JACKSON, Miss. — A man charged with killing two nuns in Mississippi is scheduled for a court hearing Friday, where prosecutors will present some evidence before the case goes to a grand jury.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, is charged with capital murder in the slayings of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, who worked as nurse practitioners in one of the poorest counties in the nation.
Holmes County District Attorney Akillie Malone-Oliver said Thursday that at least one investigator will testify during the hearing, and Sanders’ attorneys will have a chance to respond.
Merrill and Held, both 68, were found stabbed to death Aug. 25 in their home in the small town of Durant after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in nearby Lexington. The hearing Friday is taking place in Durant municipal court.
The nuns’ relatives and colleagues have said they oppose the death penalty, including for Sanders. Malone-Oliver told The Associated Press on Thursday that she still has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty for Sanders.
Under Mississippi law, capital murder is a killing that occurs with at least one other felony, and it is punishable by lethal injection or life in prison. Sanders is charged with two counts of capital murder, one count of burglary and one count of grand larceny.
Sanders was arrested Aug. 26 and is being held without bond in the Holmes County jail. He confessed to the killings but gave no reason, Holmes County Sheriff Willie March has said. March was briefed by Durant police and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials who took part in Sanders’ interrogation.
Marie Sanders, the suspect’s wife, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper that he had left their home in Kosciusko days before the killings and he had been staying with relatives who live across the street from the nuns’ home.
Sanders’ attorneys did not immediately respond to calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.
Malone-Oliver said it would be unusual for someone charged with capital murder to enter a guilty plea during a probable-cause hearing such as the one set for Friday.
“He can, but it is very rare,” she said. “We would definitely accept it.”
The nuns’ funerals were Sept. 2. Merrill was buried in Kentucky, where she belonged to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Held was buried in Wisconsin, where she was a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .