Censored and retrieved from Web Archive

Clergy Ritual Abuse Illuminated

The Murder of Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl


THERE IS SOMETHING very little talked about that may prove to be a significant hidden or “occult” factor in many crimes committed by clergy. That is, ritualistic sexual and physical abuse. After all, who is more likely to be interested in the uses of ritual than a priest?

Aside from any magickal or spiritual aspects, ritual presents a formal means of control of victims, enhances psychological effects in both victim and perpetrator, and of itself terrifies victims, adding to their sense of overwhelming powerlessness. The devout and the young — the favored prey of clerical offenders — are especially vulnerable.

Clergy ritual abuse can range from saying prayers in an abusive context, to the manipulation of a sacramental environment (such as sexual solicitation during Confession), to full-blown satanic ceremonies, including Black Masses.

The reasons this phenomena is so little known are obvious. In the first place, the fear of victims of ridicule over this is very high to begin with — like abuse by nuns, it is such a dire contradiction of the normal role that denial is reflexive. While it’s easier than ever these days to imagine a priest humanly lusting, it is much more disturbing to consider one who turns his sworn faith completely on its head in the process, and hints at a much deeper evil.

Secondly, lawyers who sue the Church over abuse advise their clients to not mention ritual elements in their depositions or testimony due to the fear that it will discredit them. And thirdly, authorities on all levels, be it from a desire to protect the Church or the public, quite often minimize such aspects for fear of sensationalism.

But, even as such unthinkable topics as abuse by nuns comes out, so have tales of ritualistic abuse by clergy. A recent investigation by the District Attorney in Philadelphia reveals a very disturbing pattern of ritualistic abuse, including group activities, throughout the twentieth century.

Sr. Pahl, Fr. RobinsonSr. Pahl & Fr. Robinson

In addition, there is a cold case involving the ritual murder of an elderly nun, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, in a hospital chapel a quarter of a century ago, that may be leading to new disclosures. Fr. Gerald Robinson, a priest, is the accused. The case already has touched on satanic ritual abuse, and men dressing as nuns

Here are the press accounts, updated as they come out. Newest article is on the top, oldest on the bottom.

Note: May be very disturbing to victims/survivors. Use care in reading.

Trial now scheduled to begin April 21, 2006.

Last news update: 2/8/06

Stories below are from the Toledo Blade.
Click here for Unholy Homicide, Part 2, CourtTV’s coverage.

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Witnesses revealed for homicide trial

Priest’s case includes forensic experts

A nationally known forensic expert and a forensic anthropologist who inspired the FOX television show Bones are among the witnesses who could testify in the homicide trial of the Rev. Gerald Robinson.

With the trial nearly two months away, prosecutors and defense attorneys yesterday revealed in court documents the names of more than 100 potential witnesses, giving the two sides notice about who may appear as witnesses.

Father Robinson, 67, is accused in the 1980 slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

The murder, which occurred in the chapel at the former Mercy Hospital near downtown Toledo, has attracted national attention.

The prosecution list of witnesses includes renowned forensic expert Henry Lee, who has assisted police around the country in more than 6,000 investigations and has testified in several high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995.

In December, 2004, Mr. Lee visited Toledo and examined evidence in the case. He visited the sacristy where the 71-year-old nun was stabbed and he studied the letter opener believed to be the murder weapon. (Emphasis added.)

A list provided to the court by the defense includes Kathleen Reichs, a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina. She is a frequent witness in criminal trials around the country.

She is the best-selling author of four mystery novels, and Bones, an investigative drama on the FOX network, is based on the characters and criminal investigations in her books.

Additional witnesses include other forensic experts, retired police officers who were involved in the original investigation, state Bureau of Identification and Investigation specialists, clerics, and nuns who are members of Sister Margaret Ann’s order, including her own sister, Sister Laura Marie Pahl.

The prosecution’s list of 96 witnesses also includes Sister Ann-Marie Borgess, a Notre Dame nun who has accused a former priest of sexually assaulting her when she was a young girl at St. Pius X Church in West Toledo. She has spoken in support of victims of priest abuse. (Emphasis added.)

The defrocked priest, Chet Warren, who was never charged, also is among the people who was identified by prosecutors as a possible witness.

The list filed by Father Robinson’s attorneys contained fewer names, and more than a dozen of the witnesses were also identified as prosecution witnesses.

L.J. Dragovic, Oakland County, Michigan medical examiner, is listed among the defense witnesses.

Judge Thomas Osowik ordered the attorneys to file the witness lists during a hearing on unrelated pending motions in the case. He gave them until yesterday to file the information.

Toledo Blade, Feb. 7, 2006 . Original article here.

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Priest lied to police, investigator tells court

Robinson said killer confessed to him

By MARK REITER, BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Rev. Gerald Robinson lied to police when he was questioned in 1980 about the slaying of a nun in the chapel at the former Mercy Hospital, an investigator said yesterday at a hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Tom Ross, an investigator for the county prosecutor’s office, said Father Robinson told then-Toledo police Detective Art Marx that he had heard the confession of the person who killed Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, but he later recanted the statement. (Emphasis added.)

Father Robinson, who was a chaplain at the hospital, emerged as a suspect early in the investigation and was interviewed by Mr. Marx in the weeks after the nun was strangled and stabbed multiple times in the hospital chapel. He was indicted for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann in 2004, after authorities reopened the investigation into the murder. A trial in the high-profile case is scheduled to begin April 17.

Father Robinson, whose presence at previous court hearings has been waived, was in the courtroom for the nearly five-hour-long hearing.

During the hearing before Judge Thomas Osowik, Mr. Ross said Mr. Marx dismissed Father Robinson’s statement that someone confessed to the murder because divulging a confession violated the priest’s oath of confidentiality.

Mr. Ross said Father Robinson then admitted to Mr. Marx that he made it up(Emphasis added.)

The hearing was held to address issues raised by the priest’s defense attorneys, including the existence of any record of interviews that Mr. Marx conducted on April 18 and April 19 in the Safety Building.

Mr. Marx, who is now retired, was one of the lead investigators on the case in 1980. He was the first person Assistant Prosecutor Dean Mandros called to testify at the hearing.

Mr. Marx was asked about specific information obtained in the interviews in 1980, but was prevented from testifying about it because of objections made by Alan Konop, one of the attorneys representing Father Robinson.

Mr. Marx said the interviews were not recorded, but he took notes of what Father Robinson told him and a report likely was compiled and filed later that was based on notes he took.

