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Woman whose body was exhumed after 54 years to find her killer

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Joyce Malecki is a young American office worker from Baltimore, Maryland, who found herself at the centre of a haunting narrative. Her life took a tragic turn on November 11, 1969, when she mysteriously vanished, only to be discovered lifeless two days later at the Soldier Park training area of Fort Meade.

The intricacies surrounding Joyce Malecki’s disappearance, the subsequent autopsy and the interconnected events have not only left an enduring mark on her family but have also become a subject of exploration in the Netflix documentary, “The Keepers”.

Who is Joyce Malecki?

Joyce Malecki

Joyce Helen Malecki, born on June 12, 1949, was an office worker from Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States of America, and was employed as a liquor distributor. She went missing on November 11, 1969. Her lifeless body was discovered two days later at the Soldier Park training area of Fort Meade. Her murder case remains unsolved.

Malecki was the child of Casimir Malecki Sr. and Doris Marion Johnson. She had three brothers: Donald Joseph, Darryl and Pat.

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What happened to Joyce Malecki?

Joyce Malecki's face

On November 11, 1969, Malecki embarked on a shopping trip at Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie. She donned a brown turtleneck sweater and plaid slacks, intending to meet her boyfriend stationed at Fort Meade for a date but she never arrived. Malecki’s disappearance coincided with that of Cathy Cesnik, a Catholic nun from Archbishop Keough High School, just four days prior.

Two days after going missing, Malecki’s body was discovered partially submerged on the bank of the Little Patuxent River at Fort Meade’s Soldier Park training area by two hunters constructing a deer blind. She was found with her hands tied behind her back and her body marked with scratches and bruises, indicative of a struggle with her assailant.

The autopsy carried out by Dr. Isidore Mihalakis revealed the cause of death as either choking or drowning. A single deep knife wound in Malecki’s throat was insufficient for fatality, accompanied by approximately 15 superficial cuts on her neck and abrasions on her forehead, nose and chin.

In 1994, former Keough students, Jean Hargadon Wehner and Teresa Lancaster, who claimed to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Father Joseph Maskell, filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. Wehner reported to the Baltimore County Police Department that Maskell had taken her to a wooded area and showed her Cesnik’s body. This led to the reopening of Cesnik’s case by the BCPD, investigating a potential connection with Malecki’s case.

Following news reports about Maskell’s alleged actions, the police received numerous calls providing information about Cesnik’s murder. It was revealed that Malecki had spent time around Maskell.

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Joyce Malecki documentary

Joyce Malecki documentary

A renewed interest was triggered in the cases after the release of the Netflix documentary series, The Keepers, in May 2017. The documentary explored the murders of Malecki and Cesnik, a teacher who vanished four days before Malecki.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has concluded the exhumation of Malecki’s body, who was the subject of The Keepers. The bureau conducted the exhumation at Loudon Park Cemetery and acknowledged the collaboration of the Malecki family, the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and Loudon Park Cemetery.

Several women from Keough in the late 1960s and early 1970s allege rape by faculty members Rev. Neil Magnus and Rev. A. Joseph Maskell. The priests, now deceased, reportedly targeted vulnerable girls based on confessions, luring them into private sessions for counselling where they were drugged and assaulted.

According to the Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s report, 39 individuals accused Maskell of abuse at Keough and other institutions.

The Malecki family attended St. Clement Catholic Church, residing near the church rectory where Maskell lived when Joyce Malecki disappeared. While there is proximity, Malecki’s brother does not necessarily believe a connection exists between his sister’s and Sister Cathy’s killings.

The Malecki family experienced a glimmer of hope as FBI investigators exhumed Malecki’s body, intensifying efforts to identify her assailant. This is due to the advancement in DNA technology. Malecki’s brother says they are hopeful that the FBI has found something, and they are praying for answers.

Darryl, along with other family members, attended the exhumation, joined by his eldest brother, who initially identified their sister’s body in 1969.

“Your mind starts racing,” he reflected. “Contemplating what she could have achieved, where she might be… it’s an emotional experience.”

Kurt Wolfgang, the executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, noted that investigators seemed focused on extracting DNA from Malecki’s remains, although the specific objective remains unclear.

Wolfgang, collaborating with the Malecki family, attributes the renewed interest in the case to an investigator on their staff.

Joyce Malecki autopsy

As stated earlier, Malecki’s post-mortem examination was overseen by Dr. Isidore Mihalakis.

The autopsy findings revealed that Malecki’s demise resulted from either choking or drowning. Her lifeless body, discovered partially submerged on the bank of the Little Patuxent River at Fort Meade’s Soldier Park training area, exhibited clear signs of a struggle. Her hands were bound behind her back, and visible scratches and bruises indicated a confrontation with her assailant.

Notably, a single profound knife wound in her throat was identified, though deemed insufficient to be the primary cause of death. Approximately 15 superficial cuts adorned her neck, accompanied by abrasions on her forehead, nose, and chin.

This examination, conducted under U.S. federal jurisdiction due to the location of her body, stands as a critical component of the ongoing FBI investigation.

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