Sister Catherine Cesnik case: City Police Search For Missing Nun, 26

A partial view of the front page of the Sunday Sun, Nov. 9, 1969 - "City Police Search for Missing Nun, 26."
A partial view of the front page of the Sunday Sun, Nov. 9, 1969 - "City Police Search for Missing Nun, 26."

Police, aided by six K-9 Corps dogs, searched until dark yesterday for a 26-year-old Catholic nun, missing from her home since Friday night.

Searchers combed the Leakin Park and Irvington areas of the city in search of Sister Catherine A. Cesnik, S.S.N.D, an 11th and 12th grade teacher of English at Western High School, but were unable to find any trace or her by nightfall. 

Had Gone Shopping

Sister Catherine had been reported missing early yesterday morning by her roommate, Sister Helen Russell Phillips, a teacher at North Bend Elementary School.


Sister Russell told police that her roommate had left their apartment in the 100 block North Bend road, at about 7:30 p.m. Friday night to cash a check at a Catonsville bank and to go shopping at the Edmondson Village shopping center.

When Sister Catherine had not returned by 1:30 o'clock yesterday morning, police were notified.  

A friend, the Rev. Peter McKeow, who drove to Baltimore from Beltsville to comfort Sister Russell, found Sister Catherine's abandoned car during a walk near the nun's residence at 4:40 a.m., police said.


The unlocked car was parked far from the curb in the 4500 block Carriage Court, but no trace of the attractive nun was found.

Police, who took Sister Catherine's car to the Southwestern district station, said that the car had been first seen in the 4500 block Carriage court at 10 p.m. In addition, they added, they had received several calls later that evening about the oddly-parked vehicle.

After the car had been processed by the crime lab, police said that several buns, purchased at a Catonsville bakery, had been found in the vehicle.

Police also said they had found leaves and twigs inside the car, and that branches had also been caught in the car's radio antenna. They theorized that Sister Catherine might have left the car and gone into a wooded area. 

The parked car, though found only a block and a half from the sisters' residence, was only a mile away from sprawling, wooded Leakin Park.

Sister Russell told police that she and her roommate are members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame order and that they have been in the order for eight years.

Both women had requested a leave of absence to teach in Baltimore city schools this year. They have lived in the 100 block North Bend road since mid-August.

Sister Russell, 25, told police that she could think of no reason for Sister Catherine's disappearance.

Miss Dorothy M. Kell, principal of Western High School, said last night that the missing nun, a native of Pittsburgh, had done a "very nice job" as teacher in the school, and that she has been a "very pleasant" addition to the faculty.

Although scouring a large section of Southwest Baltimore for the woman, police said that they were treating Sister Catherine's disappearance as a missing persons case.

"At this moment, there is no indication of foul play," a police spokesman said. Nevertheless, police added that the search for the missing nun would continue today.

Sister Russell told police that at the time of her roommate's departure, Sister Catherine had been wearing an aqua coat, navy blue suit, yellow sweater and black shoes.

The missing nun was described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 115 pounds, with green eyes, blonde hair and fair complexion.

The Baltimore Sun is republishing archived coverage of the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, which is the subject of a Netflix documentary series set to debut May 19. Cesnik, a 26-year-old Baltimore nun, was reported missing in November 1969 and her body was found in Lansdowne in January 1970. These stories appear as they were originally written in The Sun or The Evening Sun. 

With Netflix's "The Keepers" documentary series on the unsolved killing of Baltimore nun Sister Catherine Cesnik debuting Friday, we chronicle developments in

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