A tall, well-dressed observer sitting in the front row of the Rev. Gerald Robinson's murder trial has a special interest in the case - the victim was his aunt.
Lee Pahl, 53, of Edgerton, Ohio, said yesterday that until an arrest was made in 2004, he had resigned himself to the possibility that the person who killed Sister Margaret Ann Pahl - his father's sister - might never be found.
Father Robinson, a 68-year-old Toledo priest, was a chaplain at the former Mercy Hospital when the slaying occurred and was arrested by cold-case detectives on April 23, 2004, more than 24 years after the slaying.
Father Robinson maintains his innocence.
"I was kind of surprised, in a way, when an arrest was made," Mr. Pahl said. "After all these years, you don't expect something like this to be resurrected."
He said his aunt was a dynamic person, a nurse and former hospital executive who was a strong leader but also very kind.
She has two sisters who live in Edgerton, a small Williams County community about 65 miles west of Toledo, and numerous nephews and nieces.
Some of the testimony and photos during the trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court have been difficult to endure, Mr. Pahl said.
Prosecutors have shown black-and-white photos of Sister Margaret Ann's blood-covered face and body, and witnesses have described in detail how the Sister of Mercy nun was choked, stabbed 31 times, and left partially stripped on the sacristy floor the day before Easter, 1980, a day before her 72nd birthday.
"I don't know how the trial would be easy for anyone to sit through," he said. Mr. Pahl, who works in sales, said he was 27 years old and on vacation with his family when they heard the tragic news 26 years ago.
When police told him they didn't have enough evidence to make an arrest in 1980, Mr. Pahl said he was not angry about it.
"Police had done their best job. If they decided they could not make an arrest because they didn't have enough evidence, we accepted it," he said.
Sitting through testimony, Mr. Pahl said he wants one thing. "I'm hoping for justice. If he's guilty, I hope the jury finds him guilty. If not, then some day, some way, her killer will face judgment."