Caught: Female Assassin Who Allegedly Murdered Five American Nuns

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With the arrest of one of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor’s alleged female assassins, the 22-year-old murder of American nuns might finally be avenged.
In 1992, five American nuns from the St. Louis order of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ were murdered in cold blood while serving in a missionary in Liberia.
The sisters, who volunteered for relief work in addition to ministerial service through their order, were extraordinary women. Sister Barbara Muttra, 69, was a cancer survivor who volunteered in Liberia knowing full well she would never have the same health care she had at home in America. Sister Mary Joel Kolmer, 58 and Sister Shirley Kolmer, 61, were cousins who had lobbied to serve in Liberia even though they knew President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia was a constant threat. Sister Agnes Mueller, 62, was a theologian and a nurse—both practical skills in the field. Sister Kathleen McGuire, who was on her first tour of duty in Liberia, was so touched by the 1980 murder of five American nuns in El Salvador, she made a pilgrimage to their graves before heading to Liberia to carry out relief work.

The five sisters were the first American victims of Taylor’s violent Operation Octopus, during Liberia’s brutal civil wars that claimed over 150,000 lives. The nuns were allegedly murdered under the sinister direction of Martina Johnson, one of Taylor’s only female artillery chiefs and a frontline commander who allegedly carried out many of his hits during Operation Octopus. Johnson was arrested last week in Belgium and will face trial for war crimes, which could include charges for the murder of the American nuns.

The murders of the nuns are difficult to comprehend. On October 20, 1992, just five days after Operation Octopus was launched, Sister Barbara Muttra and Sister Mary Joel Kolmer were shot in their vehicles along with a Liberian colleague and two relief workers, apparently as part of the Operation’s agenda to rid Liberia of whites and those who worked with them. Their vehicle was riddled with bullets and then set alight.

According to reports at the time, their charred corpses were discovered two months later. “[Sister Mary] Joel’s skeleton sprawled by the front passenger side, her skull about a foot under the car, as if she had opened the door to flee and been knocked down and back by the bullets,” according to Nunblog, a religious blog about the case which chronicles firsthand account of relief workers and Catholic missionaries on the scene. “Barbara’s skeleton lay outside the driver’s side, as if she had been shot behind the wheel and fallen out, dead, when the door was opened.”

Three days later, on October 23, fighters came to the convent where the remaining sisters lived and first attacked Sister Kathleen McGuire when she was summoned to unlock the gate by a killer identified as Mosquito, who shot her first and then shot the other two before mutilating their bodies with a machete. “Mosquito shouted for someone to open the gates. Kathleen McGuire, the gate key in her hand, began to walk the 40 or so paces toward him,” according to Nunblog, which chronicles the horrific events. “He fired once. The bullet hit Kathleen in the forearm. She stumbled and fell. The gunman fired again, at Kathleen’s neck. The second bullet killed her. ‘I’m going to kill all the white people!’ screamed Mosquito.”

Their bodies would be discovered more than a month after they died, after fierce fighting in the African nation subsided. Very few of their remains were recoverable, according to Father Mike Moran, who visited the scene to collect what was left, but the smears of blood from the brutal killings stained the convent walls.
With the arrest of one of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor’s alleged female assassins, the 22-year-old murder of American nuns might finally be avenged.
In 1992, five American nuns from the St. Louis order of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ were murdered in cold blood while serving in a missionary in Liberia.
The sisters, who volunteered for relief work in addition to ministerial service through their order, were extraordinary women. Sister Barbara Muttra, 69, was a cancer survivor who volunteered in Liberia knowing full well she would never have the same health care she had at home in America. Sister Mary Joel Kolmer, 58 and Sister Shirley Kolmer, 61, were cousins who had lobbied to serve in Liberia even though they knew President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia was a constant threat. Sister Agnes Mueller, 62, was a theologian and a nurse—both practical skills in the field. Sister Kathleen McGuire, who was on her first tour of duty in Liberia, was so touched by the 1980 murder of five American nuns in El Salvador, she made a pilgrimage to their graves before heading to Liberia to carry out relief work.

The five sisters were the first American victims of Taylor’s violent Operation Octopus, during Liberia’s brutal civil wars that claimed over 150,000 lives. The nuns were allegedly murdered under the sinister direction of Martina Johnson, one of Taylor’s only female artillery chiefs and a frontline commander who allegedly carried out many of his hits during Operation Octopus. Johnson was arrested last week in Belgium and will face trial for war crimes, which could include charges for the murder of the American nuns.

The murders of the nuns are difficult to comprehend. On October 20, 1992, just five days after Operation Octopus was launched, Sister Barbara Muttra and Sister Mary Joel Kolmer were shot in their vehicles along with a Liberian colleague and two relief workers, apparently as part of the Operation’s agenda to rid Liberia of whites and those who worked with them. Their vehicle was riddled with bullets and then set alight.

According to reports at the time, their charred corpses were discovered two months later. “[Sister Mary] Joel’s skeleton sprawled by the front passenger side, her skull about a foot under the car, as if she had opened the door to flee and been knocked down and back by the bullets,” according to Nunblog, a religious blog about the case which chronicles firsthand account of relief workers and Catholic missionaries on the scene. “Barbara’s skeleton lay outside the driver’s side, as if she had been shot behind the wheel and fallen out, dead, when the door was opened.”

Three days later, on October 23, fighters came to the convent where the remaining sisters lived and first attacked Sister Kathleen McGuire when she was summoned to unlock the gate by a killer identified as Mosquito, who shot her first and then shot the other two before mutilating their bodies with a machete. “Mosquito shouted for someone to open the gates. Kathleen McGuire, the gate key in her hand, began to walk the 40 or so paces toward him,” according to Nunblog, which chronicles the horrific events. “He fired once. The bullet hit Kathleen in the forearm. She stumbled and fell. The gunman fired again, at Kathleen’s neck. The second bullet killed her. ‘I’m going to kill all the white people!’ screamed Mosquito.”

Their bodies would be discovered more than a month after they died, after fierce fighting in the African nation subsided. Very few of their remains were recoverable, according to Father Mike Moran, who visited the scene to collect what was left, but the smears of blood from the brutal killings stained the convent walls.

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