What Kind of Person Murders a Nun in Her Convent?

| December 4, 2009

The first sign that something was amiss on the Navajo Indian reservation, located along the Arizona-New Mexico border, was when Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, failed to show up for Mass on Sunday, November 1, 2009. Sister Marguerite’s body was discovered lying in a pool of blood when one of her colleagues went to her room to check on her. The New Mexico State Police and the FBI traveled to Navajo, New Mexico to investigate this bizarre case.

Investigators initially said that Sister Marguerite had been killed sometime between Saturday night, which had been Halloween, and Sunday morning. FBI Special Agent Darrin Jones, however, said that he could not reveal any details about how the nun had been killed. Authorities, including officials with the Diocese of Gallup, which runs the parish church in Navajo, did say that they were unsure whether Sister Marguerite or the Church itself was the intended target, or whether the nun's killing was a random act of violence. Diocese officials said that another nun usually lives at the same residence, but she was out of state attending a meeting and Sister Marguerite was home alone.

"She was known to be a woman always passionate for justice and peace, and the life she lived would tell us that she would respond to this incident with a spirit of forgiveness towards whoever is responsible for these acts," read a statement issued by the diocese.

An autopsy showed that Sister Marguerite had suffered trauma from violence, but the authorities declined to be more specific, citing the integrity of the investigation. Investigators also declined to discuss a possible motive, and would only say that it was not a sexual assault nor was it a hate crime.

"The sister from the bingo was murdered," someone told CBS affiliate KRQE-TV in Albuquerque. "She played bingo over here and I knew her. She was a friend of ours."

It was revealed that the nun's beige 2005 Honda CRV with New Jersey license plates was stolen after her death, which added a new dimension to the investigation already underway. It also raised the possibility of motive regarding Sister Marguerite's death.

"We would very much like the public's assistance if they saw anything or heard anything," Jones said. "You never know what little detail may help."

Although the FBI remained tight-lipped about the case, it was revealed that Sister Marguerite's Honda was found about 40 miles away in eastern Arizona on Monday, November 2, 2009. It was taken to Albuquerque where it was processed by the FBI for clues two days later.
Although investigators would not reveal which clues, if any, were found inside the stolen Honda, FBI agents showed up at the home of a friend of 18-year-old Reehahlio Nathan Carroll early the following morning. Carroll was not at the home, but he reportedly showed up there two hours later. A woman at the house refused to allow him inside and called the FBI. According to Navajo police, Carroll was arrested a short time later at a nearby gas station. He was initially charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

The next day, however, federal officials charged Carroll with the "unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought" in Sister Marguerite’s death. If the Navajo Nation allows the government to pursue it, the charge could bring Carroll a death sentence. According to the federal complaint, Carroll told investigators that he broke into Sister Marguerite's home shortly after midnight Sunday looking for cash or other valuables when the sister struck him in the face with a shoe. Afterward, he said he hit her with a flashlight–which knocked her to the floor–then struck her five or six times in the head with the flashlight. He also told the cops that he kicked her in the back and in the face. Carroll then left the room to search for items to steal, but heard the nun screaming.

"In an effort to silence the woman, Reehahlio Carroll took a black shirt that was in the room and, while standing over the woman's body, tied the shirt over the woman's mouth, fastening the shirt with a knot tied at the back of the woman's head," read a portion of the complaint.

A witness came forward and told investigators that Carroll picked up friends in the stolen vehicle on Sunday morning. According to Jones, Carroll and the nun did not know each other.

Carroll remains in custody at this time.



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Category: Church Security

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