TOLEDO — A woman’s allegations that she was sexually abused as a child by Roman Catholic priests during Satanic rituals eventually led police to review the 1980 killing of a nun and charge one of the priests with murder.
Investigators told The (Toledo) Blade they could not substantiate the woman’s allegations, but her mention of the Rev. Gerald Robinson spurred police to take another look at the nun’s murder — in which he had always been a suspect.
Robinson, 66, was charged Friday with killing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, who was strangled and stabbed about 30 times on April 5, 1980. Her body was found in a hospital chapel, surrounded by lit candles with her arms folded across her chest.
They had worked together for several years at Mercy Hospital. Robinson, the hospital’s chaplain, performed the funeral for Sister Pahl, 71.
Police detective Steve Forrester and Tom Ross, an investigator with the Lucas County Prosecutor’s office, told The Blade that the nun’s killing was part of a ”ceremony” in the chapel. They would not elaborate.
In December, authorities re-examined old evidence and concluded that the murder weapon, which they did not identify, was ”in the control of the suspect.” They used ”blood transfer patterns,” a rarely used technology that analyzes the patterns made when an item is laid down. DNA evidence was not a factor, Forrester said.
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A message seeking additional comment was left with Ross yesterday.
The woman whose allegations led to the reopening of the case testified before the Diocesan Review Board on June 11 and wrote a detailed statement alleging years of abuse by Toledo diocesan and religious-order priests during her childhood.
”She did mention Father Robinson and that he was involved in the ritualistic abuse of her,” said Claudia Vercelloti, who is a director of the Toledo office for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and has been in contact with the woman.
The woman, now in her 40s, described Satanic ceremonies in which priests placed her in a coffin filled with cockroaches, forced her to ingest what she believed to be a human eyeball and penetrated her with a snake ”to consecrate these orifices to Satan.” She also alleged that the group of clerics killed an infant and a 3-year-old child, performed an abortion on her and mutilated dogs during the rituals, according to a copy of her statement.
Vercelloti said the woman did not know that Robinson had been a suspect in Sister Pahl’s killing.
”I don’t know if she knew what she was setting in motion,” she said.
The diocese decided against turning over the allegations to authorities because they had been made earlier and investigated, said Sally Oberski, a spokeswoman for the diocese.
”They were found to be non-credible,” she said yesterday. The allegations were against several priests and Robinson’s ”name was mentioned among several others.”
Vercelloti said the diocese should have given the information to police and prosecutors because Robinson had been a suspect in the nun’s death.
”They should have turned it over whether they found it credible or not,” Vercelloti said.
Calls to the prosecutor’s office and home were not answered yesterday.
Robinson was scheduled to be arraigned today.
Before his arrest, he was performing pastoral care at nursing homes and hospitals in the Toledo area, the diocese said.
Calls to Robinson’s attorney, John Thebes, went unanswered yesterday. On Saturday, he questioned the strength of the new evidence in the murder case.
”There’s a reason these cases are cold and sit for 24 years because the evidence is not good to begin with,” he told The Blade.