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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Man Arrested, Charged With Murder of 2 Mississippi Nuns

Man Arrested, Charged With Murder of 2 Mississippi Nuns

David Caplan 

A man has been arrested in connection with the killing of two nuns in Mississippi this week, the state's Department of Public Safety announced late Friday in a statement.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, has been charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held, who were found dead Thursday morning in their home in Durant.



PHOTO: Rodney Earl Sanders was charged on August 26, 2016, with two counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of two nuns in Mississippi. 
Mississippi DPS
Rodney Earl Sanders was charged on August 26, 2016, with two counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of two nuns in Mississippi.more +

"Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation,” said Mississippi Bureau of Investigations director Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan in the statement. “With the cooperation of the Durant and Kosciusko Police Departments, Holmes County Sheriff’s Department and the Attorney General Office this heinous crime has been resolved.”
After an "exhaustive interview" Friday night, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations agents were able to develop enough information to charge Sanders, according to the statement.
"Information was developed on his whereabouts during the course of the investigation. Sanders was located, questioned, and then brought into custody and charged," Warren Strain, communications director for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, told ABC News early Saturday morning.
There was no incident when Sanders was arrested.
Strain also told ABC News it is believed Sanders acted alone.
Police initially said the nuns may have been victims of a break-in and car theft. Their bodies were found by police when they did not report to work, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson said.
"She was so good to the people down there and they just loved her," Merrill's sister, Rosemarie Merrill, told ABC affiliate WAPT in Jackson.
Authorities did not release a cause of death but Rev. Greg Plata said police told him the women were stabbed, The AP reported.
A car apparently taken from the nuns' home was found Thursday night about one mile away from the crime scene. The car was taken to the crime lab to be processed.

PHOTO: Police crime scene tape surrounds the residence of two Catholic nuns who worked as nurses and helped the poor in rural Mississippi, and were found slain in their Durant, Miss., home on Aug. 25, 2016.  
Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo
Police crime scene tape surrounds the residence of two Catholic nuns who worked as nurses and helped the poor in rural Mississippi, and were found slain in their Durant, Miss., home on Aug. 25, 2016. more +


PHOTO: Durant Police Chief John Haynes, left, and assistant Police Chief James Lee reassure Lexington Medical Clinic employees that the home of two slain Catholic nuns was being investigated thoroughly on Aug. 25, 2016, in Durant, Mississippi. 
Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo
Durant Police Chief John Haynes, left, and assistant Police Chief James Lee reassure Lexington Medical Clinic employees that the home of two slain Catholic nuns was being investigated thoroughly on Aug. 25, 2016, in Durant, Mississippi.more +

Sanders is “not quite homeless,” but is "nomadic,” said Strain. He split his time between the Mississippi communities of Lexington, Durant, and Kosciusko.
Strain said the public was a great help to the investigation and there is a "good possibility" that the $22,500 reward will be distributed after an intensive vetting process.
Sanders is being held in an undisclosed detention center awaiting his initial court appearance, to be set on Monday, Strain said.
A wake will be held Sunday evening at the St. Thomas Church in Lexington and a memorial mass will be held Monday morning at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.