When asked by Mr. Konop whether he completed paperwork condensing the interview into a report, Mr. Marx responded, “I cannot specifically recall, but I am sure that I did.”

Mr. Marx said he did not know why the report would not be available from the police records section.

Judge Osowik also heard testimony on a motion filed by the defense attorneys to suppress statements that Father Robinson gave to Mr. Ross and Toledo police Detective Steve Forrester on April 23, 2004.

The investigators went to the defendant’s home on Nebraska Avenue after scientific testing was conducted on a letter opener that was taken from his apartment at the hospital in 1980, and believed to have been used in the slaying of Sister Margaret Ann.

When showed old photographs of items at the crime scene, Mr. Ross said Father Robinson could not explain the similarities in blood patterns on an altar cloth and the letter opener or why the victim’s wounds were consistent with being inflicted with it(Emphasis added.)

The investigators also asked Father Robinson about lying to Mr. Marx, and he told them he made up the confession because the detective was pressuring him.

Judge Osowik did not rule on the motions. He gave the attorneys one week to file additional motions.

Toledo Blade, Feb. 4, 2006. Original article here.

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Priest’s murder charge is amended

Prosecution strikes premeditation clause

Four months before the Rev. Gerald Robinson is to go on trial in connection with the slaying of a nun in the chapel at the former Mercy Hospital, the prosecution appears to be backing off its original contention that the murder was premeditated.

Father Robinson, now 67, is accused of fatally stabbing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the hospital chapel near downtown Toledo just before Easter in 1980. He was arrested in 2004 after investigators reopened the case.

Before departing for the New Year’s holiday on Friday, Dean Mandros, assistant Lucas County prosecutor, filed paperwork to drop five critical words – “with prior calculation and design” – from a grand jury’s original indictment in the case. (Emphasis added.)

The motion reduces the original aggravated murder charge to murder, but it’s unclear why the change was made or just how much difference it would make in prison time if Father Robinson were to be found guilty.

Judge Thomas Osowik of Lucas County Common Pleas Court has issued a gag order, so neither county prosecutors nor defense attorneys may comment.

A conviction on either the aggravated murder or the murder charge can result in life imprisonment with the possibility of parole under the Ohio Revised Code as it was in effect in 1980, which the court must follow because that is when the alleged crime occurred in this case. The death penalty is not a factor because it had been suspended in Ohio in 1980 because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Other documents filed recently in the case outline a tug-of-war over evidence from both sides, including a debate over whether Father Robinson’s statement to Toledo police during the investigation in 1980 was taped.

Mr. Mandros on Friday filed an answer to a Dec. 9 defense request for tape recordings made of Father Robinson’s statement to then-Detective Art Marx in the weeks following Sister Margaret’s murder.

In its request, defense counsel said the prosecutor’s office “has indicated that tape-recorded interviews with Gerald Robinson and members of law enforcement were recorded in April of 1980 and the recordings have disappeared.”

But Mr. Mandros, in his response last week, said he doesn’t have any tapes to offer.

“This is because such recordings were never done, and, as a result, never existed,” he stated.

Mr. Marx, now retired, agreed.

He said he sat down with Father Robinson in an interrogation at the downtown police station some time after the slaying.

The pair’s discussion was interrupted after Father Robinson’s attorney arrived, Mr. Marx recalled, putting an end to the detective’s communication with the priest.

A tape recorder never was used that day, he said.

“We were not there, in my opinion, long enough for me to introduce a tape to record his statement,” Mr. Marx said…

Toledo Blade, Jan. 4, 2006. Original article here.

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Tape of priest charged in nun’s death sought

An audio-taped interview that Toledo police conducted with the Rev. Gerald Robinson nearly 25 years ago in investigating the slaying of a local nun are among the records being sought by attorneys for the priest…

Attorneys.. asked Judge Thomas Osowik to compel prosecutors to provide them with recordings of the police interview with Father Robinson that was made after Sister Margaret Ann’s death on April 5, 1980.

The motion filed by the attorneys also asks the court to provide the affidavit for a search warrant that they believe police served in 1981 at the home of a man who was questioned in connection with the case.

Also requested were “all investigation, police reports, statements, and other evidence” involving the purported testimony of Sister Ann-Marie Borgess, a Notre Dame nun who could appear as a witness in Father Robinson’s trial… (Emphasis added.)

Father Robinson emerged early as a suspect, but he wasn’t indicted until last year after police reopened the investigation as a cold case.

A memorandum filed with the motion said retired Toledo police Detective Art Marx questioned Father Robinson in April, 1980, and prosecutors indicated that the recording of the interview disappeared.

According to the court record, prosecutors intend to call Mr. Marx as a witness to testify about the interview.

The priest’s attorneys, John Thebes and Alan Konop, refused to comment, also citing the gag order.

However, their motion said that the audiotape, the affidavit, and the information regarding Sister Ann-Marie could be useful in their defense of Father Robinson.

Toledo Blade, Dec. 10, 2005. Original article here.

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Prosecutor might quiz nun during priest’s trial

Sister could be called to refute good image

A Toledo nun who has accused a former priest of abusing her when she was a girl may appear as a witness in a homicide trial involving another priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson.

Father Robinson, 67, is accused of killing a nun, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, in the chapel at Mercy Hospital near downtown in 1980. The case went unsolved until last year when investigators said they took a new look at evidence and arrested Father Robinson.

He has been charged with aggravated murder in the case, which has attracted international attention. Twice, the trial has been delayed and is now scheduled for April 17, nearly two years after his arrest.

In court documents, prosecutors say they may call Sister Ann-Marie Borgess, a Notre Dame nun, to challenge any defense evidence about Father Gerald Robinson’s “good character.”

Dean Mandros, head of the criminal division of the Lucas County prosecutor’s office, would not say why Sister Ann-Marie was named as a possible witness nor describe her connection to Father Robinson.

Sister Ann-Marie spoke in support of victims of priest abuse before dozens of supporters in Columbus during a “Speak Out” organized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

She did not return calls seeking comment on the Father Robinson case.

She has accused a former priest, Chet Warren, of sexually assaulting her when she was a young girl at St. Pius X Church in West Toledo(Emphasis added.) He was never charged, but was removed from the ministry after several women accused him of abuse.

The event yesterday in Columbus was as a precursor to a Ohio House judiciary committee hearing today on a proposed bill that would extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases. Sister Ann-Marie’s stand puts her at odds with the Diocese of Toledo, which opposes portions of the bill.

Toledo Blade, Nov. 10, 2005. Original article here.

