True crime is only getting more popular, and Netflix never misses an opportunity to contribute to the zeitgeist, giving us The Keepers. This seven-episode docuseries explores the still-unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Her former students believe that Sister Cathy was murdered as part of a cover-up to protect a priest at the school, A. Joseph Maskell, who Cesnik suspected was guilty of sexual abuse of students. Though the documentary includes much of the story, director Ryan White doesn’t include every piece of evidence, and some of the most crucial information gets left out.
Updated by Nicole Mello on June 14, 2020: Justice still has not been found for Sister Cathy. However, with each day that passes, internet sleuths and hard-boiled detectives alike unveil a new connection or a potential piece of evidence that had been overlooked before in the case. With new evidence cropping up recently, this article has been updated to reflect even more facts and clues that the docuseries overlooked.
14 A. Joseph Maskell’s DNA
The show is responsible for initiating a deeper look into the case of A. Joseph Maskell and Sister Cathy Cesnik, as Baltimore County Police start investigating again due to a public outcry. In fact, people around the world were so distraught at learning about Sister Cathy’s case that they started flooding the Baltimore County Police with calls. Stirred to action, the Police exhumed the remains of A. Joseph Maskell, the former priest accused of murdering Sister Cathy, and took a DNA sample to test against DNA found at the murder scene.
According to CNN, Bode Cellmark Forensics laboratory in Lorton, Virginia was responsible for comparing the DNA to the sample from the murder scene. Police then announced that the DNA taken from A. Joseph Maskell was not a direct match to the DNA found at the two-month-old murder scene, where 26-year-old Sister Cathy was found decomposing in 1970.
13 Potential FBI Cover-Up
One of the most frustrating aspects of being a true crime fan is dealing with endless cover-ups from authorities and government entities, like police and the FBI. On the show, we see how long it’s been taking to get the FBI to honor the requests for documentation under the Freedom of Information Act. What the show doesn’t get into is that the FBI has pushed back the date even further now.
What we do know is that the FBI’s continuing failure to contribute meaningfully to this case has negatively impacted any chance at an ending to the story.
12 Ireland’s Claims On A. Joseph Maskell
In the show, the audience briefly hears about the fact that Ireland has claims on A. Joseph Maskell, as well, that the Catholic Church continues to cover up. White tells us there is some “dogged reporting” happening right now in Ireland, digging deeper into the time that A. Joseph Maskell spent there, in addition to his time spent in the United States.
What’s worse than considering the fact that A. Joseph Maskell terrorized one community? The idea that he terrorized many, and that the Catholic Church chose not to stop him.
11 Gerry Koob’s Relationship To Sister Cathy
Anyone who saw The Keepers remembers former priest Gerry Koob and his story about the police bringing in Sister Cathy’s genitals wrapped in newspaper and tossing them on a table in front of Koob. Ryan White says he’s “seen a lot of people doubt whether the story is true at all,” and insists that Koob is absolutely certain this happened, while the police are absolutely certain it did not. What the show doesn’t touch on, however, is Koob’s supposed relationship with Sister Cathy.
Most don’t believe Gerry Koob when he talks, but a member of the police force, Detective Roemer, claimed that Koob confessed to having a sexual relationship with Sister Cathy before her disappearance. It’s important to take this confession from Koob with a grain of salt, as he is proven in the show to be less than the most reliable of witnesses, but, as White says, “I don’t know where the truth lies.”
10 What The Catholic Church Knows, But Won’t Say
Exposés on the Catholic Church have been steadily being released, with more and more people coming forward over time, but the Church refuses to make a clear statement in the case of A. Joseph Maskell. Though, of course, they insist they’re doing everything they can to help victims of abuse, on the subject of Maskell, they remain as vague and unhelpful as ever.
We know this speculation about the circumstances is not false, because Jean Hargadon Wehner tells us in the show that she has evidence proving otherwise. If the Archdiocese is willing to blatantly lie about this, what else are they lying about?
9 Within The Walls Of Keough High School
Fans of The Keepers may be surprised to hear that Keough High School, where Sister Cathy and A. Joseph Maskell both taught, closed in July of 2017, following confirmation from the Archdiocese of Baltimore that they paid settlements out to students who had been sexually abused by Maskell.
Regardless of why the school is closing, the walls will never be able to talk now. Unless some brave sleuths or particularly inspired detectives go digging, Keough High School is now, for better or worse, closed to a continuing story.
8 Mysterious Suspects
Though White says he included absolutely all the information he knew in the documentary, he did contradict himself later by saying, “The project was heavily vetted by lawyers — there were times when I believed we knew somebody that was involved in the abuse, but we couldn’t include a name for legal reasons.” True crime buffs will know that this often happens, that the law tangles everything up in red tape so details like names and dates will be removed from stories.
