Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Unholy Homicide, Part 2

A New Investigation

On April 23, 2004, The Toledo Blade reported Gerald Robinson was arrested on an aggravated murder charge in the slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.  Prosecutors said there was enough evidence after all to charge Robinson with the murder, stating that after investigators analyzed blood patterns they concluded that the murder weapon, the letter opener, was in his "control."  Following his arrest, Robinson was taken to the Lucas County Jail.

Robinson's attorney, John Thebes, entered a plea of not guilty for his client on May 7, 2004.  Thebes told Municipal Court Judge Mary Grace Trimboli that Robinson was a respected priest in the community and that he was not a flight risk.  Nonetheless, Judge Trimboli ordered Robinson to be held on a $200,000 bond and his trial was set to begin on

February 22, 2005.  Following the brief hearing, Robinson was transported back to the Lucas County Jail, where he remained for several days until his supporters raised enough money to post his bail.

In the weeks following Robinson's release, Thebes told the press he was confident of an acquittal. "Twenty-four years is a heck of a long time," he said. "Things happen to evidence and memories fade. It's difficult to ascertain who was where, who said what."  Robinson may have a confident lawyer, but the prosecution is not yet ready to throw in the towel.

Dr. Henry Lee
Dr. Henry Lee

In December of 2005, they hired nationally known forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee to examine the letter opener, bloodstains on the altar cloth and other objects in the chapel, the pattern of wounds and also DNA from the nun's body, which the prosecution obtained a court order to exhume.  Upon reviewing all of the evidence, Lee said Sister Pahl appeared to have been attacked from behind, her killer strangling her until she was unconscious.  Then, while on the floor and still breathing, she was stabbed in the face, neck, and through the altar cloth covering her upper body.  He also said the assailant made a deliberate "pattern in the stab wounds," possibly resembling a cross.  "What we do is look at everything, the pattern, the marks left by the weapon,'' said Dr. Lee.  According to some reports, Lee is trying to determine if a cross might have been placed over the altar cloth and the killer stabbed her along its outline.


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