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holytoledo

Hi Laura -- I'm from Toledo. Here is what I've been wondering might be a possibility. I'm thinking that the local church, which acknowledges that they've had an internal investigation about the murder of this poor old nun, knew that Robinson was not the murderer. They may even have an idea about who the murderer is based on their investigation. Like you, they think the evidence is weak and they never thought he'd be convicted. So they didn't provide their sub secret files during the execution of that search warrant on their diocesan headquarters. It might exonerate Robinson but point to another priest. So, in a sense, they took a chance on Robinson's conviction rather than reveal that they had some evidence possibly implicating another priest. I don't really think that Robinson is "their fall guy." I think that they thought that no one would ever convict him and it would be over. But that might put the diocese between a rock and a hard place. They may know that some other priest did this and yet if they reveal what they know it would acknowledge the existence of sub secreto files and possibly open them up to obstruction charges. Your thoughts?

Laura

HolyToledo:
That's an interesting hypothesis. It would explain some things... such as the Diocese's muted response to the verdict.
I've been puzzled by the immediate finger-pointing at Father Robinson in 1980. It has made me wonder -- why Robinson; it's made me wonder what, exactly, motivated the other priest to point the finger and why that suspicion was not kept private and why, if it was a serious and legitimate accusation, he was involved in her funeral. Very curious.

But I've had trouble accepting this murder as the work of a priest--any priest, not just Father Robinson. I don't buy the ritualistic hypothesis, in part because does not answer the question : why was this murder committed?

If you accept the hypothesis that there were "rituals" performed as a part of this murder, then yes it does significantly narrow the field of prospective suspects. But the hypothesis in my opinion doesn't hold water. It's too speculative; it certainly never should have been admitted into evidence.

If you look only at the crime scene and the m.o. (strangulation and stabbing) and the sexual elements (overkill, clothing removal, posing of the victim), what I see is an obvious sexual motive -- a rage killing born of hatred of women. Now if the church had a theory about a patient, perhaps a psychiatric patient, that might resonate with me... Even if it didn't, it was a very public place; there are few more public places than a hospital...

Doesn't the sexual motive make more sense?

holytoledo

As I understand it, the immediate finger-pointing at Robinson was publicly initiated by Fr. Swiatecki who knew that there had been conflict between Robinson and Sr. Pahl. Interestingly, Swiatecki gave the homily/eulogy at Sr. Margaret's funeral in which Robinson was the main celebrant. However, if Swiatecki really thought that Robinson killed her how could he stand next to him in the sanctuary during her funeral mass? That seems incredible to me in this day, but in the 1980s the priestly/black code of silence was even more impenetrable than the blue wall of silence among police officers.

When you talk about ritual are you immediately referencing satanic ritual? I think that many people immediately do that and in this case I think that there are other explanations. As I understand it, a ritual is something that is done over and over again. It gives a glimpse into the perpetrator's mindset.

(I'll give you an example of what I think of as ritual in crime that is not necessarily satanic . . . evil, yes, but not satanic. My friend was molested by her father for years. And after he would molest her he would always come back into the room and wash her off with a washcloth. Of course, he was removing the semen/evidence from her, but she told me he was also this wacked neat nick. He didn't like anything dirty. Sick. To me, that is ritual that explains the perpetrator's mindset. Not satanic, definitely evil, but pretty ritualistic. )

I tend to think that the killer was a priest or at least someone who was familiar with catholic ritual. (Which goes back to my first post that the diocese may know it is not Robinson and they may know it is another priest. BTW, I don't think it was Swiatecki who actually passed a lie detector test for what that is worth.) Investigators found a crude sign of the cross on her forehead made with Sr. Margaret's own blood. In catholic tradition this ritual is called an annointing. It is done at times of illness and when death is considered to be imminent. When my own dad was dying, a priest came to his room at the hospice center and annointed his forehead in oil which is called the "last rites."

As far as the posing of the body. The body was positioned with the arms at each side and the altar cloth was draped over the body. Here is something that they didn't mention in the trial (that I know of), when a person is buried in the catholic tradition, the cloth that is draped over the casket is called a "pahl" (Sr. Margaret's last name - an odd irony in this case) and it has a cross on it.

