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Catholic priest convicted of murdering and defiling nun dies in prison

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Rev. Gerald Robinson, 76, the Roman Catholic priest convicted of strangling, stabbing, murdering and then sexually defiling a Catholic nun the day before Easter 1980 in a chapel sacristy at Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, died in a Columbus prison hospice on July 4. Robinson’s victim, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71, had one highly publicized ritualistic wound that included an upside down cross punctured into her chest. Fox News reported that this was the only recorded incident of a priest ever killing a nun.

Robinson’s death came only one day after a federal judge shot down his request to allow the convicted killer clergy to die at his family home in his hometown of Toledo. Convicted in 2006, Robinson was serving a 15 year prison sentence. During his trial, prosecutors said that the priest was angered by the nun’s “domineering ways.” The upside down cross carved into her body was Robinson’s way of humiliating Pahl, according to prosecutors. Robinson had pleaded not guilty to murdering Pahl.

On that fateful Saturday in 1980, Pahl was preparing for church services when she came face to face with her murderer. Pahl was choked to death, “jabbed mercilessly with a letter opener, and then sexually violated,” according to The Daily News. Her body was discovered in the chapel sacristy with an altar cloth covering her torso.

It was a ritual murder with hallmarks of pathological rage.

Among 31 stab wounds, nine punctures over her heart formed the outline of an inverted Crucifix, a demonic symbol. She had been stripped below the waist and defiled with a cross.

Although police questioned Robinson and other potential suspects “including hundreds of hospital staffers, her fellow Sisters of Mercy, and the Catholic clerics who worked with her,” the nun’s murder went unsolved for years. Police considered Robinson a prime suspect in Pahl’s murder, bud had insufficient evidence to bring charges against him.

Although it was not made public in 1980, detectives had found the letter opener used to stab the nun in Robinson’s office. He had been interrogated and given two lie-detector tests.

In 2003, investigators caught a break in the cold case when a woman came forward to report that she had been “subjected to a childhood of ritualized sex assault by Toledo priests.” The woman named Robinson as one of those priests.

The newly invigorated investigation into Pahl’s murder uncovered the fact that the primary detectives in the original 1980 investigation were all Catholics who sat on the case “as a courtesy to the church.” With the new accusations levied against Robinson, prosecutors were able to determine a motive for the nun’s murder.

… Robinson, a timid introvert, grew furious over the nun’s nitpicks — for example, that he left the sacristy messy when he changed before Mass.

Their final argument came on Good Friday 1980, when Pahl criticized the priest for cutting short that afternoon’s traditionally long, solemn Mass. She was killed the next morning.

One of the prosecutors in the 2006 trial said that the priest just snapped. The manner in which Robinson killed Pahl and then defiled her was meant to denounce her faith. Had he lived, Robinson would have become eligible for parole in 2016.