Toledo women say they were abused in bizarre ceremonies decades ago
TOLEDO – An investigation into a Roman Catholic nun’s slaying 24 years ago has broadened with authorities now probing accusations that children were molested and raped by priests in ritual services decades ago, The Blade reported.
Spurred by leads that emerged since the arrest of the Rev. Gerald Robinson in the death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, police have searched an abandoned house in Lucas County where people reportedly took part in abuse ceremonies, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper said detectives have been looking for evidence of cult gatherings in church attics and basements and have talked with religious experts on occult groups and church history. They also have interviewed the founder of a secret fraternity whose members dressed in nuns’ clothing.
Prosecutors said they will continue to investigate, but trying to substantiate claims from so long ago is difficult. Police have not linked any ritual abuse to the 66-year-old Robinson, prosecutors said.
The Blade reported that its investigation, based on hundreds of police and diocese records and interviews, showed that prosecutors are still studying details of Pahl’s slaying, including a pattern of stab wounds resembling a cross.
The nun was found April 5, 1980, in the sacristy of Mercy Hospital in 1980. She had been strangled and repeatedly stabbed, her body posed to look like she was sexually assaulted.
A judge has prohibited those involved in the case from talking. Robinson, arrested nearly a year ago, is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 17 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
The newspaper said investigators have spoken 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.
Four women told detectives about being abused between the late 1960s and 1986 during cultic ceremonies involving altars and men dressed in robes, according to the newspaper.
In 2003, a 41-year-old woman appeared before a church review board, asking that the diocese pay for counseling costs she incurred as an alleged victim of sex abuse by a group of priests.
The woman, whom the newspaper did not identify, claimed they gathered in church basements and rectories in “cultlike ceremonies” where children were molested and ordered to watch other youngsters being abused, the newspaper reported. She identified four priests, including Robinson, in her accusations.
The woman said her only sexual encounter with 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. The priest’s lawyer, Alan Konop, declined to comment on Sunday, citing the court order.
The newspaper said two retired police officers hired by the diocese interviewed more than 45 people, including priests, nuns and lay members, as well as the woman who made the initial accusations. She told them that the sexual assaults began during her preschool years in the 1960s, usually at night with altars, candles and chanting, the newspaper said.
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates later assigned investigators to meet with the woman, and police then began their investigation into the sex-abuse accusations against other clerics.
They searched an abandoned house that matched the description of a house where the 41-year-old woman said she was raped in group sessions in the late 1970s but could not find any evidence of ritual sex sessions.
Another woman, Teresa Bombrys, told detectives that she was ritually abused by the same clerics in similar situations. Bombrys, 43, said she was taken to a farm house in the late 1960s and forced to watch the rituals.
She told The Blade in a recent interview she believed her abusers wanted to scare her and other children and to create an atmosphere so bizarre no one would believe them.
Feb. 21, 2005