The man accused of murdering Sister Philomena Fogarty and leaving her dismembered body near a Virginia beach, meanwhile, is facing arraignment Friday on multiple counts.
But back in the small town of Hamilton, Ga., thoughts were turning not to punishment but to the life of a woman who was known and praised for her work with the poor, the elderly and, in particular, prison inmates.
“Sr. Philomena was one of a kind. God broke the mold when he made her. She was the Mother Teresa of Harris County,” said Father Ronnie Madden, pastor of Christ the King Church in Hamilton where Sr. Philomena worked as associate parish coordinator.
“She was accepted by everyone around here, not just Catholics. Sister was both a great representative of the church and ambassador for Ireland,” said Fr. Madden, a native of Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.
“She knew no boundaries in her work, neither of race or creed. She was a phenomenal woman,” said Micheil Cole, a reporter with the Harris County Journal.
The broad-ranging nondenominational nature of Sr. Philomena’s religious and social work, and the fact that she had devoted the last 16 years of her life to the people of Harris County, has made it all the more difficult for parishioners and residents to comprehend her appalling fate.
Adrian Robinson, a 25-year-old with prior charges of assault and theft, was arrested at a Burger King in Norfolk, Va., early last Thursday only hours after Sr. Philomena’s body was found at a parking lot serving a nearby beach.
Her head, hands and feet had been severed. Police had been seeking Robinson since the previous Sunday after he had allegedly shot dead his 56-year-old father, Henry, at the home they shared in Hamilton, which is about 120 miles southwest of Atlanta.
The elder Robinson had been shot 16 times, apparently with two different rifles. Family members told authorities that Robinson had accused his father of sexually assaulting him before shooting him.
Robinson, who was Catholic but who did not attend Christ the King, was buried at Christ the King last Friday. His brother is a member of the church choir, Fr. Madden said.
After the killing of his father, Adrian Robinson apparently walked three miles to the church and broke into the mobile home where the 68-year-old Sr. Philomena lived with 72-year-old fellow nun Luci Kristofik.
Kristofik has told investigators that Robinson took $900, bound and gagged both nuns, put them in their car and drove to Norfolk, which is about 570 miles from Hamilton. Kristofik was found unhurt Tuesday of last week at a Norfolk hotel.
Following his arrest, Robinson was charged with kidnapping and two counts of murder.
Sr. Philomena was from the Glasheen area of Cork City. Before coming to the U.S. she had worked as a missionary in Japan for her order, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Sr. Elizabeth O’Hagan, acting provincial councilor of the order, described Sr. Philomena as a “very committed” person who would have been 50 years with the order in September.
Family members had been planning to travel to Georgia in September to celebrate the anniversary with Sr. Philomena.
Instead, they had to travel much sooner and to mourn rather than celebrate. A wake for the nun was held Tuesday in Hamilton. However, Wednesday’s funeral Mass was to be said at a much larger church in nearby Columbus.
Both Columbus and Hamilton are part of the diocese of Savannah and the funeral Mass was to be said by the bishop of Savannah, Kevin Boland, himself a native of Cork.
It was initially unclear as to where Sr. Philomena might be buried. One newspaper report pointed to Ireland, but Fr. Madden said he believed that her remains would be interred at the Franciscan Missionaries mother house in Providence, R.I.