March 06, 2005

Secret archives at heart of dispute

Toledo Blade

blade staff writer

On a warm September afternoon, three Toledo detectives and a Lucas County prosecutor marched through the front door of the Toledo Catholic diocese and - over the objections of a startled receptionist - loaded into an elevator and punched the button to the fourth floor.

They were carrying a four-page search-and-seizure order signed by a judge, and their abrupt appearance at the downtown office of Bishop Leonard Blair marked a hairpin turn in what had been a cordial relationship between diocesan officials and criminal authorities investigating the 1980 killing of an elderly nun.

"Their communication prior to the search warrants was pretty open and free-flowing between us," the Rev. Michael Billian, episcopal vicar and the diocese's top administrator, recalled of the unprecedented search.

Their target that day: the church's most-secret files - documents that investigators had hoped might contain clues to a 1980 slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl and the man charged in her death: the Rev. Gerald Robinson.

Emerging from his office, Bishop Blair told investigators that such papers simply didn't exist.

But police, who removed 148 documents bearing the murder suspect's name, weren't convinced. Two days later, they returned with a second court order to search the office of the second most-powerful man in the 19-county diocese: Father Billian.

Posted by kshaw at March 6, 2005 07:41 AM