News & Politics

Man Charged in Brutal Stabbing Deaths of 2 Nuns in Mississippi

A man has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the brutal stabbing deaths of two nuns in their home in Durant, Mississippi.

The bodies of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68 and nurse practitioners, were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a nearby clinic in Lexington, Miss., where they administered flu shots, insulin and other medical care for the poor in their community.  Their blue Toyota Corolla was found about a mile from their house,  but nothing else was taken, according to a law enforcement official who briefed reporters on the investigation.

Rodney Sanders, 46, was charged late Friday for the savage stabbings, and is believed to have acted alone. Authorities have yet to discover a motive for the murders and are not calling it a robbery because that “would be premature.” A physician who oversees the clinic said that Sanders was not a patient.

According to Mississippi Department of Corrections, Rodney Earl Sanders was released from prison last December after serving nine months for a felony conviction for driving under the influence. Records also show the felon having done prison time from the mid 1980s to early 1990s for armed robbery.

People in the community are in shock at the heinous crime, describing the pious pair as “the most friendly, helpful people in town,” who were “sweet, very loving … easy to get along with.”

The women’s murders have left what’s been described as a ‘gaping hole’ in what was already a strapped health care system.

According to timesleader, one medic, Dr. Elias Abboud, who worked with the sisters for years and helped build the clinic, said it provided about 25 percent of all medical care in the county.

Father Greg Plata, the sacramental minister at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, where the two sisters had for years led a Bible study, said Saturday that he did not think anyone at his church knew the suspect. What drove the brute to such savagery against two saintly nuns is a mystery.

Sanders is being held at an undisclosed location while he waits for an initial court appearance to be scheduled.

Update: Sanders has confessed to the murders but gave no reason for the crimes. Authorities say robbery is the “least likely” motive for the crimes.