The new Netflix series “The Keepers” focuses on the slaying of Sister Catherine Cesnik in 1969, but also examines allegations of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests and covered up by the church. On Tuesday, Baltimore police created an online form for those who think they were victimized long ago and may now want to report it.
Cesnik taught at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore and disappeared in November 1969. Her body was found just over the city line in Baltimore County in January 1970. She had been beaten to death, and her killer was never found. In the 1990s, a number of women came forward to allege that the chaplain at Keough, the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, had sexually molested them. One woman told the Baltimore Sun that Maskell had taken her to Cesnik’s body. Other women said that they confided in Cesnik about sexual abuse by Maskell and that she may have been preparing to confront the priest about this. Maskell denied committing any sex crimes or murder and was never charged before his death in 2001. A seven-part documentary about the case was released by Netflix on Friday.
Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said after the series was released, “We’ve heard from people who previously hadn’t reported their offense. We just wanted to streamline the process. This is a crime that occurred to them, they don’t need to constantly relive the nightmare, telling the story over and over again.”
Smith said he did not know how many calls his department had received but noted that victims in the case were probably teenagers at the time, and “this is bringing back memories for them. We just wanted to cut out the middleman and want to rout them directly where they need to go.” He said sex crimes detectives will receive the online submissions and reach out to anyone who believes they were victimized. The form is here.
Baltimore County is still handling the cold case homicide of “Sister Cathy,” since she was discovered in the Lansdowne area of the county. Detectives there exhumed Maskell’s body in February to obtain his DNA, in hopes that it would match evidence found at the crime scene. The police said last week that it did not match. Tips about the homicide should be directed to the county, not Baltimore City. Officials in Baltimore County were not aware of any tips generated by the Netflix series.