New trial date set for priest accused of murdering nun

…The Rev. Gerald Robinson, who was to go on trial on Oct. 17, appeared with his defense team for the hearing before Judge Thomas Osowik to address a request from the priest’s attorneys to change the trial date.

Father Robinson, 67, was arrested in April, 2004, after authorities reopened the investigation into the strangulation and stabbing death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a sacristy of a chapel at the hospital near downtown Toledo.

The attorneys, John Thebes, Alan Konop, and John Callahan, filed a motion Tuesday to continue the trial to review and analyze information provided by prosecutors.

Judge Osowik granted the motion and set the new trial date for April 17, but sternly warned the attorneys and Dean Mandross, an assistant county prosecutor, that the trial would not be rescheduled again.

“I am going to emphasize this is going to be the final trial date. The case will proceed to trial on that date,” Judge Osowik said. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

The attorneys and Mr. Mandross are under a gag order and couldn’t talk about the case after the hearing…

Toledo Blade, Sept. 30, 2005. Original article here.

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Priest named in lawsuit that alleges ritual abuse

By MARK REITER, BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Toledo Roman Catholic diocesan priest charged in the 1980 slaying of a nun was accused yesterday in a civil lawsuit of repeatedly torturing and raping a young girl in ritual abuse ceremonies at a north-side church.

An unidentified woman claims she was the victim of bizarre demonizing ceremonies conducted by the Rev. Gerald Robinson and other clergy nearly 40 years ago in the basement of St. Adalbert Parish on Warsaw Street. (Emphasis added.)

The woman and her husband, who are listed as Survivor Doe and Spouse Doe, respectively, filed the lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Father Robinson, who is scheduled to go on trial in October for the aggravated murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl; Gerald Mazuchowski, a former lay minister; the diocese; St. Adalbert Parish; the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, Inc., and fifteen “John Does” were named as defendants.

Sister Margaret Ann, 71, was strangled, then stabbed up to 32 times April 5, 1980, in what has been described as a ritualistic slaying in the sacristy of a chapel in the former Mercy Hospital. Father Robinson is free on a $400,000 property bond.

The civil lawsuit filed yesterday was assigned to Judge Ruth Ann Franks.

The couple who filed the suit is seeking in excess of $25,000 in compensatory damages.

The woman said she recognized Father Robinson as being among the men who allegedly molested her from 1968 to 1975 upon the priest’s arrest in April, 2004, for the murder of the nun, and the subsequent media attention that was generated by the case, specifically a television broadcast on the investigation that aired April 23, 2004.

“Until that time, she didn’t know that one of the abusers was Father Robinson,” said Mark A. Davis, a Toledo attorney who filed the lawsuit.

She also claims that she identified Mr. Mazuchowski as an alleged abuser after seeing his photograph as part of an article that was published in The Blade on Feb. 20 that reported on the murder investigation and ritual abuse ceremonies involving church clergy.

Mr. Davis said the newspaper report in which Mr. Mazuchowski’s admitted his involvement with the group know as Sisters of Assumed Mary, or SAM, stirred memories of conversations in which she recalled her abusers using names of women.

The woman said the abuse included chanting of Satanic verses, cutting her with a knife as a sacrifice to Satan, drawing an upside-down cross on her abdomen, and forcing her to drink the blood of sacrificed animals, such as a rabbit.

She said the men dressed in nun’s clothing and performed the rituals while she was on a table. They restrained her if she tried to leave.

In addition to being raped and molested, the woman also alleges that she was forced to perform sexual acts on the men.

She said the abuse escalated dramatically as the sessions continued ,to the point of including putting lighted matches to her feet and the corner of her eyes.

She said the abuse took place in the basement of the church until 1972 when it was moved to an undisclosed wooded area. (Emphasis added.)

The lawsuit contends that Father Robinson and Mr. Mazuchowski “had a close relationship with Survivor Doe’s mother, who also participated in the ceremonies in the woods and was becoming high priestess of Satan.”

Mr. Mazuchowski, a retired Toledo Public Schools teacher, denied the allegations made by the woman and claimed in an interview last night he never was intimate with a woman. “That is what makes it so amusing to me. I have never been in any shape or form involved with a woman,” he said, adding that he would testify to that if the case would proceed to trial.

Toledo attorney Alan Konop, speaking on behalf of Father Robinson’s criminal defense team, read a statement: “We do not believe that the allegations deserve the dignity of a reply.”

Thomas Pletz, an attorney representing the diocese, said he was not aware of the lawsuit, and could not offer a comment.

Toledo Blade, April 21, 2005. Original article here.

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A church in crisis

THIS is a tough time to be a Catholic in Toledo. Sexual abuse by priests has rocked the church to its foundation, nationally and locally. Another priest is charged with murdering a nun in a bizarre ritualistic crime 25 years ago at a local hospital. Dwindling enrollment and membership has forced the bishop to close several schools and churches.

So it would seem foolish to aggravate the substantial public relations damage that has already been done to the Catholic Diocese of Toledo by engaging in conduct that suggests the church has been less than forthcoming in the police investigation of the slaying in 1980 of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, or in the broader inquiry into criminal activity in the diocese.

But Toledo police believe they have been stymied in their attempts to examine all records pertaining to Father Gerald Robinson, who is accused of the murder.

Authorities believe that information and files have been withheld perhaps out of a sense of obligation to Canon 489 of the Catholic Church, which requires that a secret archive be maintained for the storage of records related to allegations of crimes committed by clerics(Emphasis added.)

Compounding the issue is the sworn statement by a Toledo detective in unsealed court documents that Father Robinson failed one of two lie detector tests – the second was deemed inconclusive – in 1980. The test result showed that “deception” was indicated and that Father Robinson was involved in the nun’s murder, Toledo police say.

Fr. Michael Billian, episcopal vicar and the diocese’s top administrator, says that no such secret files exist, though that would place the diocese in direct conflict with Canon 489. Father Billian insists that secrecy doesn’t square with the diocese’s “new policy of transparency.”

But if that is so, the church’s definition of transparency doesn’t agree with law enforcement’s, or ours. Indeed, suspicions were fueled when the diocese, during the execution of a search warrant by investigators, failed to mention the existence of a Father Robinson file but produced it after the arrival of legal counsel Thomas Pletz.

If other damaging records exist, we are concerned that the failure of the church to provide them and the failure of authorities to seize them only further undermines the church. The natural suspicion is that the passage of time leads to the disappearance of records.

It is lamentable that Toledo Police detectives felt they had to take the extraordinary step of seeking two search warrants, two days apart, to get information bearing on the Robinson case. Certainly it can be fairly inferred that their earlier requests for all relevant materials had not been met.

