Gerald Robinson, the Toledo Catholic priest who was convicted in 2006 of murdering a nun 26 years earlier, suffered a severe heart attack and has been moved to a prison hospice in Columbus, according to his attorney.
Rick Kerger, who has represented Robinson in a series of appeals since 2010, said the 76-year-old priest suffered the heart attack over the weekend and is not expected to recover. He said Robinson requested last rites from a priest on Saturday. Kerger is petitioning authorities to have Robinson moved to Toledo so that he can “die at home.”
Robinson was convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on May 11, 2006, for the brutal murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, a 71-year-old nun who was attacked in the sacristy of the former Mercy Hospital near downtown Toledo on Holy Saturday, 1980. The petite, elderly nun had been choked nearly to death and then stabbed 32 times in the neck, chest, and face. The killer left Sister Pahl lying on the floor of the sacristy, adjacent to the hospital chapel, partly naked, where her body was discovered by another nun.
Detectives who investigated the murder in 1980 said that within a week Robinson was their sole suspect. But he was not arrested until April, 2004, after another Toledo nun testified before the diocesan review board that she had been abused as a child by members of a cult that included Robinson. Her testimony reached the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which ordered the Lucas County Cold Case Squad to look into her allegations.
Evidence from 1980 was dusted off and after police renewed their investigation, Robinson was arrested and charged with murder in April, 2004. He subsequently was convicted and received a 15-years-to-life sentence. He most recently was incarcerated at the Ohio Southeastern Correctional Institution in Lancaster, Ohio.
In his appeals, Robinson’s attorneys asserted among other things that an unidentified man spotted in the hospital’s hallway on the morning of the murder could have been a known serial killer, Coral Eugene Watts, who had been living in the Detroit area at the time. Lucas County law-enforcement officials rejected that argument, however, saying Watts had confessed to stabbing numerous women to death before he died in a Michigan prison in 2007, but asserted that he had never set foot in Toledo.
Robinson’s appeals in 2009 reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. His attorneys then pursued an amendment for post-conviction relief.
Kerger said he does not plan to continue the appeals process if Robinson passes away.
Robinson was suspended by former Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair but has never been laicized, or defrocked, and remains an ordained priest.