In A Nutshell
In 1980, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl’s body was found in a hospital chapel. She had been stabbed to death with an oddly shaped blade and wrapped in the altar cloth. Twenty-six years later, Father Gerald Robinson was convicted of her murder. It is the only known case of a Catholic priest killing a nun.
The Whole Bushel
On April 5, 1980, was the day before the most important day in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday. On that day, 71-year-old Catholic nun Margaret Ann Pahl was found dead on the floor of the chapel in Toledo Mercy Hospital, in Toledo, Ohio.
Pahl, the caretaker of the chapel, had been brutally murdered. She was strangled and then stabbed 31 times in the face, neck, and chest. Nine of the stab wounds were in the shape of what looked like an inverted cross, often thought to be an anti-Christian symbol.
After her death, her killer wrapped her in the altar cloth and crossed her arms over her chest. Blood was also smeared on her forehead, which made it seem like an insulting imitation of the last rites. The brutal murder was an incredibly degrading and blasphemous death for someone who had dedicated her life to the Catholic Church.
Four days later, a funeral service was given for Pahl. Father Gerald Robinson, the Catholic priest who was the chaplain at Toledo Mercy, presided over the funeral.
Police were suspicious of Robinson since the murder occurred in the chapel that he ran. He was brought in for questioning two weeks after the murder. However, a very unusual thing happened during the interview. A monsignor from the diocese stopped the interview and led Robinson out of the police station.
After that, the case went cold; there were no other suspects.
But years later, in 2003, police received a letter from a woman who was simply known as “Survivor Doe.” She claimed that Robinson and other people dressed like nuns had sexually abused her in satanic rituals when she was a child. She even said that some of the rituals involved human sacrifice. This gave police a new reason to open the investigation and take a look at Robinson.
One of the unique aspects of the stab wounds on Pahl’s body was their odd shape. While they were stab wounds, they didn’t appear to be made by a common hunting or kitchen knife. When the police searched Robinson’s office, they found a letter opener shaped like a saber.
They exhumed Pahl’s body and compared the letter opener to her wounds—they were close matches. They also found three witnesses who said Robinson was in the area of the chapel at the time of the murder. Robinson was arrested and charged with the murder of the elderly nun.
On May 11, 2006, Robinson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. The police believe the motive behind the murder was that Robinson didn’t like Sister Pahl’s overbearing attitude. She had also criticized the Good Friday service he had performed the day before the murder.
Survivor Doe filed a civil suit in 2011, but the court ruled that it was filed too late and it was dismissed. Robinson died on July 4, 2014, in prison at the age of 76. It is the only case of a Catholic priest killing a Catholic nun that has ever been documented.
Show Me The Proof
Associated Press: Priest convicted of killing nun dies in prison
The Blade: Survivor Doe again asks court to hear satanic abuse lawsuit; Toledo Catholic priest Gerald Robinson s conviction reaffirmed
NY Times: Gerald Robinson, Priest Convicted of Killing Ohio Nun, Dies at 76