This begs the question, though, that if White says he included everything he knew, and we know he had to remove names for legal reasons — where in the documentary does he reveal these hidden suspects? Does he ever reveal them? Or does White know more than he’s telling his audience?
7 Internal Records On A. Joseph Maskell
Much like the government, the Catholic Church has their own internal system for keeping track of the people who make up their organization. They have internal records on everyone — including A. Joseph Maskell. However, the Catholic Church is completely unwilling to share these documents, even though White says he would “love for them to be transparent and show the world what they have.”
Supposedly, according to White and Jean Wehner, the Archdiocese opened an investigation into A. Joseph Maskell, and so, those records should exist. However, they say there’s nothing, even though Jean Wehner found many victims willing to come forward simply by sending out letters in the mail. It seems that either the Archdiocese is lying about having investigated the accusations, or the Archdiocese is lying about having internal records on A. Joseph Maskell. Either way, they’re lying and withholding information that would be helpful to the case.
6 The Undocumented Survivor Stories
Not every story that Ryan White heard gets told in The Keepers. Often, survivors would choose to remain anonymous, and the crew of The Keepers respected that choice and removed their stories, names, and/or faces from the series. However, White did still get to talk to them — he even got to talk to the anonymous student he mentions in the series. However, she didn’t want to go on the record. White can only say this about it: “Her story is chilling.”
There is even more to this than meets the eye; White said there are about thirty-five other survivors just like her, and more reaching out all the time. There are countless untold stories backing up the accusations made against A. Joseph Maskell and the Catholic Church that the docuseries doesn’t even begin to explore.
5 Unknown Boxes Of Evidence
One of the most famous pieces of evidence from the show is the cigarette butt shown in episode six, found near Sister Cathy’s body. This is presumed to be the source of the DNA sample found at the murder scene, but Ryan White knows there’s even more that Baltimore County Police aren’t saying.
White is unconvinced that the DNA found at the scene on a cigarette butt would match A. Joseph Maskell’s DNA, but he remains positive that, eventually, someone will catch whoever murdered Sister Cathy — and they’ll finally figure out why.
4 Joyce Malecki’s Murder
So-called “Grandma Nancy Drew” Gemma Hoskins has spent years asking for the federal case files on Joyce Malecki’s murder. In spite of the Freedom of Information Act, the federal government has continuously neglected to provide Gemma Hoskins with this information.
Joyce Malecki’s murder is explored as much as it can be as being potentially connected to the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, but there’s still so much that Abbie, Gemma, and audiences don’t know. Because the federal government keeps stalling and refusing to release information under the FOIA regarding Joyce Malecki’s murder, there are likely countless pieces of possibly helpful evidence related to the homicides of both Joyce Malecki and Sister Cathy.
3 A. Joseph Maskell’s Uncle James
James Maskell, A. Joseph Maskell’s uncle, is a similarly powerful and threatening figure that deserves to be prodded harder. Savvy internet sleuths have found evidence that James Maskell, a former patrolman, got a woman named Sarah Nell sentenced to a year in prison for biting him while he attempted to assault her.
In another scenario, James Maskell arrested a man named Phillip Shane after the two of them got into an altercation and Maskell lied about how they came to blows. This family evidence of anger problems, assaults on others, using a position of power over others to avoid punishment, and the assault on a young woman — much like Sister Cathy — all point towards a potential pre-existing rage in A. Joseph Maskell that nobody has ever explored.
2 Sharon May’s Husband
Viewers of The Keepers do not fondly reflect on Sharon May, the prosecutor in charge of the Maryland State Attorney’s Office Sex Abuse Unit. And why should they? Sharon May states firmly and rudely in her interview that she had absolutely no involvement in any sort of cover-up.
Audiences reacted poorly to how cold, smarmy, and arrogant Sharon May appeared to be, and with good reason: they have every reason to believe she was very much involved in a cover-up for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, evident enough from her complete inaction throughout the case.
However, there’s even more to the story to be considered: Sharon May’s husband used to be a state cop. Sharon May’s husband, V. Eric W. May, Sr., was a state cop while Sharon was a prosecutor, providing the two of them even more opportunity to participate in a cover-up.
1 The Identity of Brother Bob
The mysterious Brother Bob is, in many ways, even more chilling a figure than A. Joseph Maskell. “Jane Doe” (Jean Wehner) is quoted as recalling a man she knew only as Brother Bob, who she can hardly remember from being traumatized so badly by him, whispering to her that he was the one who had killed Sister Cathy.
Many have speculated on the identity of this mysterious Brother Bob, with most pointing to “Ed” (Edgar Davidson) as being the most obvious answer, but some are now speculating that Father Robert Flaherty is Brother Bob. A lack of information about his life at the time has made deeper research difficult; however, viewers now know that Robert Flaherty was accused in a separate sex abuse scandal, as well. It’s possible Flaherty and Maskell had some deeper connection at the time that has simply been completely overlooked.