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Mississippi man arrested in stabbing death of two nuns

Sister Paula J. Merrill, left, and Sister Margaret M. Held, right, were found stabbed to death on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, at their home in central Mississippi. Police are investigating the case as a robbery that escalated into murder. Merrill photo courtesy of Sisters of Charity. Held photo courtesy of Michael O’Loughlin/School Sisters of St. Francis

A Mississippi man with a history of armed robbery and theft has been arrested and charged in the stabbing deaths of two Roman Catholic nuns at their home earlier this week, but no motive has yet been determined, according to local authorities.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, faces two counts of capital murder in the deaths of two nuns in Durant in rural central Mississippi, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement late Friday (Aug. 26).

“Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation,” Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Director Jimmy Jordan said.


RELATED STORY: Two nuns found stabbed to death in Mississippi


Sanders’ motive was unclear, said Willie March, sheriff of Holmes County, Miss., where the suspect is being held until his initial court appearance.

March said in a phone interview that Sanders has a history of robbery and theft. He is thought to have stolen the victims’ car.

Both victims were nuns who worked at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi. Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held were found stabbed to death by a co-worker on Thursday after they failed to show up at work, police told local media.

The victims’ car was discovered less than a mile from their home, according to a CNN report. Initially local press said authorities indicated robbery as a potential motive, but the report said nothing was taken from the house.

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Jerome Socolovsky

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