Saturday, August 27, 2016

Man faces capital murder charges in killings of 2 Mississippi nuns

The slayings did more than shock people and plunge Lexington into mourning. The two 68-year-old nuns leave a gaping hole in what was already a strapped health care system.
This is a smartphone photograph taken and released by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety in Durant, Miss. on Friday of Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, who has been charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both nurse practitioners who were found dead in their Durant house Thursday.  (WARREN STRAIN / AP)  

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS     Associated Press       Saturday, August. 27, 2016
LEXINGTON, MISS.—A man suspected in the slayings of two Mississippi nuns who were found dead inside a residence within the community they served has been arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder, Mississippi authorities said.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, was charged in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said in a statement released late Friday night. Both women were 68.

The bodies of both women were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from where they lived.

“Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation,” Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan said in the statement.

Authorities said Sanders was being held in an undisclosed detention centre pending a court appearance.

Meanwhile, in the poverty-stricken Mississippi county where the two nuns were slain, forgiveness for their killer is hard to find, even if forgiveness is what the victims would have wanted.
This undated photo provided by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth shows Sister Paula Merrill. Sister Margaret Held and Merrill were found slain in their home and there were signs of a break-in and their vehicle was missing, officials said on August 25,2016  (SISTERS OF CHARITY OF NAZARETH/AP)  
Held and Merrill were nurse practitioners who dedicated their lives to providing health care to people in the poorest county in the state. And as authorities sought the killer, many residents wondered how they will fill the hole the women’s deaths have left.

“Right now, I don’t see no forgiveness on my heart,” said Joe Morgan Jr., a 58-year-old former factory worker who has diabetes and was a patient of Merrill’s at the clinic where the two nuns worked.

He said Merrill would want him to forgive whoever killed the women, but he hopes the perpetrator is arrested, convicted and executed.

“She doesn’t deserve to die like this, doing God’s work,” Morgan said, shaking his head. “There’s something wrong with the world.”
This 2015 photo provided by the School Sisters of St. Francis shows Sister Margaret Held, who worked as a nurse and helped the poor in rural Mississippi.  (MICHAEL O'LOUGHLIN/AP)  
Both women worked at the clinic, where they gave flu shots, dispensed insulin and provided other medical care for children and adults who couldn’t afford it.

Their stolen car was found abandoned a mile from their home, and there were signs of a break-in, but police haven’t disclosed a motive.

Authorities have not said how the women were killed, but the Rev. Greg Plata of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, where the nuns had led Bible study for years, said police told him they were stabbed.

The state posted a reward of $20,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Plata said both nuns’ religious communities have asked that people pray for the killer or killers. Asked about people’s struggles to forgive, the priest said: “Forgiveness is at the heart of being a Christian. Look at Jesus on the cross: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’”

On Friday, a handwritten sign on the front door of Lexington Medical Clinic said it was closed until Monday.

The clinic and the nuns’ home in Durant are in Holmes County, population 18,000. With 44 per cent of its residents living in poverty, Holmes is the seventh-poorest county in America, according to the Census Bureau.
A verse of scripture, a cross, three candles and some faded flowers lay on a tree root across from the Durant, Miss., home of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill on Friday.
The slayings did more than shock people and plunge the county into mourning. They leave a gaping hole in what was already a strapped health care system.

Dr. Elias Abboud, who worked with the sisters for years and helped build the clinic, said it provided about 25 per cent of all medical care in the county.

The two nuns cultivated relationships with drug company representatives, who often left extra free samples, according to clinic manager Lisa Dew.

“This is a poor area, and they dignified those who are poor with outreach and respect for them,” Plata said. “They treated each person as a child of God.”

Merrill’s sister Rosemarie, speaking by telephone from her Stoneham, Massachusetts, home, said her sister had been in Mississippi helping the poor since 1981 and had previously worked in Holly Springs, where she used to ride around on a moped and was instrumental in locating the source of a tuberculosis outbreak.

Merrill was raised in the suburbs of Boston and came from a working-class family, her father a labourer and her mother a bookkeeper, her nephew David said. He said his aunt had worked with Held for many years.

“We always considered Margaret just part of the family,” he said. “The word ‘sister’ has many meanings, and they fulfilled all of them.”

RIP Sister Paula Merrill & Sister  Margaret Held
Deepest and heartfelt condolences to  family and friends ... 
The  PICs


  1. What a sad story and such a senseless crime. The man apparently profited very little from his break-in. But he certainly deprived the community of their brightest lights. They will be impossible to replace in their patients' lives and hearts. The last three paragraphs are a repeat of three further up in the post.
    Go to WAG
    Luv ya

  2. It is so very sad and senseless , yes , so many people think they can take what they want .

    Thank you so much for catch the typo , I was crying , Abe sent me 2 copies , I printed them both . I always know you have my back .
    Being Catholic , I know first hand how important the nuns is to the community . They have no money and the fool should've know that , I bet he was high on drugs ... liquor would put him to sleep .

    have a great time tomorrow ... Dad/ I will have a note waiting for you to fall to sleep on . Hahahaha!!!
    Love you back sweetie
    Crying PIC