TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A Roman Catholic priest sent to prison nearly seven years ago for killing a nun inside a hospital chapel has lost another bid for a new trial.
A state appeals court rejected Rev. Gerald Robinson's request to throw out his conviction in the strangling and stabbing of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl during Easter weekend in 1980.
Robinson, who presided at the nun's funeral, emerged as a suspect when police found what they called the murder weapon, a sword-shaped letter opener, in his desk drawer two weeks after the killing at the hospital where both worked. But he wasn't charged until 24 years later after investigators reopened the case.
He was convicted in 2006 and is now serving a sentence of 15 years to life. According to church historians it's the only documented case of a Catholic priest killing a nun.
Ohio's Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo last week rejected the appeal by Robinson's attorney who said that police reports discovered after the priest's conviction could have changed the outcome. The attorney argued that a now-deceased serial killer could have been the one who killed the nun.
Police reports showed that six people saw a mysterious black man near the hospital chapel where Pahl was killed, Robinson's attorney Richard Kerger said. Descriptions of the man were similar to that of a confessed serial killer who lived in nearby Michigan, he said.
DNA tests failed to connect the serial killer with the nun's death.
Prosecutors dismissed the theory, saying the priest's original attorneys didn't think there was a connection. They also said evidence against the priest was overwhelming, pointing out that Robinson had the letter opener in his possession and that he lied about where he was the morning of the killing.
Kerger told The Blade that he plans to appeal the latest decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court three years ago turned down an appeal by the priest that said he didn't get a fair trial because his arrest came so long after the nun's killing.