NELSON COUNTY, KY (WAVE) – The reward is now up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the murder of two nuns in Mississippi.
The victims, Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held, were discovered stabbed to death in their home on Thursday. Both nuns worked as nurse practitioners at a nearby clinic.
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According to police, a motive is not known and no suspects have been named, but it appears they may have been victims of a break-in. Their car was stolen, but found a short time later.
Merrill had roots in Kentucky.
She was from Massachusetts, but studied and prayed to become a nun at Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Nelson County was considered her home. She just visited last weekend.
Sisters of Charity is in mourning.
"It's hard for us as a community and for the people that knew them in Mississippi to just try to grapple with the reality of what happened to them," said Sister Susan Gatz, who has known Merrill for 50 years. "That they who are so peace filled and peace giving and peace loving would die violently is just very hard."
Merrill and Held lived together in Durant, Miss. and both worked at the Lexington Medical Clinic, providing care for those who couldn't afford it.
"We just see patients and do what needs to be done," Merrill said in a video profile that remains on the SCN website.
"They both were women who loved what they did and they loved the people that they worked with and the people that they worked for," Gatz said.
They lived in what seemed to be a safe neighborhood in a town that is not used to murder investigations. Gatz had the chance to stay with the sisters in their home, where she said they lived simply and loved to garden.
Merrill was in Nazareth last weekend for a meeting.
"She only left here at the Motherhouse on Monday," Gatz said.
Time that will be forever cherished as many lean on their faith to get through.
"We are praying for everybody who is involved in this whole thing, including whoever it was that perpetrated this devastating crime," Gatz said.
A joint memorial mass will be held in the coming days in Mississippi. Merrill's funeral service and burial will be held at Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Those arrangements have not been made public yet.