PHOTO FROM THE INQUIRIER'S FILE

BALTIMORE — FBI investigators are planning to exhume the body of a young woman whose unsolved 1969 murder has been the source of widespread speculation, especially since the Netflix documentary series “The Keepers” examined the murder of a Baltimore nun that occurred days earlier in eerily similar circumstances. .

Joyce Malecki went Christmas shopping in November 1969 at a suburban mall outside Baltimore and never returned home. Her body was found at a nearby military base days later and an autopsy determined that she had been strangled.

An advocate for the Malecki family confirmed on Tuesday that the exhumation was tentatively planned for Thursday.

The case received renewed attention following the release of “The Keepers” in 2017, raising questions about whether Malecki’s disappearance was linked to that of Sister Cathy Cesnikwho was found dead from blunt force trauma after going shopping and never returning.

Also in 2017, investigators exhumed the body of a Catholic priest, Father Joseph Maskell, to see if his DNA matched evidence from the scene of Cesnik's death. The documentary questioned whether Cesnik was killed because she knew Maskell was sexually abusing students at the Catholic school where they both worked. But DNA testing revealed no match and the case remains unsolved.

The latest source of speculation emerged earlier this year, when federal and local authorities announced that they had solved yet another homicide of a young girl: 16-year-old Pamela Conyers, who disappeared in 1970 in the same shopping center as Malecki and similarly died from strangulation.

Investigators used relatively new DNA technology and genealogical research to identify a suspect in Conyers' death: Forrest Clyde Williams III, who died in 2018 of natural causes after spending most of his adult life in Virginia. He suffered nothing more than a few minor criminal charges in the subsequent decades.

When they pinned Conyers' murder on Williams, authorities said they had no evidence linking him to any of the other unsolved homicides. They also said they did not believe Conyers knew Williams.

Kurt Wolfgang, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victim Resource Center, said it appears investigators are now trying to extract DNA from Malecki's body, although it is unclear what they are trying to determine. He said the FBI has shared little information with the family about recent developments in the case, but the timing could suggest a link to Williams.

Wolfgang said relatives will be able to watch the exhumation, which would otherwise be closed to the public.

“They want justice in this situation,” said Wolfgang, whose nonprofit has worked with the Malecki family. “Even though it was 54 years ago, it would certainly help them to know what happened.”

A spokesperson for the FBI's Baltimore field office declined to comment, citing “respect for the ongoing investigation.” Federal investigators are in charge of the case because Malecki's body was found on military property.

When Malecki was a child, his family attended a Catholic church outside Baltimore, where Maskell served as a priest. They lived on the same street while Maskell lived in the rectory of St. Clement's Catholic Church. He was later assigned to Archbishop Keough High School, where he was accused of abusing several girls.

Wolfgang said Malecki told her relatives “she didn’t like him at all and told people to stay away from him.” But Wolfgang said the family has no direct evidence to suggest she was one of Maskell's abuse victims and is hesitant to jump to conclusions about whether the various cases are linked.

A woman interviewed on “The Keepers” claimed that Maskell showed her Cesnik's body days after the nun's disappearance. Cesnik was a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School when she was killed.

Earlier this year, the Maryland Attorney General's Office released a report detailing decades of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that identified Maskell as one of its most prolific abusers, saying he targeted at least 39 victims. According to the report, Maskell was transferred to St. Clement after being accused of abuse on his previous assignment — one of several times the archdiocese turned a blind eye to his misconduct.


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He denied the allegations before his death in 2001 and was never criminally charged.



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