Nun murdered in Navajo, N.M.

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

NAVAJO, N.M., Nov. 2, 2009

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Father Gilbert Schneider with St. Berard Parish in Navajo, N.M., stands in front of the house Monday where the body of homicide victim Sister Marguerite Bartz was found. Law enforcement from the FBI, New Mexico State Police and the Navajo Nation are investigating.

Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, was found dead Sunday in her home at St. Berard Parish in this small community near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

More Details

Rosary is 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, at St. Michael Indian School Student Chapel.

Funeral service is 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 415 E. Green Ave, Gallup.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the scholarship program at St. Michael Indian School would be appreciated. Bartz served on the school's board of directors.

Bartz was slain some time between Oct. 31 and when she was found, according to a press release issued Monday by the Diocese of Gallup.

Samson Cowboy, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, confirmed that a homocide had occurred and said he would release additional information after meeting with other law enforcement agencies. The FBI did not return phone calls from the Navajo Times and so far have not released any information to the public about the incident.

According to several local residents, Bartz was beaten to death. A colleague found her body Sunday morning after she failed to show up for Mass, the diocese release said.

The circumstances surrounding Bartz's death are under investigation by the FBI and further details have not been released, the diocese said.

Law enforcement teams from the New Mexico State Police, the Navajo Nation Police Department and the FBI's Evidence Response Team were in Navajo Monday morning and were continuing to process the crime scene.

No one associated with the teams would answer press inquiries.

According to the diocese, the FBI wants to hear from anyone who spoke to Bartz on Halloween night or anyone who has information related to the investigation. Anyone with information can contact the FBI at 505-889-1300.

Investigators have not released any suspect descriptions and there is no information if one or several individuals were involved, but the subject or subjects should be considered armed and dangerous, the diocese press release said.

Authorities are also trying to locate a beige 2005 Honda CRV with New Jersey license plate number NF24821, the diocese said. The vehicle was in Bartz's possession and is now missing.

Irene Clark of Crystal, N.M., said she knew Bartz for three years. They became acquainted after Bartz made weekly visits to Clark's mother.

On Monday Clark walked away from the parish grounds in Navajo with tears in her eyes.

"She's a nice lady, who would want to do that," Clark said. "What's wrong with this community?"
Local residents interviewed by the Navajo Times asked to remain anonymous and said they did not know who might be responsible for Bartz's death. Nearby, Navajo Elementary School was heavily vandalized on Halloween night, but it is not known if the two incidents were related.

The diocese released the following background information about Bartz:
She was born in Plymouth, Wis., in 1945 and entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1966 from Beaumont, Texas. She professed her final vows in 1974.

Bartz earned a bachelor's degree from Xavier University and a master's degree in religious education from Loyola University, both in New Orleans.

Over the course of her service, she missioned in Dorchester, Mass.; Lawtell, La.; Pe–a Blanca, N.M.; Laguna, N.M.; and Santa Fe, N.M. Bartz came to Saint Berard Parish in 1999.

Bartz is a former guidance counselor at St. Michael Indian School and was on its board of directors.

Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament is headquartered in Bensalem, Pa. It is a religious order founded in 1899 by Saint Katherine Drexel.

Funeral plans will be announced later, the diocese said.

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