Here is a picture of a pahl. It is the cloth draped over the casket and if you look closely at the picture, you can see the cross.

http://www.dcdiocese.org/swkregister/Jan_25_04/funeral.jpg

As far as the sexual motives -- that is very confusing. Early reports in the 1980s said that Sr. Margaret had not been raped. Perhaps they did not reveal that at the time as a way to protect her dignity. But reports during the trial indicated that there were abrasions to her genital area indicating some kind of trauma. They've alluded to the fact that the cross which the detectives believe was used to make the tracing of the cross on her body in stab wounds may have been used to vaginally penetrate her. Creepy too that apparently, her dress was neatly folded over and over to reveal her underwear . . . not pulled up but neatly folded.

Hatred of women? I hope that I do not offend you or any readers, but that is not a huge leap if you understand the dynamics in the catholic community in the Toledo diocese and maybe even in the world. In the early 80s, Toledo diocese's auxillary bishop James Hoffman was known for being liberal politically. Faced with dwindling numbers of priests to staff parishes, he was the first who allowed nuns to be parish leaders and assume leadership in diocesan offices. This was not without controversy and out of it rose the feeling from some priests and even lay people that "too many nuns think they are priests" or "that nun really just wants to be a priest." So at the time, there was this longstanding conflict between some priests and some nuns. I don't know if that is the root of the conflict between Robinson and Sr. Pahl, and could that general conflict between priests/men and nun/women be a motive to kill a nun -- unlikely. But there was a lot of conflict between some priests and women during that time.

Another thing that has always irritated me is that no one from the church or the nun's religious community publicly ever said one word about getting the public's help in trying to solve the murder. Many people I know always kind of waited on the anniversary of her death and maybe on the decade anniversary of her death for someone anyone from the local church to make a plea . . . "Help solve this murder. If you know something come forward." but there has never been one peep from the diocese publicly asking people for help if they know anything. That has always been suspect to me. Why? She was one of their own and they seemed to have forgotten about her.

There is definitely more to the story and the diocese isn't saying anything.

Mindy

Howdy. I just found this site while looking for Father Robinson's prison address, and felt the need to comment.

I grew up in the Catholic church, and grew up around Father Robinson. He said mass at St. Hedwig's church several times a year, and I was an altar girl there, so I got to know him pretty well. He was also who I went to for my first reconciliation. I was so horrified when I found out about Father Robinson's indictment that I actually cried. Of all of the priests I'd known, he was the one that I favored and trusted the most. I could talk to him about anything, and he, unlike many other priests I've met, never gave me any uneasiness. (And I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character.)

On of the the things that bothered me, along with the DNA not matching, was that there was never any trace evidence found on the supposed murder weapon. If you saw that letter opener, you'd have seen how incredibly elaborate the design was on it. And had he boiled it in bleach for hours, there still would have been something left on it. They found nothing. Not only that, but didn't they find the letter opener in his desk soon after the murder? How could he have cleaned it that well? Also, how could he have known the future of forensics that he would have had to clean it that well to get rid of the DNA?

I also have an issue with there never being any blood found anywhere in his quarters, on any of his belongings, or anything. How could he have cleaned up that quickly?

And, one more thing. I am only 5 feet tall. When I was an altar girl, I was able to look Father Robinson eye to eye. I also remember how small his hands were, because when we were at mass, I would stand next to him and hold his hand during the "Our Father." Margaret Ann Pahl was a tall, larger woman. How could he have strangled her? Did he bring a step-ladder or something? And, with his hands being so small, how could he have gotten the strength to do it? Sure, Father Robinson may have shrunk a few centimeters since then, but he is not that old of a man, and I don't see how that could have worked. He's a dinky little thing.

I was so disgusted at how small of a case the defense put on for him. He deserved more than that. I also was upset because people have been acquitted on so much more evidence than what was put up against him. I watched the whole trial on CourtTV, and I know that, regardless of who it was, I would not have been able to convict on that evidence. Especially with such a huge discrepancy with the DNA. How could the jury have possibly bought that?

anonymous

Sorry Mindy. You've got the information about Sr. Margaret's stature completely wrong. She was not tall. As a matter of fact, she was actually short. I found an article published shortly after her murder that cites her as 5 feet 2 inches and 135 lbs. at the time of her death. Robinson is certainly not a large man, but he is taller than she was.

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