Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, August 31, 2009

Murdering priest is dealt another blow; Clergy sex victims respond

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)

What next? Will Robinson's lawyers want to test O.J. Simpson's DNA? When will they finally accept the jury's verdict that this priest murdered a nun?

We hope this finding will prod the few who insist Robinson is innocent to re-think their conclusions and move on to more productive efforts to help the innocent and the wounded, rather than to free a properly convicted murderer.

We also hope Toledo's bishop will talk with Robinson's small but vocal band of supporters and urge them to show some compassion to Sr. Pahl's family and temper their public remarks and actions in this case.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)

Article published August 31, 2009

DNA in nun case still unclear
Test on priest's behalf rules out serial killer in 1980 murder


The DNA of notorious serial killer Coral Eugene Watts does not match a sample found on the fingernails of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, dealing another blow to Toledo priest Gerald Robinson's efforts to overturn his conviction in the nun's 1980 murder.

Watts, who died of prostate cancer in Jackson, Mich., in 2007 at age 53, confessed to killing a dozen women in Texas and is suspected in the deaths of 80 more women in several states and Canada.

The Ohio Innocence Project, which joined Robinson's defense team in April, ordered the latest DNA test comparing Watts' sample with a minuscule amount of male chromosome found on the nun's fingernails.

Results of the DNA test, which costs about $1,500, recently came back negative.

"I would have been shocked" if they matched, said Thomas Staff, an investigator for the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office.

John Donahue, one of Robinson's defense attorneys, also said he had not expected a match.

"To be honest with you, I never gave a thought to Coral Watts as being the killer in this case," he said.

"What we're doing is what should have been done before trial: exercising due diligence to rule people out."

The Perrysburg attorney said he met last week with Robinson at Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio, where the priest is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence.

"He's doing well. He's basically found a new ministry," Mr. Donahue said.

"His health is good. People down there love him."

Richard Kerger, another Robinson attorney, said the negative DNA result with Watts does not change the defense's contention that their client is innocent.

This was the second time in two months the Ohio Innocence Project ordered tests of the male chromosomes found on the nun's fingernails.

In July, the DNA was found to not match that of the Rev. Jerome Swiatecki, a deceased Toledo diocesan priest whom Robinson's attorneys assert could have been the killer.

Father Swiatecki, who died in 1996 at age 82, served with Robinson as a chaplain at the hospital where the nun was slain.

Watts was investigated in 1981 as a possible suspect in Sister Margaret Ann's murder as well as the slayings of several other females in the Toledo area, Mr. Staff said.

But investigators found no evidence that he ever had been in Toledo, and Watts almost always targeted young females, Mr. Staff said.

Sister Margaret Ann would have turned 72 the day after her April 5, 1980, murder.

In addition, Watts cooperated with law-enforcement officials in Texas and told them he never had killed or assaulted anyone in Toledo, Mr. Staff said.

A Houston detective told Mr. Staff in 1981 that he was "90 percent certain" Watts was telling the truth.

Watts lived in Michigan before drifting into Canada in 1980, where he was suspected in four murders. In 1981, he moved to Texas, where he was arrested.

Mr. Staff said Watts was never a serious suspect in Sister Margaret Ann's murder, "but in today's vernacular, you'd call him a 'person of interest.'•"

The nun was grabbed from behind, choked nearly to death, covered with an altar cloth, and stabbed 31 times in the sacristy next to the hospital's chapel.

Robinson, 71, was arrested in 2004 and found guilty of murder on May 11, 2006. The conviction in Lucas County Common Pleas Court was upheld by the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals in July, 2008, and in December, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Defense attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and also filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

The Ohio Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic based at the University of Cincinnati's College of Law, joined Robinson's defense team solely for issues relating to DNA.

Dean Mandros, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor's office, said his office has pledged its full cooperation with the Innocence Project.

"We have no problem with cooperating fully because we're exceptionally confident that the right person was arrested," he said.

At the time of Sister Margaret Ann's murder, DNA was not being used as a forensic tool and no precautions were taken to prevent DNA contamination at the crime scene.

After her death, Sister Margaret Ann's fingernails were clipped and placed in an envelope. The 10 individual nail clippings were later dissolved into a solution that produced 37 picograms - or 37 trillionths of a gram - of male DNA.

The person whose DNA was found on the nails has not been identified. The DNA sample was so small, prosecutors said, that it could have been deposited by a brief touch, sneeze, cough, perspiration, or someone's breath.

Contact David Yonke at: or 419-724-7154.

DNA test doesn't tie serial killer to nun's murder

The Associated Press 9:06 AM Monday, August 31, 2009

TOLEDO, Ohio — An independent DNA test has failed to connect a serial killer to the 1980 death of an Ohio nun, whom a jury said was murdered by a Roman Catholic priest.

Attorneys for Rev. Gerald Robinson are trying to overturn his 2006 conviction and 15-years-to-life prison sentence. The Ohio Innocence Project ordered testing of male DNA found on the victim's fingernails to see if there was a match to Coral Eugene Watts, a confessed serial killer who died two years ago. Police said he may have been responsible for dozens of deaths in several states.

The test results recently came back negative.

Previous analysis found the DNA was not Robinson's.

Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was strangled and stabbed in a Toledo hospital chapel where she and Robinson both worked.


Information from: The Blade,

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests