Mississippi Nuns Stabbed to Death, Suspect in Custody

By Faye Higbee

Durant, Holmes County – Two Mississippi nuns were stabbed to death in their home, their bodies found Thursday morning when they failed to show up at a clinic where they worked. The suspect, Rodney Earl Sanders, is in custody charged with capital murder.

Poverty-stricken area, little healthcare

Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held were instrumental in assisting the Holmes County area with healthcare. In one of the most impoverished ares of the entire country, they were a lifeline for residents. They worked at a health clinic in Lexington, about 10 minutes from Durant.

“Unbridled love and care for mankind has been met with unparalleled savagery. These faithful nuns worked tirelessly at the Lexington Medical Clinic to make the Holmes County community and Mississippi a better place to live.” Delbert Hosemann, MS Secretary of State

But on Thursday morning, they were both found dead in their home in the small town of Durant, Mississippi, after failing to show up for work at the Lexington clinic.

mississippi nuns

Sister Paula (left) and Sister Margaret (right)- photo courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

“They were the most beautiful women that have drawn a breath into their bodies.” Jamie Sample, who knew them

Beloved nurse practitioners

The Catholic nuns were both 68 years old, and were Nurse Practitioners in Holmes county, population around 18,000.
The Daily Mail reported that they provided about 25% of the healthcare in the county, “gave flu shots, dispensed insulin and provided other medical care for children and adults who couldn’t afford it.”

Many said their patients would be lost without them. So will their churches.

“…The killer robbed not only the School Sisters of St. Francis, but also the entire Church of a woman whose life was spent in service.” Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki

Sister Margaret was part of the Sisters of St Francis, and Sister Paula was from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Their lives were ones of service to the community. The details and motive for this crime have not been released.

“The crime scene was one of the worst I’ve ever seen.” Dexter Howard, Holmes County Coroner


After what was described as an “exhaustive interview,” police arrested Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, for the murder. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety Released the following statement:

Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of 210 Aponaug Road, Kosciusko has been charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of two nuns in Durant earlier this week. After an exhaustive interview Friday evening, MBI agents were able to develop enough information to charge Sanders.

“Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation,” said MBI Director Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan. “With the cooperation of the Durant and Kosciusko Police Departments, Holmes County Sheriff’s Department and the Attorney General Office this heinous crime has been resolved.”

Sanders is being held in an undisclosed detention center awaiting his initial court appearance.


Rodney Earl Sanders, suspect in the brutal slaying of two Catholic nuns, photo from Mississippi Department of Public Safety