/Murder of nuns shatters a small town’s innocence

Murder of nuns shatters a small town’s innocence

DURANT — It seemed as though no one had locked their doors in the small town of 2,500 residents in Holmes County until last Thursday. Even the news of the murders Sister Margaret Held, and Sister Paula Merrill broke slowly. There were no reports from neighbors that they heard any sirens or commotion. They reported hearing two police cars slowly rolling down the street. A few hours later yellow police tape was applied to the yard where Sister Margaret used Saturdays to garden. Signs of mourning were seen throughout the community as Robert Earl Sanders was arrested and remanded without bail. Since Friday, the Lexington Medical Clinic where both women were nurse practitioners has been closed. Two funeral sprays were hung on the doors of the Lexington Medical Clinic, while a small bouquet was placed inside the door handle. Someone else had made a temporary memorial outside the women’s house with candles and flowers. On Monday, those closest to the nuns traveled to Jackson to attend their funerals. Many in the town said that the nuns were usually quiet, but they were still shocked that two people who have given so much to this community could be convicted of such a brutal crime. Bridget Hood, a Fred’s pharmacy technician, said that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula were “the nicest people” in the most desirable part of town. She had been working with Sister Margaret since she began her job 15 years ago. Hood and Charlie Bell, Fred’s pharmacist, claimed that the nuns helped patients pay for prescriptions they wrote. They would often purchase the prescriptions for their patients if they couldn’t find a lower price or negotiate a discount from a pharmacist. Hood stated that it was a huge loss for the community. Hood said, “They helped many people here. This is a poor neighborhood. More than a third live below the poverty level. Many houses on Held’s and Merrills’ block, which are described as some of the most beautiful in town by many, need to be repainted. A sign advertising a three-bedroom Victorian for $18,000 is posted around Jackson Street. It’s also a place where people stop to wave at anyone, even strangers. Because all students walk to school, there is no school bus. Bell claims that the last time Durant saw a murder suspect was over ten years ago. He was driving through.” Sanders is also not from Durant. He is a Kosciusko resident. His neighbors claim he was staying with his friends, who live right across from Held and Merrill. Although police have not yet identified a motive for the incident, many neighbors believe Sanders remained on this quiet street. Milton McGee lives just two houses away from Merrill and Held. He claimed that the nuns had been kind to his son, his mother and wife. Sanders, he claimed, arrived just a few months ago and gave him an instant bad vibe. He was the only adult who would wander down the street during the day. McGee stated, “Dude was drunk.” McGee said, “I am the loudest man on the street and I keep quiet. I will play music from my car but that’s all. This dude was a —-. He’d pass through,” Jason Davis and Kamesha Johnson, his fiance, said of Sanders that he seemed off. “Who would do such a thing? Davis stated, “Just kill nuns and nice folks.” He said, “I think everybody feels a lot better now they caught him… I don’t believe anything like this will ever happen again.” Davis might be the exception. Johnson and many others, including his fiancée, stated that their faith in their community as a safe haven was shaken even after Sanders’s arrest. They helped people and this is what happens. Hood stated, “It makes you think.” Hood said, “I’m going to tell you now, next person’s standing there on the side road and needs assistance, I’m going to keep going.”