Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Defense fund set up for accused priest

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

TOLEDO - Parishioners have started collecting money to pay the legal bills and bail for a Roman Catholic priest charged with the 1980 killing of a nun.

"I would do anything for him," Mary Ann Plewa, the priest's distant cousin, said Monday.

"... He couldn't have lived 24 years and had that on his mind."

The Rev. Gerald Robinson, 66, was charged Friday with killing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, who was strangled and stabbed about 30 times on Easter weekend in 1980. Her body was found in a hospital chapel, surrounded by lit candles with her arms folded across her chest. Robinson later performed the funeral for the 71-year-old nun.

He appeared tired and unshaven during an initial appearance Monday in Toledo Municipal Court. He did not enter a plea to the murder charge. Judge Mary Trimboli set bond at $200,000.

Robinson, wearing a brown jail jumpsuit, said nothing during the brief hearing. His lawyer, John Thebes, told the judge his client was not a flight risk.

Thebes said he was hopeful that enough money would be raised to get Robinson out of the county jail.

Members of St. Anthony church, where Robinson was a pastor after the nun's death, were setting up a legal defense fund for him.

Investigators re-examined the nun's killing after a woman told a Diocesan Review Board in June that she was sexually and physically abused as a child by Toledo priests during her childhood.

Authorities said that while they could not substantiate the woman's allegations, her mention of Robinson spurred police to take another look at the nun's death.

The arrest warrant filed for Robinson said an "instrument with unique characteristics" associated with Pahl's wounds was found in Robinson's possession after the death.

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