DURANT, Miss. — The Latest on the killing of two nuns in Mississippi (all times local):

4:57 p.m.

The Holmes County district attorney says she will consider the facts of the case and the wishes of the families when deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against the man accused of killing two Mississippi nuns in their home.

District Attorney Akillie Malone-Oliver said Monday, “We are going to consider the heinous nature of the crime and their wishes,” referring to the families of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill and their religious orders.

During a memorial Mass on Monday in Jackson, the Rev. Greg Plata, who ministers at the Lexington church where Held and Merrill worshipped, noted a joint statement against the death penalty released Sunday by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the School Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee.

Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko (cause-ee-ESS-ko), Mississippi, faces two counts of capital murder, one count of burglary and one count of grand larceny in the slayings.


This item has been corrected to show that the suspect’s first name is Rodney, not Ronald.


4:25 p.m.

The suspect accused in the killing of two nuns in Mississippi last week has been ordered held without bond after a hearing Monday.

Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko (cause-ee-ESS-ko), Mississippi, faces two counts of capital murder, one count of burglary and one count of grand larceny.

Sanders’ wife attended the brief hearing in Durant Municipal Court. She broke down in tears afterward as she addressed relatives and associates of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, whose bodies were found Thursday at their home in Durant.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say to y’all. I’m so sorry … I’m so sorry. I can’t take this. Oh my God,” Marie Sanders said.

Sister Susan Gatz, the president of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth order, came over to Mrs. Sanders and hugged her. Merrill belonged to the order.


This item has been corrected to show that Rodney Earl Sanders is facing one count of grand larceny and one count of burglary, not one count of burglary grand larceny, and show that the suspect’s first name is Rodney, not Ronald.


12:58 p.m.

The man charged in the slayings of two nuns in Mississippi has served prison time in Iowa.

Records from the Iowa Department of Corrections show that 46-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders was in prison from June 2004 to February 2011 on a conviction of second-degree robbery. Records show he also was in prison in Iowa from August 1999 to August 2002 on a conviction of theft, and from April to October 1996 for two counts of third-offense drunken driving.

Sanders was arrested late Friday and charged with two counts of capital murder in the slayings of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill.

Mississippi Department of Corrections records show Sanders was on probation after a prison term for a felony drunken-driving conviction last year, and he served six years in prison in Mississippi after a 1986 armed-robbery conviction.

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10:44 a.m.

An initial court appearance is set for the man charged with killing two nuns in their Mississippi home.

A court clerk says the hearing for 46-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko (cause-ee-ESS-ko), Mississippi, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday in Durant Municipal Court. It was not immediately clear whether Sanders is represented by an attorney.

Sanders is charged with two counts of capital murder in the slayings of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, both 68, who were found stabbed to death Thursday in their home in Durant. They had worked as nurse practitioners in one of the poorest counties in Mississippi.

During a memorial Mass on Monday in Jackson, the Rev. Greg Plata, who ministers at the Lexington church where Held and Merrill worshipped, noted a joint statement against the death penalty released Sunday by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the School Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee.

Plata says: “Justice for a heinous crime demands punishment, but it does not demand revenge.”


2:19 a.m.

A memorial Mass will be held Monday for two 68-year-old nuns who were killed in their Mississippi home, even as authorities continue to investigate the stabbing. Meanwhile, the sheriff says a man from about 15 miles away has confessed without giving a reason.

The Mass will be at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, about an hour’s drive from Durant, the town of 2,500 where Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill lived until last week.

They both worked at a health clinic for the poor in nearby Lexington, where they also led Bible study at a church. And more than 300 people came to St. Thomas Church to say farewell, even though more than half had to watch the vigil for the deceased on a monitor outside.