Durant, Mississippi — Durant, population 2,673, is a small agricultural town in central Mississippi. Located in the heart of the deep south with a land area of only 2.2 square miles, you can safely say that nothing much happens in this sleepy little town.
But when two Catholic nuns were found stabbed to death in their homes, residents were forced to face the violent reality that has stricken much larger cities across the country.
Here are the 5 Fast Facts we know so far about this senseless murder:
1Two Nuns Have Been Found Murdered in a Small Mississippi Town
Two catholic nuns have been brutally murdered in their shared home in Durant, a small town northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. Authorities report that both women had been repeatedly stabbed, although they did not confirm whether this was the cause of death,
Sister Paula Merrill was a nurse practitioner with Sisters of Charity of Nazareth based in Kentucky, as too was Sister Margaret Held, having been a nurse practitioner with the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee. They both devoted their lives to providing medical services to underprivileged families.
Both women were 68 and had been helping to treat countless patients at Lexington Medical Clinic in the nearby Holmes County.
2Both Nuns Were Friendly and Caring Members of their Community
Merrill and Held shared a home together in Durant, Mississippi, where they were considered friendly and caring members of the small community. Locals have been grieving the loss, taking the time to mention just how liked the women were.
Sam Sample, a lay leader of the St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, also spoke highly of the two women, who were members of his congregation, saying that:
“They would do anything for anybody. Folks in Holmes County don’t realize the impact it will have without them being here”
Rev. Greg Plata, a priest at St Thomas, spoke of the kind nature of the two women.
“They were two of the sweetest, most gentle women you can imagine. Their vocation was helping the poor”
Rosalind McChriston-Williams, a nurse that worked alongside the women at UMMC Holmes County, said:
“They were earthly angels with hearts of pure gold”
3Their Missing Car Was Found Abandoned
The two nuns shared a blue Toyota Prius that was reportedly missing upon the discovery of their bodies. It was later found almost a mile away from their home according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, who have said that the vehicle was found abandoned in a secluded street.
They reported that police had found the vehicle at 6.45pm on Thursday, the day both woman were found dead in their shared home. It is said that no damage was apparent, and that the car will be towed to a state crime lab located near Jackson for further analysis.
4Authorities Suspect Robbery as the Motive for the Killings
While there are few details about the crime, local authorities believe that robbery may have been the motive for the horrific stabbings. Both Durant Police and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are conducting the on-going investigations, with the MBI revealing that their bodies were discovered at 10.30am by a co-worker who was checking on them after they failed to appear for work.
The bodies have since been transferred to the state crime lab where pathologists will be able to conduct a full autopsy, which should reveal more details about the crime.
5A $22,500 Reward Has Been Issued for Any Information that Could Lead to the Murderer
There are currently no known suspects for the crime, which has prompted the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to offer a $22,500 reward for anyone that can provide information that leads to the killer.
Authorities are trying to piece together any connection between the victims and killer. Holmes County Sheriff Willie March alluded to the fact there isn’t much information available at the moment, including how many killers could potentially be involved.
“It’s hard to say if it was one person or more than one,” he said. “I almost want to say it’s one because not too many people are talking about it. When it’s one person, it’s harder to track down than when it’s two or three people.”
He went on to say that killing the women may not have been the intention even though their deaths were of a violent nature. He said,
“If they didn’t give up what (the attacker) wanted, it could turn violent,”
UPDATE: Rodney Sanders, 46, Has Been Arrested and Charged With 2 Counts of Capital Murder!
Rodney Sanders, 46, a resident of Kosciusko, was temporarily living in a metal shed across the street from the nuns. Police say he offered to mow their lawn days prior to the murders, but the nuns declined. Police aren’t sure why he was living in the metal shed or how well he knew the nuns.
Sanders’ wife still lives in Kosciusko, and show up in court for his arraignment. She broke down in tears and said:
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say to y’all,” she said. “I’m so sorry. … I’m so sorry. I can’t take this. Oh, my God.”
Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a statement:
“Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation, 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.”