And it is regrettable as well that the detectives, upon discovery of a file related to sex abuse cases, did not immediately seek a third warrant which would have permitted them to seize it.

At a time when the church’s image is badly shaken, the diocese should not make a bad situation worse. It can only help itself if it produces and releases any and all materials related to the commission of possible crimes. If, as it claims, it has already done so, why did the police feel the need for a search warrant?

The Catholic Diocese of Toledo is already in crisis mode. Reluctance to sincerely embrace its own declared policy of “transparency” only speeds its departure from the traditional values of the Church.

Toledo Blade, 3/3/05. Original story here.

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Polygraph didn’t lie, officials say

Defense lawyers dispute report priest failed exam

By ROBIN ERB, BLADE STAFF WRITER

Under attack for stating that murder suspect Father Gerald Robinson “failed” the first of two polygraphs, investigators yesterday stood by the results of the tests administered 24 years ago that indicated the cleric was being untruthful.

In a news conference earlier in the day, Father Robinson’s defense lawyers questioned the validity of a lie detector exam Father Robinson took on April 18, 1980 – 13 days after Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was stabbed and strangled in the Mercy Hospital chapel.

Reading from the report by the polygraph examiner James Wiegand, attorney Henry Herschel said the examiner wrote that he “was of the opinion that truthfulness could not be verified.”

“The examiner,” Mr. Herschel said, “did not use the word ‘failed’ in his report.”

Mr. Herschel, who represented the priest in 1980, was among the lawyers who appeared yesterday for a news conference to challenge the findings released in court documents Monday.

The records supported police searches last year at Toledo diocese offices by investigators who had reopened the murder case.

Reading from the polygraph examiner’s report, Mr. Herschel said the examiner was concerned that the priest “needs to relax, to be in a calmer state, because of the previous evening’s lengthy examination that lasted until approximately 2 a.m.”

Mr. Herschel told the packed news conference that Father Robinson had been interrogated during two six to eight-hour sessions. Such stressful interviews are another reason to question the validity of the exam, Mr. Herschel later told The Blade.

“Whenever anybody was under high stress back in those days it was very difficult to get a reading,” he said.

A second exam was more reliable because the priest was no longer under that kind of anxiety, Mr. Herschel said. That report was “inconclusive.”

In asking for a court order to search the Toledo Catholic Diocese offices last year for information on the murder case of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, Toledo police Sgt. Steve Forrester wrote in an affidavit that Father Robinson had been an early suspect in the case.

Toledo police polygraph examiner Keefe Snyder, who reviewed the priest’s polygraph exam yesterday, said the word “failed” was an accurate representation of the results.

Prosecutor Julia Bates also stood by the affidavits, adding in a brief, three-sentence statement that Mr. Herschel was paid by the diocese to represent Father Robinson in 1980. Mr. Herschel, though, told The Blade he has was not paid by the diocese nor did he consult with its hierarchy. He said he spoke to only one diocesan representative “and that was just to let him know what was going on.”

The affidavits were released Monday after The Blade requested the records in a court motion. The documents offer insight into police suspicions of Father Robinson’s possible involvement in the death of Sister Pahl.

But they also detail the frustration of investigators, who felt they were being misled by the diocese. Citing Canon Law, investigators said they believed that the diocese held secret files that might contain information about Father Robinson.

When investigators asked the diocese for any records about Father Robinson in 2003, they were handed “bare bones” information, records state. When they returned with a search warrant on Sept. 15, investigators removed 148 separate documents about the cleric.

Father Robinson is scheduled for trial on Oct. 17.

Toledo Blade, 3/2/05. Original article here.

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Priest failed 1st lie detector test, documents say; other test was inconclusive

By ROBIN ERB, BLADE STAFF WRITER

Homicide detectives believed that officials at the Toledo Catholic Diocese intentionally misled them during their investigation into the slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl last year, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.

The records show that during unprecedented police searches of the downtown church headquarters, investigators said they were looking for evidence of “obstructing justice,” in their search for “secret files” that might lead to information about murder suspect and longtime cleric Father Gerald Robinson.

Police said they obtained 148 documents when they searched the diocese on Sept. 15 armed with a judge’s order – documents the diocese had failed to turn over to them on an earlier request.

The papers also reveal that Father Robinson had twice taken a lie-detector test during the 1980 probe, and “failed” it the first time, according to investigators.

Sister Pahl was found strangled and stabbed in the Mercy Hospital chapel.

“The results indicated that Father Robinson was involved in the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl,” Sgt. Steve Forrester wrote in an affidavit requesting court approval to search the diocese’s Spielbusch Avenue offices.

A second polygraph was inconclusive, records state.

Alan Konop, an attorney for Father Robinson, said the statements in an affidavit filed by police were false, but declined to elaborate.

Citing a gag order, Sergeant Forrester would not comment.

Father Michael Billian, the episcopal vicar and the diocese’s top administrator, yesterday said no such secret files exist at the diocese, even though such practices violate Canon Law.

His office was singled out in a police search Sept. 17, 2004, after investigators alleged he was not forthcoming with documents they requested two days earlier or in December, 2003.

“Canon Law stipulates that there is to be a secret archive,” Father Billian said.

But he added: “The diocese of Toledo does not have one of those.”

He said keeping such files would violate the new policy of openness adopted after the priest abuse scandals of the past few years.

“I suppose technically you could say that [the lack of records breaks Canon Law], but really in the United States, this kind of stuff is not in keeping with our new policy of transparency,” Father Billian said.

Affidavits and searches

The local diocese, he said, has not kept secret files for decades, though police alleged they have been held as far back as 1917.

The affidavits supporting two police searches of the diocesan office were made public yesterday after The Blade recently revealed the existence of two sealed search warrants and how the murder investigation had become a tug-of-war between investigators and diocesan representatives.

The affidavits underscore that tension.

According to the papers, Sergeant Forrester and cold case detective Tom Ross asked for personnel records for Father Robinson and, on Dec. 15, 2003, Father Billian gave them only “bare-bones” information.

In the meantime, diocesan officials had made public statements about investigating Father Robinson on an unrelated sex-abuse allegation, and Bishop Leonard Blair had visited Father Robinson in prison to place the 66-year-old priest on leave, according to the 20-page affidavit that supported a Sept. 15 search of the church offices.

Investigators concluded that the diocese must have more information about the murder case, partly because Canon Law dictates the diocese investigate allegations of crimes committed by clerics and preserve those records.

