Sin, Shame & Secrets

Sin, Shame & Secrets : A True Story of the Murder of a Nun, the Conviction of a Priest, and the Cover-Up in the Catholic Church

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In this compelling true-crime story, journalist and author David Yonke presents and analyzes the only case in U.S. history in which a Roman Catholic priest was arrested for the murder of a nun. Father Gerald Robinson of Toledo, whom friends and associates described as a timid and mild-mannered man, was arrested by cold-case detectives in April, 2004, and charged in the brutal slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl 24 years earlier. The 71-year-old nun had been choked to the edge of death, covered with an altar cloth, and stabbed 31 times in the face, neck and chest. Her body was found in the sacristy of a Catholic hospital, her habit pulled up to her chest and her undergarments around her ankles. It was Holy Saturday morning, 1980, the day before Easter and the day before the victim's 72nd birthday. Cold-case investigators said the first nine stab wounds, made over the nun's heart, were in the shape of an upside down cross, one of many signs that Sister Margaret Ann was the victim of a ritual killing. "Sin, Shame & Secrets" unveils how cold-case investigators decided to reopen the case in 2003 after a Toledo nun testified that Father Robinson abused her in satanic rituals when she was a child. The nun's testimony before the Toledo Catholic Diocese's Review Board also alleged that a number of children had been killed by the cult. A lengthy police investigation followed, resulting in Robinson's arrest at age 66 on April 23, 2004. After a three-week trial, covered gavel-to-gavel by Court TV (now truTV), the priest was convicted of murder on May 11, 2006 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. * * * Yonke, the award-winning former Religion Editor and reporter at The Toledo Blade, reviewed hundreds of police files, interviewed dozens of principles, and covered every minute of the trial to give readers a thorough and examined look at events as they unfolded, as well as providing background information for the story and the people involved. * * * In Robinson's legal appeals, the killer priest claimed that his trial attorneys failed to examine the possibility that another hospital chaplain - one with a drinking problem, a bad temper, and a knife collection - may have been the real murderer. Robinson also alleged that Coral Eugene Watts, a confessed serial killer who strangled and stabbed up to 80 women, was living an hour north of Toledo in 1980 and may have been the perpetrator. The story has been covered by news media around the world and featured on many nationally broadcast television programs. Although Robinson's appeals were denied by the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, public debate and controversy continue to swirl in this timeless and controversial case. * * * Nancy Grace of CNN and truTV commented: "Very rarely does a single incident grip the public conscience. The brutal and sacrilegious murder of a true innocent, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, does just that. Carefully detailing her murder, Yonke describes not only the search for a killer, but the struggle for all of us including both the Toledo police and the Catholic Church, to accept that evil exists everywhere around us, even within the house of God." Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Sallah called it "a murder case for the ages," adding that "Yonke deftly shows how an American Catholic diocese kept one of its own from being charged for more than a quarter century." Father Thomas Doyle, JCD, CADC, commented: "This is not just another murder mystery. It is a true story that enrages, mystifies and terrifies any reader with even a modicum of moral awareness." Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, said: "Through painstaking research and gripping narrative, David Yonke presents and analyzes a stunning case of physical, emotional, and sexual pain and the political corruption that kept a horrific crime unsolved for years."
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Product details

  • Paperback | 298 pages
  • 152 x 226 x 18mm | 419.99g
  • English
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 1507713169
  • 9781507713167
  • 1,329,717

About David Yonke

David Yonke is a veteran, award-winning journalist based in Toledo, Ohio. He grew up in New York and Florida, graduated from Duke University, and has been writing news stories ever since. From 2000 to 2014, Yonke was a full-time religion journalist, writing news and feature stories on all matters of faith, spirituality, belief and religion. This led to his covering the unique case of Father Gerald Robinson, a Toledo Catholic priest arrested in 2004 by cold-case detectives for the 1980 ritual murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. Yonke started covering the Robinson case the day after the priest's arrest, attended every minute of the trial, and followed up with ongoing coverage of the legal appeals and other developments. It is the only time in U.S. history that a Catholic priest has been convicted of murdering a Catholic nun. And police believe the nun was the victim of a ritual killing. Although Robinson lost his appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, debate and controversy continue to swirl around this case as alternative theories surface of what might have actually happened that Holy Saturday morning, 1980. Robinson died in prison on July 4, 2014. Putting the case to rest. But the interest and debate continue. Yonke is now the editor of two Ohio daily newspapers, The Fremont News-Messenger and the Port Clinton News Herald, both part of the USA Today Network/Gannett media chain. He and his wife, Janet, have three grown daughters and live near Toledo, Ohio.
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82 ratings
3.76 out of 5 stars
5 26% (21)
4 34% (28)
3 33% (27)
2 6% (5)
1 1% (1)
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