- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The body of a nun found stabbed and strangled in a hospital chapel appeared to have been displayed in a ritualistic fashion, her arms and legs straight and no sign of blood, a fellow nun testified Monday at the trial of a priest accused of the 1980 killing.

“People don’t usually die very straight,” said Sister Phyllis Ann Gerold, who was president of Mercy Hospital when Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was killed.

Sister Gerold, testifying at the murder trial of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, said she was eating breakfast when she heard screaming from the hospital chapel on the day before Easter. Inside the chapel, she found two or three other Roman Catholic nuns and Sister Pahl’s body.

“The horror of it,” Sister Gerold told the court yesterday when asked her first impression. “I think it was the weirdness of it and that she needed to be saved and then the afterthought is, ‘Why the ritualistic kind of layout of a dead body,’ once I learned she was dead.”

Sister Pahl was stabbed 31 times, including nine wounds in the shape of an upside-down cross, authorities said.

Prosecutors have said some of the wounds exactly match the diamond-shaped blade of a letter opener found in Father Robinson’s room.

The defense, however, noted yesterday that many people had access to the chapel and suggested that the wounds could have been caused by something else.

Under cross-examination, Sister Gerold testified that the sisters discovered after the slaying that the victim’s 2-inch cross pin and watch, as well as a pair of scissors, were missing. She also said she used “ritualistic” as a general term. “It was not a natural pose,” she said.

Police have suspected that the nun’s death was some kind of ritual slaying because of evidence found in the chapel and because the body was posed as if she had been sexually assaulted, although investigators say she wasn’t.

Defense attorney Alan Konop has said there have been inconsistencies in statements by witnesses during the past two decades, and he expects that will leave doubt in the minds of the jurors.

Investigators reopened the murder case in 2003 after the prosecutor’s office received a letter about a woman’s claims that she was molested by priests for years as a child. Among the names she mentioned was that of Father Robinson. Police were unable to substantiate her accusations of sexual abuse.

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