Judge Robert Christiansen of Lucas County Common Pleas Court approved a search of the offices so police could seek “the Diocesan Secret Archives” and a key or combination to a safe that, according to Canon Law, might have been kept by Bishop Blair.

In the afternoon of Sept. 15, Bishop Blair told investigators who showed up with the court order that no such secret files existed.

The bishop then called Father Billian, who was out of town, and Father Billian, on a speaker phone and in the presence of investigators, “did not mention that there was a file concerning Father Gerald Robinson in his office at the time,” according to the papers.

A short time later, diocesan attorney Thomas Pletz, who had been told about the search warrant, arrived at the diocese office and joined investigators in the archives room.

“At one point during the execution of the search warrant, attorney Pletz left the archives room and returned with a blue-hanging file folder that was approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick,” the record states. “Attorney Pletz was gone for approximately two minutes.”

The file, which police said may have been removed from Father Billian’s office, contained approximately 148 documents related to Father Robinson.

Suspecting more information might exist in Father Billian’s office, investigators returned to Judge Christiansen and convinced him to give them another search warrant./P>

On Sept. 17, they returned to the diocese, and found a file stamped “privileged” and containing child-abuse allegations. But police never seized the records.

Response to release

Father Billian said yesterday the documents contained names of alleged victims and abusers, but he said prosecutors had reviewed the files in 2002, and the statute of limitations had expired on the accusations. Prosecutors have not commented on what they found.

Supporters for victims of priest abuse said the release of the affidavits validated victims’ long-held claims of secret files. Similar files have been turned over by other dioceses across the country, including in Boston, Cincinnati, and Detroit.

It’s “incredulous” for the Toledo diocese to claim it doesn’t keep “secret records,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis attorney. Mr. Anderson has filed more than 400 clerical abuse lawsuits around the country.

Under Canon Law, all Catholic dioceses are required to keep records of “any material that is scandalous.” In at least seven sex-abuse cases filed against the diocese since 2002, Mr. Anderson said he has been hard-pressed to get information from the diocese about alleged abusers.

“A search warrant is the only effective way to get their secrets and their secret documents,” he said. “I know the diocese of Toledo and they have been absolutely obstructionistic.” He said that any evidence of crimes by priests – child sexual abuse, homicide – is going to be kept secret under Canon Law. And under the laws of the church and orders of the Vatican, only the bishop can see those documents or his designee.

“They can’t be turned over to anybody. And so they stay secret,” he said.

The Toledo coordinator of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Claudia Vercellotti, accused the diocese of carrying out damage control.

“Do they pick and choose what part of Canon Law they follow? How can they one moment follow Rome, and the next moment, they don’t?”

Blade staff writer Mitch Weiss contributed to this report.

Toledo Blade, 3/1/05. Original story here.

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Nun death probe data to be released

Group urges scrutiny of diocese files

By ROBIN ERB, BLADE STAFF WRITER

Documents supporting two police searches of the Toledo Catholic Diocese in the murder investigation of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl most likely will be released Monday.

The Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office yesterday decided not to fight a decision by Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik Thursday to release the records, said Dean Mandross, a senior assistant prosecutor.

That means search warrant affidavits, possibly outlining why police felt they needed a court order to search the downtown church office on Sept. 15 and 17, may be released at 9 a.m. Monday.

Prosecutors were looking for any church records about the Rev. Gerald Robinson, who was charged in the slaying of the nun in the Mercy Hospital chapel 24 years ago.

Mr. Mandross said prosecutors originally fought The Blade’s request to make the records public because they felt the newspaper made a procedural error in asking for them. But whether an appeals court agreed with the prosecutors’ argument, the records most likely would have been released eventually, he said.

The Blade’s attorney, Fritz Byers, argued for the documents based on federal public records law.

Detectives reopened the murder case in 2003 after they learned a 41-year-old woman, in unrelated allegations, claimed she had been sexually assaulted by several priests.

As part of her complaint, she accused Father Robinson of assaulting her once. Cold-case detectives – recognizing Father Robinson’s name as a suspect from the 1980 homicide – decided to reopen the old murder case.

The priest’s lawyer, Alan Konop, has declined to comment on the allegation, citing a gag order in the murder case. Father Robinson is scheduled for trial on Oct. 17.

During the first search of the downtown church headquarters, investigators took more than 100 documents bearing Father Robinson’s name, but would not disclose the contents.

In the second search two days later, they did not find records about Father Robinson, but they found a file stamped “privileged” containing cases of child abuse allegations, said Thomas Pletz, a lawyer for the diocese. The records were not removed.

An advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse is now demanding that county prosecutors seize the file.

Toledo SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent a letter yesterday to prosecutors asking them to return to the diocese with a subpoena.

“We think the information contained in the files that were not seized could possibly unearth the magnitude of cover-up, concealment, and secrecy this diocese continues to operate under,” said Claudia Vercellotti, coordinator of Toledo SNAP.

Prosecutor Julia Bates could not be reached, but John Weglian, chief of the prosecutor’s special units division, said she had been informed of the SNAP’s letter and not yet made a decision.

When the national sexual abuse crisis was unfolding in 2002, then-Bishop James R. Hoffman and Mrs. Bates signed an agreement the diocese “will provide the prosecutor with information regarding allegations involving a priest, deacon, member of a religious community, volunteer, or other authorized representative of the diocese.”

Father Michael Billian, the Episcopal vicar and the diocese’s top administrator, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Sally Oberski, diocese spokesman, said he informed her that prosecutors spent three days at the church offices searching through diocese documents as a result of the agreement.

“They literally went through every single file,” she said.

Toledo Blade, 2/26/05. Original story here.

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Judge keeps documents sealed for now in probe of nun’s killing

By ROBIN ERB, BLADE STAFF WRITER

Documents supporting an unprecedented police search of Toledo Catholic Diocese files during the investigation into the 1980 murder of an elderly nun will remain temporarily sealed, despite the approval by the defendant in the case that they be released.

Dressed in his clerical collar, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, who is accused of strangling and stabbing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, appeared briefly late yesterday before Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Osowik, who was to decide whether The Blade would be allowed access to search warrant affidavits signed by homicide investigators.

In soft-spoken, one-word answers, the 66-year-old priest said he had no objections to the release of the papers.

His appearance came after several hours of behind-closed-door arguments in the judge’s chambers among prosecutors, Blade attorney Fritz Byers, and Thomas Pletz, attorney for the diocese.

The search of the downtown church headquarters in September marked one of the first times in the country a law enforcement agency has used a court order to search diocesan files.

