A Mississippi man is set to plead guilty to the killing of two nuns, after the prosecutor agreed to remove the possibility of a death penalty – as the victims opposed it.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 48, has been charged with stabbing Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, both 68, to death in their home in Durant, Mississippi in August, 2016, before he allegedly stole their car.
District Attorney Akillie Malone-Oliver said the agreement calls for Sanders of Kosciusko, Mississippi, to plead guilty to capital murder and be sentenced to life without parole.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 48, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, is set to plead guilty to stabbing Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68, in their home in Durant, in August, 2016
Malone-Oliver said the decision to remove the death penalty takes into consideration that both victims opposed it, and added that she had spoken with their families beforehand.
‘Life without parole is the highest punishment, other than death,’ Malone-Oliver said.
Ms Merrill and Ms Held were found stabbed to death in their home in the small town of Durant on August 25, 2016.
They had been reported missing after failing to show up for work at a health clinic in nearby Lexington.
Killed: Ms Merrill and Ms Held were found stabbed to death August 25, 2016, in their home in the small town of Durant
Dedicated: The long-time friends and colleagues dedicated their lives to religion and their jobs as nurse practitioners at a health clinic
Their stolen car was found abandoned a mile from their home, and Sanders was arrested the day after the victims’ bodies were found. He has remained in jail since.
A court administrator confirmed Sanders’ hearing is set for June 21 before Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis in Belzoni.
Roman Catholic nuns Ms Merrill and Ms Held worked as nurse practitioners in Holmes County, Mississippi, one of the poorest parts of the U.S.
With 44 per cent of its 18,000 residents living in poverty, Holmes was the seventh-poorest county in America in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Speaking shortly after the brutal double-homicide, Ms Merrill’s family said the nun, who grew up in a working-class family in Boston had been working with poor families in Mississippi since 1981, and that she and Ms Held were long-time friends.