Cathy’s murder case, startling new revelations started coming to light. They discovered that damning evidence from the initial investigation had gone conveniently missing or leads were never followed up – sound familiar?
In 2015, Huffington Post spoke to a retired Baltimore police detective who worked Sister Cathy case when it was reopened. But, as soon as they reopened the case, the detective said he received a call from his superiors.
“He said, ‘Listen kid, this is a career buster. We knew who the hell killed her back when it happened, and you’ll find out, and you’re gonna find out things you shouldn’t find out. Let it go.’”
How deep these connections go remains to be seen, and we’re sure that The Keepers will delve deep into the church and police corruption. But if 2015’s Oscar-winning Spotlight is anything to go by, it’s going to be one dark ride.
Who Killed Sister Cathy Cesnik?
Sister Cathy’s murderer – or murderers – still remains a mystery. At least for now. Much like the Paradise Lost trilogy left a strong impression of the likely true suspects of the crime police pinned on the West Memphis Three, The Keepers will strongly suggest an answer to the mystery. But, according to a CBS Baltimore report from February this year, police recently questioned two women about the case who are both connected to an unnamed man. One of those women may be the wife of Sister Cathy’s murderer. She revealed to CBS Baltimore:
“The night that [Sister Cathy] was murdered sticks out in my mind so clearly because when my husband came in, I remember looking up at him in shock because he had blood all over his white shirt. And he said, ‘I got into a fight.’”
A Big Reveal?
The CBS Baltimore report also claims that “Baltimore County Police confirmed this is a very active investigation and they’ve recently uncovered new information.” If HBO’s mini-series The Jinx is anything to go by, The Keepers may be holding onto an explosive final reveal in relation to the case. We’ll all find out on May 19 when Netflix releases all episodes of the seven-part docuseries.