Judge Osowik initially ruled The Blade could have the records under federal law, despite arguments from prosecutors that the documents should be shielded from public inspection and that their release could hinder the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

“The government must show a compelling state interest” to keep the records sealed, Judge Osowik said. “I’m unable to find the government has met that threshold.”

As reporters, photographers, and cameramen looked on from the jury box, the judge added that staff in the court clerk’s office were trying to locate the original documents to make copies of them.

But in a last-minute argument, assistant county prosecutor John Weglian said the papers were “investigatory work product” and protected by state law. He asked that prosecutors be given time to decide whether to appeal Judge Osowik’s decision.

“Once they are released, there is no remedy to the state,” he said.

Noting the time – it was about 4:15 p.m. – and the fact that the documents had not yet arrived in court, Judge Osowik agreed to hold the papers at least until Monday morning.

The decision came four days after a Blade story revealed the Sept. 15 and 17 searches of the Toledo Diocese offices as part of the investigation into Sister Margaret Ann Pahl’s murder.

The unsolved case was reopened in 2003 after a 41-year-old woman asked the diocese to pay more than $50,000 for counseling she received after claiming she had been sexually assaulted by several priests.

Perhaps most startling in her allegations was that she said much of the abuse happened in ritualistic ceremonies attended by several priests, including Chet Warren, a former Oblates of St. Francis de Sales priest ousted from his order in 1993 after five other women accused him of sexual misconduct.

She also accused Father Robinson of assaulting her once. The priest’s lawyer, Alan Konop, has declined to comment on the allegation, citing a gag order in the murder case.

The woman’s accusations eventually reached the prosecutor’s office, where cold case detectives recognized Father Robinson’s name as that of a suspect from the unsolved murder of Sister Margaret Ann, 71, in the Mercy Hospital chapel 24 years earlier.

The police inquiry into the old murder case took a bizarre twist last year after detectives interviewed at least three other women who alleged ritual sex abuse by other priests.

Prosecutors said they decided to seek a judge’s order for a search warrant in the murder investigation after they requested church records on Father Robinson, a longtime cleric, from the diocese, but received only a few personnel reports.

Armed with a search warrant, police and representatives from the Lucas County prosecutor’s office walked into the diocese headquarters on Spielbusch Avenue on Sept. 15.

They were handed more than 100 documents bearing Father Robinson’s name.

Two days later, they returned with another warrant – this time demanding access to the office of Father Michael Billian, the Episcopal vicar and the diocese’s top administrator.

Though they didn’t find more documents about Father Robinson, they found a file stamped “privileged” containing cases of child abuse, Mr. Pletz told The Blade recently. Prosecutors have said they didn’t find any references to ritual abuse but would not reveal the contents of the records or why they did not seize them.

Mr. Pletz has said the diocese tried to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office in turning over paperwork about abuse allegations.

Claudia Vercellotti, head of the Toledo chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was frustrated by yesterday’s hearing in light of a pledge by Father Billian in 2002 to turn over clerical sexual abuse files to prosecutors and “do business in a very transparent way.”

“If this is transparent, I can’t even imagine what a cover up would look like,” she said.

The SNAP organization is expected to deliver a letter today to the prosecutor’s office demanding that officials return to the diocese to seize the child-abuse records in Father Billian’s office.

She said they could hold the key to whether the diocese engaged in a pattern of cover-up of sex abuse crimes by priests as alleged in more than a dozen lawsuits pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Toledo Blade, 2/25/05. Original story here.

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Dark allegations arise amid probe of nun’s slaying

Authorities expand investigation to claims of ritualistic sex abuse

By MICHAEL D. SALLAH and MITCH WEISS, BLADE STAFF WRITERS

For Toledo police, it was a rare assignment: Search an abandoned house on the edge of a cornfield in western Lucas County where people reportedly took part in ritual abuse ceremonies.

The detectives combed the bedrooms, kitchen, and even the dark basement for evidence of cult gatherings.

The search of the decrepit, wood structure last year was a sign the investigation of the Rev. Gerald Robinson was moving beyond a murder case.

No longer was the probe focusing solely on the man accused of killing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, but was expanding into a new direction: accusations that children were molested and raped by priests in ritual services(Emphasis added.)

For the past year, police have embarked on one of the most unusual investigations in the department’s history, spurred by leads emerging after the priest’s arrest in April for the killing in the Mercy Hospital chapel more than 24 years ago.

They have looked for evidence in church attics and basements and have consulted with religious experts on subversive groups and church history. They have even interviewed the founder of a secret fraternity whose members dressed in nuns’ clothing(Emphasis added.)

“The police are going into areas they’ve never gone before,” said David Davidson, one of the first police officers to respond to the slaying in 1980. “They don’t have a choice.”

The investigation started with the details of the crime scene: an aging nun found strangled and repeatedly stabbed in the sacristy of the hospital chapel, her body posed to look like she was sexually assaulted.

But now, deeper issues have surfaced over accusations of sexual abuse of children in churches and schools by priests and lay members beginning in the late 1960s.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers refuse to answer questions about the investigation, citing a judge’s gag order.

The priest’s trial is set for Oct. 17 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in what’s expected to be one of the most watched trials in local history. The 66-year-old cleric has pleaded not guilty, with supporters and relatives pledging their homes to help post a $400,000 bond.

An investigation by The Blade based on hundreds of police and diocese records, as well as interviews, shows that prosecutors are still examining details of the slaying – including a pattern of stab wounds resembling a cross – while interviewing people about the abuse allegations in an expanded probe.

Investigators have talked to numerous priests and former students at local Catholic grade schools to determine if they knew anything about children being molested in bizarre ceremonies involving a small ring of clerics, according to several people interviewed by police.

Four women told detectives about being abused between the late 1960s and 1986 during cult-like ceremonies involving altars and men dressed in robes, the accusers told The Blade. “I’ve had nightmares about this since I was a child,” said one woman, who asked not to be named. “I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”

Diocese examines ritual abuse claims

The reopening of the Sister Pahl homicide investigation didn’t start with DNA findings or even a tip. It began with a secret hearing in the downtown headquarters of the Toledo Catholic diocese unrelated to the nun’s death.

A 41-year-old woman appeared before a church review board in June, 2003, with a simple request: She wanted the diocese to pay for more than $50,000 in counseling costs she incurred as an alleged victim of clerical sex abuse.

But her story wasn’t like dozens of others exploding in the diocese over the last decade. She said she had been a victim of ritualistic sexual abuse by a group of priests.

