BALTIMORE — "The Keepers" premiered on Netflix, on May 19th, 2017, bringing worldwide attention to the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The series also renewed the investigations into the murders of two women, Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki.
It started with a freelance journalist, Tom Nugent. Nearly 20 years ago, Nugent had been calling many former students from the now-closed Archbishop Keough High School, for a story on Sister Cesnik, who was murdered in 1969. One of those calls went to a retired Baltimore County teacher, Gemma Hoskins.
“I always felt like there was some reason for me to be here and I didn't know what it was. I think this is it,” Hoskins said, in a recent interview.
The call led Hoskins and Keough graduate, Abbie Schaub, to start their own research into Sister Cathy's murder. Their work is featured prominently, in "The Keepers.”
“I'm determined that if there is something I can do in my lifetime to change things, I think the keepers has already changed society quite a bit,” Hoskins said.
After the series premiered, messages started to arrive from around the world with new information. Hoskins and Schaub looked into each of those tips, and the tips have kept coming in for the past five years.
“We’re not going to let this go,” Hoskins said.
In “The Keepers” another Keough graduate - Jean Hargadon-Wehner - talked on camera about her abuse by two priests, Neil Magnus and Joseph Maskell, and other men at the school. She also talked about what happened after Sister Cathy found out about it.
“I can still feel her touch my cheek, said Hargadon-Wehner, in a recent interview. “And I can hear Cathy saying 'I told you I'd take care of this' and I said, I didn't think you meant 20 years later”
Hargadon-Wehner's new book "Walking With Aletheia" details her healing process, and what she's learned from - she says - communicating with several different aspects of her personality.
“I don't understand what happens on the other side,” she said. “I do believe in so many other things than I ever did before. But I can whole-heartedly say, Cathy has been very much a part of all this.”
No one, not even fellow Keough graduates, knew that Jean Hargadon-Wehner was the so-called "Jane Doe" who came forward in the early 1990's and accused the Archdiocese of Baltimore of allowing the abuse to continue. Another woman, Teresa Lancaster, also came forward. She was "Jane Roe" in that ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit.
They revealed themselves in "The Keepers" thanks to documentary filmmakers Ryan White and Jessica Hargrave.
“I think that the impact of The Keepers has far exceeded our expectations,” Hargrave said. “We had no idea that people would still be talking about it five years later, and that people would still be watching it five years later.”
Ryan White's aunt attended Archbishop Keough High School, and had stayed in touch with Jean Hargadon-Wehner. Nearly 10 years ago the filmmakers started to meet with her; this was long before Netflix got involved.
“The amount of people that have seen The Keepers now is mind-blowing around the world,” White said. “And you know it really just began as us with our camera, taking these trips to Baltimore not knowing that it would ever even become anything.”
The filmmakers said they were not trying to solve the murder of Sister Cathy, or the murder of Joyce Malecki, which is also featured in the series.
“So we didn't want to set that as our bar,” Hargrave said. “For us, our bar was more about bringing these women’s experiences to light and starting this conversation.”
They say they were trying to find enough evidence for viewers to conclude that the nun's murder, and the sexual abuse must be related.
“I think it's pretty undeniable by the end of The Keepers that they are, and Jean is the nexus of that,” White said.
The Maryland Attorney General’s office has been investigating sexual abuse in the catholic church for nearly four years. Gemma Hoskins has helped dozens of victims get in touch with their investigators.
“The youngest I've talked to myself was three,” Hoskins said. “As in, a three-year-old who remembers it. Every bit of it, vividly. And the oldest was in her 20's.”
And she has not stopped looking into the murder of her former teacher.
“I've talked to the hunter that found Cathy, and he said that since the day he found her the police have never talked to him. Except for that day,” she said.
Hoskins did write about her theory on the killer in her book "Keeping On: How I came To Know Why I Was Born.”
“I think he's dead, but I may be wrong. But I do think that there are individuals who are still living who know exactly what happened,” she said.
She still spends at least part of every day trying to find those people. “There are a lot of people that are living that should be behind bars,” she said. “I'm not going to name names right now but they know stuff. They did stuff. Stuff being crimes, and they're walking around.”
Hoskins says at a minimum she wants to see records on Father Maskell. She believes they might contain the names of people who were complicit in his crimes, or in covering them up. There is no word on whether the Attorney General's investigators will gain access to those records.
As for filmmakers Ryan White and Jessica Hargrave, after The Keepers they produced a documentary with Dr. Ruth, and then another one about the two women who assassinated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's brother. They have another project scheduled to come out later this year.