It took me five years to get up the nerve to watch The Keepers.
I knew enough about the critically acclaimed 2017 docuseries, and the web of crimes it revealed, to understand how sad and rage-inducing I would find the events it follows. What I did NOT know was that by putting off watching this beautifully made and important story, I was missing out.
Then, a few weeks ago I heard Gemma Hoskins on the podcast Let the Women Do the Work with Gillian Pensavalle. She talked about her experiences, along with Abbie Schaub, as grassroots investigators whose diligent truth-hunting was a focal point of The Keepers. The jaw-dropping twists and turns they described quickly caught my attention and I was captivated by Gemma’s strong, empathic personality. That night, I finally cued up the series on Netflix.
I learned that Abbie and Gemma had made up their minds to look into a connection between the murder of their former teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik, and the systematic sexual abuse of girls at their prestigious Catholic high school. There is so much more to this story, including the murder of 20-year-old Joyce Malecki and coverups by multiple entities to sum up here. Suffice it to say I devoured The Keepers in one weekend. I was deeply moved by it. I was also impressed by all the women (and men) who fought to do the right thing in the face of almost unimaginable crimes, Sister Cathy maybe most of all.
As I watched, I texted my friend and co-host Kathryn Robb repeatedly, expressing, in turn, my horror, sadness, and admiration. Kathryn has worked with Abbie Schaub as well as attorney/survivor Teresa Lancaster, one of two courageous survivors who sued over sexual assault by priests at the school. I was thrilled when Kathryn offered to invite Abbie, Teresa, and Gemma to come on the podcast and they all graciously agreed. We spent a riveting hour talking about their personal experiences as seen in The Keepers, the work they have been engaged in since the docuseries aired, and several updates on aspects of the sexual abuse and murder cases. It was a great conversation.
Gemma pointed out that it has been five years since the release of The Keepers and while much has happened, there are far too many unanswered questions. Justice is still far off for many people involved, living and dead. And so today, with her signature determination, Gemma is writing to news outlets imploring them to revisit the people and events behind the series. With her permission, I am printing her letter here because it includes important details we did not cover in the Truth and Consequences podcast episode.
At the bottom of this post, you will find links to the continued work of Gemma, Abbie, Teresa, and other people related to these events who are trying to make the world a better place. We support all their efforts. I think you will too. -Miranda
Letter to Press Outlets from Gemma Hoskins
Greetings from Ocean City, Maryland. My name is Gemma Hoskins. You may recognize me from the 2017 Netflix docuseries, The Keepers. Since 2006, I have been working diligently with others to find out what happened to our precious teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik. Her murder has never been ‘solved’. We believe that Cathy was murdered because she was aware of abuse that was occurring in the all-girls catholic school, Archbishop Keough in Baltimore, Maryland. I am writing to ask for your help. Those of us involved in this grassroots investigation are being stonewalled at every attempt. The sexual abuse at Keough was part of a huge criminal network of drugs, abuse, and prostitution.
It is time for answers. No more secrets. No more cover-ups. We need national media attention on this heinous situation. The following review of the events of the last 5 years since The Keepers was released will give you an idea of where we are in this mission to find justice and resolution. I am available to talk to you by phone or email. The world is watching and waiting. Please do your part to assist us.
The Keepers was released 5 years ago on May 19. Where are we?
- Cesnik murder “unsolved”
- Malecki murder “unsolved”
- Montanye murder “unsolved”
- Crocetti murder “unsolved”
- Conyers murder “unsolved” [There are reasons to believe the murders of Montanye, Crocetti, and Conyers may be related to the .]
- Porter murder solved by Detective Josh Battaglia, who is also handling Cesnik case
- Numerous FOIA requests, requests to [Director of National Intelligence] Avril Haines, and 2 presidents have not yielded results.
- Detectives Robin Teal and Gary Childs have retired.
- The Archdiocese of Baltimore refuses to release pedophile priest Joseph Maskell’s files. He died in 2001.