She claimed they gathered in church basements and rectories in “cult-like ceremonies” where children were molested and ordered to watch other youngsters being abused. She named four clerics, including Chet Warren, a former Oblates of St. Francis de Sales priest ousted from his order in 1993 after five other women accused him of sexual misconduct.

She claimed Father Warren had orchestrated her repeated abuse, including arranging one encounter with the man now facing murder charges: Father Robinson. (Emphasis added.)

The diocese hired two retired police officers, John Connors, 65, and Lawrence Knannlein, 63, to look into the woman’s accusations in an unprecedented church investigation. Over the course of nine months, they interviewed more than 45 people, including priests, nuns, and lay members.

They spent more than 17 hours with the woman, who described her allegations in detail, claiming the sexual assaults began during her preschool years in the 1960s, usually at night with altars, candles, and chanting.

Her most persistent abuser, she said, was Father Warren, a family friend who was counseling her mother for depression. Mr. Warren did not respond to requests for an interview, and his lawyer, Martin Mohler, declined to comment.

The accuser said her only sexual encounter with Father Robinson took place when she was 14 in a room near the chapel of St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center but without any of the rituals that occurred in other sessions. (Emphasis added.)

The priest’s lawyer, Alan Konop, said Father Robinson would not comment on the allegation.

Mr. Connors said he initially was stunned by the accusations. “I had conducted a lot of different investigations for the diocese going back a lot of years, but this was the first time I had ever heard these kinds of stories,” he recalled.

At the diocese headquarters, the review board debated what to do with the case in what became a growing controversy in the church. The review panel was created to evaluate abuse claims and make recommendations to the bishop.

One board member, psychologist Robert Cooley, argued the woman’s story should be reported immediately to police. But church lawyer Thomas Pletz wrote a letter to diocese case manager Frank DiLallo on June 12, 2003, saying board members were not required to do so. After further debate, Mr. Pletz wrote a letter on June 27 to Frank Link, chairman of the review board, saying the woman’s allegations had been forwarded to the Lucas County prosecutor’s office.

For the next six months, the case languished, but behind the scene, a local clerical abuse support group pressed the Ohio attorney general’s office to look into the complaint. State agents in turn urged the Lucas County prosecutor’s office to investigate.

By the end of the year, Prosecutor Julia Bates agreed, assigning investigators to meet with the woman. While evaluating her complaint, they recognized one name – Father Robinson – from an unsolved slaying in 1980.

Then the chaplain at Mercy Hospital, Father Robinson was questioned several times in 1980 about Sister Pahl’s death. But police said at the time no one was charged because there wasn’t enough evidence.

Questions linger after priest’s arrest

In early 2004, prosecutors began to take another look at one of Toledo’s most high-profile unsolved homicides.

They hired experts to conduct a battery of scientific tests on the original evidence, including a letter opener that police believe was used in the slaying of Sister Pahl. The shiny, long opener with a medallion at the top had been in police storage since it was taken from Father Robinson’s room in the hospital after the killing.

Police went to experts to study the blood patterns on an altar cloth and other objects from the crime scene. They also listened to the priest’s taped interviews with detectives in 1980.

On April 23, 2004, prosecutors said there was enough evidence to charge Father Robinson with murder, and shortly after taking him into custody, investigators added one more detail in interviews with reporters: The death appeared to be a “ritual” slaying. (Emphasis added.)

The disclosure triggered a media frenzy, with reporters descending on Toledo from the national networks and tabloids.

But even after the arrest, police weren’t finished. There were still unresolved questions surrounding the sex-abuse accusations against other clerics. The more pressing question: Was Father Robinson involved?

Police launched their own investigation into the woman’s dark accusations. They looked at a remote, abandoned home on Raab Road in western Lucas County that matched the description of a house where the woman said she was raped in group sessions in the late 1970s but were unable to find any evidence the house was used for ritual sex sessions.

Detectives tracked down another woman who said she was ritually abused by the same clerics in similar scenarios, though the accusers did not know each other.

Teresa Bombrys, 43, said she was taken to a farm house in the late 1960s by Chet Warren and forced to watch “these rituals.”

She told The Blade in a recent interview: “I know it’s hard for people to really understand this, but it was real. It happened, and I’ve lived with it for most of my life.” She said she believed her abusers wanted to scare her and other children and to create an atmosphere so bizarre no one would believe them.

She filed a lawsuit against Mr. Warren, the diocese, and the Oblates in April, 2002, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, alleging years of sexual abuse by the priest. The monetary portion of the case has been settled for an undisclosed sum, but other terms are being negotiated, said her lawyer, Catherine Hoolahan.

Another woman, 52, told police she was taken to a house in the 1960s where ritual sex ceremonies took place. And a fourth woman, 24, told a detective she was a young grade-school student when she was carried into a local church at night by several adults who abused her during a ceremony by an altar. She said she could not identify the men. (Emphasis added.)

Both women asked not to be identified.

Ms. Hoolahan, who has filed more than a dozen complaints against the diocese in sex-abuse cases, said police should continue focusing on the ritual-abuse accusations. “When you have that many people offering corroborating statements, it makes you wonder,” she said. “You have to take this seriously.”

Diocese ends its probe; police detectives press on

After Father Robinson was arrested in April, the church’s own investigation was winding down.

The two diocese investigators wrote separate reports – totaling 39 pages – and met with the diocese case manager in May in what turned into a heated exchange between the two investigators.

Mr. Connors found the woman who appeared before the review board credible while Mr. Knannlein doubted her story. “There was a lot of shouting back and forth,” Mr. Connors recalled. “I just felt that if we had kept going, we could have corroborated at least some of her story.”

Despite their differences, they agreed on one thing: The investigation should continue.

A key interview was set up with Mr. Warren, now 77, at the diocese headquarters to allow him to respond to the allegations. But on the day the interview was to take place, church officials canceled the session, Mr. Connors said. “I showed up at the diocese, but I was told it was over. There would be no interview,” he said. “They were shutting it down.”

Church records obtained by The Blade show the diocese closed the case in May when the woman at the center of the ritual abuse case rejected a request to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

In an interview with The Blade, in which she asked not to be identified, the woman said she was upset at the church’s request. “My question back to them was why don’t they tell the priest who abused me to undergo psychiatric tests,” she said. “Do hospitals ask rape victims to have psychiatric evaluations?”

She said she allowed church investigators to talk to her therapist and family members. “I tried to comply with everything they asked.”

