A Mississippi man has been arrested accused of murdering two Catholic nuns at their home earlier this week. He faces two counts of capital murder for having slain the sisters last Thursday.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, was charged with two counts of capital murder “after an exhaustive interview,” the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
“This heinous crime has been resolved,” says the statement, which included Sanders’ name. The man had been considered a suspect from early on in the investigation. He’s now being held at an undisclosed detention center.
Sister Paula Merrill, a nurse practitioner with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, and Sister Margaret Held, a nurse practitioner with the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, were found dead in their home when they didn’t report to work at the nearby Lexington Medical Clinic where they provided flu shots, insulin, and other medical care for the poor.
Police have not released a cause of death in the killings, but Father Greg Plata, who oversees the small church the nuns attended, said police told him they were stabbed. The motive remains unknown, although some reports say there were signs of forced entry, meaning that it could have been a robbery gone wrong.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger quoted Plata as saying, “These were the two sweetest sisters you could imagine … It’s so senseless.”
CBS News reported that the two nuns provided almost all the care at the clinic and cultivated relationships with drug company representatives, who often left extra free samples, according to clinic manager Lisa Dew.
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, Held’s town, had said in a statement on Thursday that whoever killed the two nuns, “robbed not only the School Sisters of St. Francis, but also the entire Church of a woman whose life was spent in service.”
“Sister Margaret was from Wisconsin, so she carried with her the spirit of the religious experience and community found in our local Catholic Church,” Listecki said.