- DNA is available from: Sister Cathy Cesnik, [potential suspects in Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder] Edgar Davidson, Billy, and Ron Schmidt, Gerry Koob, and Joseph Maskell. The BCoPD [Baltimore County Police Department] says it is being processed. (For 4 years?)
- One detective is responsible for 200 cold cases in Baltimore County Police Department.
- Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is almost 4 years into a criminal investigation of clergy abuse; one indictment of a lay wrestling coach in a catholic school. No indication of when the investigation will end. His term ends in July.
- Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. is now providing pro bono legal and investigative help for those of us fighting for justice and answers.
- Thousand of survivors have come forward all over the world.
- Hundreds of tips and offers of help have been received from viewers, survivors, retired law enforcement, researchers, businesses, friends, families, alumnae, nurses, therapists, mediums, podcasters, writers, local TV, and radio, and behavior analysts.
- [The Baltimore] Archdiocese denies knowledge of Maskell’s abuse before 1993. We have witness statements indicating otherwise. We have requested Maskell’s files, to no avail. He died in 2001.
- Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Chris Van Hollen have attempted to get the FBI files on Joyce Malecki’s murder case released to no avail. I have just written to all of the Congress members responsible for oversight of the FBI and DOJ. Letters of request for files were submitted to Avril Haines, and 2 presidents. No response.
- The following individuals involved in this case have died during or since The Keepers:
Donald Malecki [brother of murder victim Joyce Malecki]
James Scannell [police officer who witnessed Sister Cathy’s body upon discovery]
Pete McKeon [friend of Gerry Koob]
Diane Koob [wife of Gerry Koob]
Brian Schmidt [son of Ron Schmidt and nephew of Billy Schmidt]
Sister Cathy Cesnik’s mom
Jean Wehner’s mom
Cardinal Keeler (he begged a police officer not to share what Keeler knew about the abuse)
- Numerous podcasts, FB pages, and local media interviews continue.
- The statute of limitations [for child sexual abuse civil cases] in Maryland was extended but not eliminated.
- DNA technology has advanced.
- Books have been written by Teresa Lancaster, Jean Wehner, and Gemma Hoskins.
- The Keepers has been viewed by people on 6 continents.
- The Sister Cathy Survivors Fund was created and, as a nonprofit, is assisting survivors financially so they can continue therapy. Church settlements were not sufficient.
- Names of politicians, clergy, police officers, and businesspeople have been reported to police and attorney general as sexual predators. Living Keough nuns and former faculty refuse to talk. The pope has never made a statement about this travesty/tragedy.
- The Keough high school building has been demolished rather than repurposed. Students were told not to talk to the media. They talked.
- Sister Patricia Flynn SSND has admitted in public to destroying personnel records at Keough after Cathy’s death to prevent incrimination of others.
- Father Gilbert Seitz was observed by a former Archdiocesan employee removing files of credibly accused clergy and placing those in his car. This happened after the federal government directed archdioceses not to remove or destroy files. His action was caught on a traffic camera. He has been notified that he has been reported to the attorney general.
- It will be up to us, right here reading this, to call for, and demand answers and Justice. We are not getting answers, but we are still here.
Waiting sucks. The church doesn’t care. Faith is hard. Believing is harder.
Where are they/we/you in all of this? All of this because this woman at the age of 26, took on the devil to save her broken angels.
The beat goes on.…
Read Gemma Hoskins’ memoir, Keeping On: How I came to Know Why I Was Born
Read Teresa Lancaster’s memoir, Safe in Socks
Read updates from The Keepers story on the Facebook group “The Keepers Official Group – Justice for Catherine Cesnik and Joyce Malecki”.
Learn about the legislative strategy to reform Maryland’s statute of limitation laws and sign up for news notifications. (It will be updated soon as they prep for the 2023 legislative term.)
Consider contributing to The Sister Cathy Cesnik Fund for Survivors, Inc.