Two nuns, Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill were found slain at their home in Durant, Miss., after they didn’t report to their nursing jobs at the Lexington Medical Center. The Jackson-based Clarion Ledger said the two were stabbed to death in what appears to be a robbery.
Durant Assistant Police Chief James Lee told the Associated Press it was too early to tell how the women were killed, but it doesn’t appear they were shot.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson told the AP there were signs of a break-in and the nuns’ car was missing. The Clarion Ledger reports authorities have found the missing car, a blue Toyota Corolla, undamaged, on a secluded street a mile from the nuns’ home. State police towed the car to a crime lab for analysis.
The duo ministered together in Mississippi for 30 years, according to Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
Here’s what you need to know about Sisters Held and Merrll:
1. Reports State the Nuns Were Stabbed to Death, But the Motive is Unclear
The two nuns lived together in Holmes County, Miss., where they were found dead. Although initial reports claim it was too early to tell what happened, the Clarion Ledger reports the nuns were stabbed to death.
According to the AP, Maureen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, said the nuns’ home on Castalian Springs Road was broken into and their car was missing.
MSNewsNow reports police showed up at the home around 10 a.m. after request of a wellness check.
2. The Two Served as Nurse Practitioners & Treated Everyone, Regardless of Ability to Pay
Working as nurse practitioners, Sisters Merrill and Held were known for serving everyone, regardless of background or ability to pay.
“We just see patients and do what needs to be done,” she said in this video:
“These were the two sweetest sisters you could imagine,” said Father Greg Plata, who serves as priest at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington. “It’s so senseless.”
Merrill told the Journey, a Catholic publication, “We simply do what we can wherever God places us,” she said.
3. Sister Paula Merrill Was from Massachusetts & Felt ‘Called’ to Mississippi
“I’ve been a nurse forever,” Sister Merrill told the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth publication.
Merrill said she moved to Mississippi, where she has worked in the health care industry for 30 years, after feeling a connection to the people there. She was born and raised in Massachusetts.
“We do more social work than medicine sometimes,” she told the Journey. “Sometimes patients are looking for a counselor.”
4. Sister Margaret Held Was from Milwaukee, Where She Was a Nurse Practitioner with the School Sisters of St. Francis
Held was originally from Milwaukee, where she was a nurse practitioner with the School Sisters of St. Francis.
“It certainly is disparate poor,” Held told the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth publication. “Over 40 percent of the population live below the poverty line. “What really appalls me is 60 percent of the children live in poverty.”
In a School Sisters of St. Francis newsletter, Held was mentioned as part of “Project Mississippi” where one nun plugged the needs of the rural Jackson community with people who could provide supplies. Another publication said Held received the funds she needed “to cover the annual subscription fees for the clinic’s use of electronic medical records.
“This will allow practitioners at Sister Margaret’s clinic to access the medical and clinical data to track information, identify patients who are due for preventative care, monitor patient measurements such as blood pressure readings, and improve the clinic’s overall quality of care,” it reads.
“These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi. They absolutely loved the people in their community,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, according to the Journal Sentinel. “We mourn with the people of Lexington and Durant and we pray for the Sisters of Charity, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the families left behind.”
5. Local & State Authorities Are Investigating the Homicides, Motives
Authorities haven’t released a motive yet, but they are investigating the crime, which they believe is a robbery.
According to the Clarion Ledger, Durant police and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are leading the investigation.
Father Greg Plata told the Clarion Ledger the women’s bodies were sent to the state crime lab, where autopsies will be performed.