The Latest: Sheriff: Suspect confessed to nuns' killing

AP News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2016 6:56 PM
The Latest: Sheriff: Suspect confessed to nuns' killing

DURANT, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on the killing of two nuns in Mississippi (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

A sheriff says the man arrested in the killing of two nuns confessed to authorities.

Holmes County Sheriff Willie March said Saturday that he had been briefed by police from the town where the killing occurred and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials who took part in the interrogation of Rodney Earl Sanders.

March says Sanders confessed in the interrogation to the killings and that he gave no reason for the crimes.

The sheriff says police work and tips from the community led police to Sanders.

He says the investigation is ongoing.

Durant police could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Department of Public Safety which includes Mississippi Bureau of Investigation says the organization would neither confirm nor deny that Sanders confessed.

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1:30 p.m.

A former nun who knew one of the two nuns slain in Mississippi says she had always been interested in working with the "poorest of the poor."

Darlene Nicgorski said Saturday that she had recruited Sister Margaret Held to come to Holly Springs, Mississippi, to work as a social worker in a program there that ran schools and offered day care to help young mothers finish school.

Nicgorski said Held was "always interested in working with the marginalized, the underserved, the poorest of the poor."

Held and Sister Paula Merrill were found dead Thursday in their Mississippi home. A suspect was arrested late Friday and charged in their killings.

Nicgorski said the sisters' deaths just don't make sense. She said they would have given the suspect anything he needed.

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The Kentucky-based order where one of two slain nuns belonged says the order is establishing a memorial fund to continue her work.

Diane Curtis, a spokeswoman for Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said they have received messages from around the world from people asking how they can support them in this tragedy.

The fund will be established through the order's website at http://bit.ly/2bIAee8 .

She says it will be used to "continue the legacy of Sister Paula, to minister to the poor."

The order is also asking for prayers for all involved in the tragedy.

She says Merrill went to Kentucky from Aug. 17 until Monday to meet with others from Sisters of Charity.

Curtis called it a "beautiful visit."

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11:55 a.m.

The clinic where two slain nuns worked says the man accused of killing them was not a patient there.

Dr. Elias Abboud, the physician who oversees the clinic, says he called the office manager after he saw there was an arrest made to check if Rodney Earl Sanders had been a patient at the clinic but he was not.

Sanders was arrested late Friday in the deaths of two nuns whose bodies were found Thursday. Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held were both nurses who had spent about 30 years helping people in Mississippi.

Abboud says the community and the patients will miss them.

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Father Greg Plata (PLATT-ah) of Greenwood, Mississippi, is sacramental minister at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, where the Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill had led Bible study for years.

Plata said Saturday that he does not think people at the church knew 46-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko, who has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the slayings of the nuns.

Sanders was arrested late Friday and is being held at an undisclosed location while he waits for an initial court appearance to be set. Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said Saturday he does not know whether Sanders is represented by an attorney.

The bodies of Held and Merrill were found Thursday in their home in Durant, Mississippi.

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11:30 a.m.

The order of one of the nuns killed in Mississippi has issued a statement that thanks the law enforcement officers who are working on the case.

The statement by the U.S. Province Leadership Team, School Sisters of St. Francis, says Sister Margaret Held belonged to their community.

The community offered its "deepest appreciation" to investigators and to "the hundreds of people and organizations who offered their prayers and words of support in the wake of the sisters' deaths."

The bodies of Held and Sister Paul Merrill of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were found Thursday in their Mississippi home. The women worked as nurse practitioners at a clinic for the poor. Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko (cause-ee-EH-sko), Mississippi faces capital murder charges in their deaths.

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10:40 a.m.

The nephew of a nun who was killed in Mississippi says he's thankful a suspect has been arrested so that no one else is at risk but that it does not bring closure to the grieving family.

David Merrill, speaking by telephone from Stoneham, Mass., says he heard about the arrest of Rodney Earl Sanders early Saturday morning.

He says the family is "thankful that he's off the streets," but the family still has to deal with the loss.

Sanders is accused of killing Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held, whose bodies were found Thursday in their Mississippi home.

David Merrill says he agrees with the idea of forgiveness and trying to forgive the person who killed his aunt and her fellow nun. But he says he's "not as strong" as his aunt, and he's not sure if he's "capable of completely forgiving."

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9:40 a.m.

Authorities in Mississippi don't anticipate any more arrests in the slayings of two nuns.

Forty-six-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko (cause-ee-EH-sko), Mississippi, was charged late Friday with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.

State Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain tells The Associated Press that as of Saturday, "investigators believe Sanders acted alone."

Sanders is being held at an undisclosed jail and his initial court appearance has not been set. Strain says he doesn't know whether Sanders is represented by an attorney.

The bodies of Held and Merrill were discovered Thursday in their home in Durant, Mississippi, after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in nearby Lexington, where they were nurse practitioners.

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1:15 a.m.

A spokeswoman for the Kentucky-based congregation where one of two murdered Mississippi nuns will be buried has expressed thanks to those working to solve the case.

Diane Curtis, director of communications for Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, based in Nazareth, Kentucky, tells The Associated Press in a statement early Saturday: "Our congregation expresses gratitude to all who have been working so hard on this investigation. At this time we continue to pray for everyone involved in this tragedy."

Forty-six-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko, Mississippi, was charged Friday night with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.

Their bodies were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi, about 10 miles from where they lived.

Held will be buried in Wisconsin and Merrill will be buried at her congregation's headquarters in Nazareth, Kentucky.

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12:30 a.m.

Authorities say they have charged a 46-year-old man in connection with the deaths of two nuns who were killed in Mississippi.

Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said in a statement Friday night that Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.

Their bodies were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi, about 10 miles from where they lived.

Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan says "Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation."

Sanders is being held in an undisclosed detention center awaiting his initial court appearance.