Mr. Pletz, the lawyer for the diocese, said recently he would not comment on the church investigation. Mr. Knannlein, who pressed for the woman to be evaluated, declined to comment. But in his report to the diocese, he concluded that “much more research and investigation should be done before people are accused of these crimes.”

While the woman’s refusal to be tested prompted the diocese to drop its case, police pressed ahead with their own probe.

They looked into allegations that some of the ritual abuse took place in local churches, including the basement of Holy Trinity Church in Richfield Center, Ohio, and an Oblate residence on Parkwood Avenue, according to church records and interviews. They did not find any evidence to support the claims.

They spent several days last month trying to determine if there were any connections between the women’s allegations and a loose-knit group of church lay members who gathered on church properties while dressed in nuns’ clothes.(Emphasis added.)

Police interviewed Jerry Mazuchowski, 53, a church lay minister and retired Toledo public school teacher who founded the group known as Sisters of Assumed Mary, or SAM. He said he told police detectives that his group did not break church laws. (Emphasis added.)

“We did nun drag,” he told The Blade. “We gave each other nuns’ names. It was nothing but absolute fun. Camp. Foolishness.”

He said a dispute broke out between him and Father Paul Kwiatkowski, the former pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church, over allegations the group was responsible for vandalizing the church and holding secret ceremonies – events that led to the pastor to hold a prayer service to cleanse the church. But Mr. Mazuchowski denied vandalizing the church, pointing out he was cleared of any wrongdoing in a special diocese Court of Equity hearing in 1993. (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Mazuchowski said he told police detectives that Father Robinson was not a member of SAM, describing the priest instead as a longtime friend.

Since the priest’s arrest, Mr. Mazuchowski has appeared on a local news station to proclaim Father Robinson’s innocence and penned an article for a neighborhood newsletter saying the priest is innocent until proven guilty.

Substantiating claims of abuse proves difficult

Prosecutors say they will continue to investigate the ritual abuse allegations, but trying to substantiate claims from three decades ago is difficult. While some of the stories were similar, none of the accusers could pinpoint precise times of their alleged abuse. While they described similar locations, they were unable to recall being in the same room.

Three of the four women interviewed by police said they did not have vivid memories of their experiences until adulthood.

Prosecutors said police have not linked any ritual abuse to Father Robinson. So far, the murder case revolves around the physical evidence from the crime scene and anything new they discover about the priest.

At times, getting details about Father Robinson has been difficult. When police asked the diocese for personnel and other records about the priest, they received three pages showing his church assignments, prosecutors said.

On Sept. 15, prosecutors walked into diocese headquarters with a search warrant – one of the few ever served on a U.S. diocese in a murder case, according to legal experts.

During the search, prosecutors were handed more than 100 documents bearing Father Robinson’s name but declined to elaborate on the contents. Two days later, they returned with another warrant – this time demanding access to the office of Father Michael Billian, the Episcopal vicar and the diocese’s top administrator.

Though they didn’t find more documents about Father Robinson, they found a file stamped “privileged” containing cases of child abuse, Mr. Pletz said.

Prosecutors said they didn’t find any references to ritual abuse but declined to say what was in the records or why they did not seize them.

One leading sex-abuse expert questioned why investigators did not take the records. “That surprises me that they didn’t go back with another warrant,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis attorney who has filed more than 400 clerical abuse lawsuits around the country.

Mr. Pletz, the diocese lawyer, said the church has tried to cooperate with police and prosecutors, but he wouldn’t comment on the need for search warrants. Father Billian did not return repeated phone calls from The Blade. Bishop Leonard Blair would not comment for the story, a spokesman said.

With the murder trial in nine months, police are trying to find out more about Father Robinson, a Toledo native ordained in 1964.

He was the hospital chaplain for six years and worked with Sister Pahl in preparing the chapel, though at times, they didn’t get along, according to police. “It seemed like so many people were telling us the same thing: They didn’t like each other,” recalled Mr. Davidson, the police officer who interviewed numerous hospital employees about the slaying.

The priest’s supporters say they’re standing by the cleric, who has been temporarily removed from ministry while his case is in court. “Because they didn’t get along doesn’t mean he was a murderer,” said Father Kwiatkowski, who has known the defendant 35 years. “It’s just not in him. I don’t see him as violent at all.”

In an interview with police two weeks ago, Father Kwiatkowski said he defended the priest, but that wasn’t the reason for their visit. He said the police spent most of the interview asking him about SAM, ritual abuse, and old crosses. “They asked me what kind of template would be used to make patterns on stab wounds,” he said. “I said I didn’t know.”

Toledo Blade, 2/20/2005. Original story here.

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1980 SLAYING OF NUN

Accused priest has new judge, trial date

By MARK REITER, BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Toledo priest accused in the slaying of a nun nearly 25 years ago has a new judge and a new trial date.

Newly elected Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Osowik yesterday pushed back the trial of the Rev. Gerald Robinson to Oct. 17. It was set to begin Feb. 22.

Father Robinson, 66, who did not appear with his attorneys at the hearing, is charged with aggravated murder in the 1980 stabbing and strangulation death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the sacristy of a chapel in the former Mercy Hospital.

Judge Patrick Foley was assigned to handle the case when the semiretired Roman Catholic priest was indicted in April. However, Judge Foley lost his seat in the November election to Gary Cook, a Lucas County prosecutor.

As Judge Foley’s successor, Judge Cook normally would have inherited the case. But because he was on the prosecution team that investigated the murder, it was assigned to Judge Osowik.

The hearing was delayed about 20 minutes while the priest’s attorneys, Jack Callahan, John Thebes, and Alan Konop, and assistant prosecutors J. Christopher Anderson and Dean Mandros huddled in a conference room with Judge Osowik.

Judge Osowik took office earlier this month. He was a Toledo Municipal Court judge since 1991.

The new trial date was needed, Judge Osowik said, so the priest’s defense team would have appropriate time to review and analyze information that prosecutors must provide them.

Judge Osowik said the information is of a “complex nature,” and there are still some remaining items to be shared.

Under Ohio law, prosecutors must disclose evidence investigators have collected in the case, including witness statements, police reports, coroner findings, photographs, and scientific and physical evidence.

Sister Margaret Ann, 71, was strangled and then stabbed up to 32 times April 5, 1980.

Father Robinson is free on a $400,000 property bond.

Judge Osowik also continued a gag order that prevents those involved in the case from discussing it outside the courtroom.

Mr. Mandros said he could not comment on the matters discussed in the hearing because of the gag order, but he said the prosecution is treating the new trial date as a firm one. “We will be ready to go to trial,” he said.

Toledo Blade, 1/29/2005. Original story here.

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