Paula was an angel," says Joe Morgan Jr., of
Lexington, Miss., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, standing at a
businesses adjacent to the Lexington Medical Clinic
where he was a patient of Sister Paula Merrill, one of
two nurse practitioners who were found slain Thursday
in their Durant, Miss., home, a few miles away.
Merrill and Sister Margaret Held, were known for their
kindness and community involvement in the mostly rural
Mississippi Delta towns.
Miss. — The two nuns who were killed in Mississippi were
by all accounts some of the most friendly, helpful people in
town, cooking and caring for anyone in their poor community
— making the slayings all the more puzzling.
was found abandoned a mile away from their home, and there
were signs of a break-in, but police haven't released any
leads or suspects in the investigation.
both 68 and nurse practitioners, were found dead Thursday
morning when they didn't report to work at the nearby clinic
where they provided flu shots, insulin and other medical
care for children and adults who couldn't afford it.
identified as Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill.
Jr., 58, went to Lexington Medical Clinic on Friday in hopes
of talking to grieving staff members, but a handwritten sign
in the front door said the clinic was closed until Monday.
diabetic who has been on medical disability for the last
decade, was Merrill's patient and last saw her about four
doesn't deserve to die like this, doing God's work," he
said, shaking his head outside the clinic.
Paula would want me to forgive them," Morgan said of
whoever killed the sisters. "Right now, I don't see no
forgiveness on my heart."
Police Chief John Haynes, left, and assistant Police
Chief James Lee reassure Lexington Medical Clinic
employees Lisa Dew, right, and Viola Turner, seated,
that the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was
giving the home of two slain Catholic nuns who worked
as nurses at the clinic a through crime scene
investigation, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Durant. The
clinic office manager and a Durant police officer
discovered their bodies inside the house after both
nuns did not report for work. Authorities said there
were signs of a break-in and their vehicle was
did not release a cause of death, but the Rev. Greg Plata
said police told him the nuns were stabbed. Autopsies were
to be done Friday.
were two of the sweetest, most gentle women you can imagine.
Their vocation was helping the poor," said Plata, who
oversees a 35-member Catholic church the sisters attended.
Smith, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson,
said there were signs of a break-in at the home in Durant
and the nuns' car was taken.
abandoned Toyota Corolla was found undamaged late Thursday,
barely a mile from the home and authorities were looking for
clues inside it.
the clinic provided about 25 percent of all the medical care
in the county, which has a population of about 18,000,
according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for July 2015.
nuns provided almost all the care at the clinic and
cultivated relationships with drug company representatives,
who often left extra free samples, according to clinic
manager Lisa Dew.
think their absence is going to be felt for a long, long
time. Holmes County, it's one of the poorest in the
state," Dew said. "There's a lot of people here
who depended on them for their care and their medicines.
It's going to be rough."
passes along Mississippi Highway 12 that runs adjacent
to the closed Lexington Medical Clinic where Sister
Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both nurse
practitioners worked, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 in
Lexington, Miss. The two women, who worked in the
rural Mississippi Delta, were found slain in their
home in neighboring Durant, Miss., Thursday.
didn't release a motive and it wasn't clear if the nuns'
religious work had anything to do with the slayings.
Chief John Haynes said officers were canvassing the area and
trying to look at video from surveillance cameras in town to
see if they spot anything unusual.
Catholic community in Mississippi is relatively small. Of
nearly 3 million people, the diocese said there are about
been a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in
Milwaukee for 49 years "and lived her ministry caring
for and healing the poor," a statement from the order
Archbishop Jerome Listecki said whoever killed Held
"robbed not only the School Sisters of St. Francis, but
also the entire Church of a woman whose life was spent in
Greg Plata, speaks outside the St. Thomas Catholic
Church that he pastors Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 in
Lexington, Miss., about the community loss with the
murders of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula
Merrill, both nurse practitioners in the town. The two
women, who worked in the rural Mississippi Delta, were
found slain in their home in neighboring Durant,
worked in Mississippi for more than 30 years, according to
the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky. She was from
Massachusetts and joined the order in 1979.
later, she moved south and found her calling in the
Mississippi Delta community, according to a 2010 article in
The Journey, a publication by the Sisters of Charity of
children and adults, and helped in other ways.
more social work than medicine sometimes," Merrill told
The Journey. "Sometimes patients are looking for a
Hurricane Katrina left much of the town without power for
weeks in 2005, the sisters allowed people to come to their
house to cook because they had a gas stove, neighbor
Patricia Wyatt-Weatherly said.
skilled in stretching resources, and routinely produced
amazing dishes out of what seemed like a very small garden
at their home, said Sam Sample, lay leader of St. Thomas
Catholic Church in Lexington, where the sisters were
members. The small congregation called off its weekly Bible
study and meal Thursday night.
would do anything for anybody. Folks in Holmes County don't
realize the impact it will have without them being
here," Sample said.