Left: Accused murderer Father Gerald Robinson, courtesy of Knoxpages.com
(Toledo, OH) The sight of the mutilated body of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl is the darkest memory in the mind of retired Toledo Police officer Dave Davison.
“It’s one of those things that you can’t get out of your head,” said Davison, who retired after a debilitating car accident in 1990. “Seeing that poor old woman sprawled out in the chapel motivated me to keep up the pressure to see that justice was done.”
Father Gerald Robinson was charged in 2004 with aggravated murder in the death of the nun. His twice-delayed trial is scheduled for April 17 before Common Pleas Judge Thomas J. Osowik.
Davison said that the delays are part of a strategy to “fix” the case.
“What they are doing is waiting for the interest to die until Robinson’s not the flavor of the month any more,” he said. “They are also hoping the guy dies before April so it saves everyone the embarrassment of a public trial.”
Davison has dedicated part of his life to the case, which he calls “one of those that you just can’t let go.”
“Sister Margaret could have been your mother or sister. Imagine that she was related to you; would you then agree to let this man off so easily?”
Davison recently spoke to the Free Press after hearing that prosecutors amended the indictment against Robinson, removing the words “"with prior calculation and design” from the original grand jury indictment.
“The prosecutor’s office, by removing the premeditated murder stipulation, is leaving the door wide open for Robinson to take an Alford plea,” he said. “He’s going to walk. Whatever sentence they do give him, they are going to put him on shock probation. They are not required to make this public, either.”
Left: Sister Margaret Ann Pahl
Citing an existing gag order, neither defense attorneys for Robinson or the prosecutor’s office would comment on the case.
Davison said that he has no illusions that his public criticisms will have any effect on the case.
“Nothing I do or say is going to stop them,” he said. “But I don’t want to sit back and allow them to fix this case without the people of Toledo being aware of what is going on.”
His decision to go public with his criticisms has not been without personal sacrifice.
“I have been threatened with arrest by the prosecutor’s office for speaking out and refusing to play the game their way,” he said. “Also there are a lot of people in the police department who give me the cold shoulder now.”
One of the strangest incidents occurred near his home.
“I had a bunch of Catholic ladies who hunted me down at a restaurant that I used to eat breakfast at every day,” he laughed. “They said they were there to save my soul.”
Davison believes that the brutal nature of the crime leads many people to acquiesce to what he believes are efforts to keep justice from being done.
“Nobody wants to hear about this case because it is so ugly – it involves a priest killing an old woman,” he said. “Even the media wants this hushed up.”
The retired officer believes that high-ranking members of the Toledo Police helped stall the investigation in the 1980s.
“The department always had ‘go-to’ guys who would take care of embarrassing problems for the Church,” he said, declining to name specific persons. “The only reason this case finally got properly investigated was that a new generation of ‘young Turks’ came along and looked into it after I kept bugging them.”
Davison believes that any backroom dealings between the prosecutor’s office and defense attorneys before the trial date will likely be managed with a well-orchestrated script.
“I believe that they will set this up to happen around a four-day weekend, and they will have an unannounced hearing late on a Friday evening,” he said. “That way they will have a long weekend for everyone to forget about the rotten deal that was made.”
The above article also appears in this week's Toledo Free Press.