Man pleads guilty to nuns’ murders

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By Spencer Harsh

A Mississippi man recently pleaded guilty to the murder of two nuns in 2016, one of whom was a part of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Rodney Earl Sanders admitted to the murder and burglary of both Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, both Roman Catholic nurse practitioners who were living together in Mississippi at the time, according to the Associated Press. Merrill was a part of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Merrill was a part of the School Sisters of St. Francis.

While admitting to the murder and burglary charges, Sanders also reportedly denied charges of having raped both women.

On June 21, Sanders was given two life without parole sentences with an additional 30 more years for burglary and theft. According to the Associated Press, both the families of the victims and their respective religious orders were against Sanders receiving the death penalty.

In 2016, Sanders had reportedly been staying in a shed near the home where Merrill and Held were staying and entered through a back door. A struggle took place in which Sanders stabbed both women and then stole Held’s car.

Sister Susan Gatz, president of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, according to a statement released by SCN, spoke at Sanders’ hearing on June 21 and said that both Merrill and Held were loving people. She said the patients Merrill and Held worked with were a testament to their loving and caring nature.

“Our mission statement as Sisters of Charity calls us to risk our lives and our resources as we work for justice in solidarity with oppressed people,” Gatz said during the hearing. “Sisters Paula and Margaret did exactly that.”