Gemma Hoskins reflects on her life before and after TV appearance through novel
(Oct. 30, 2020) Since being featured in the 2017 Netflix series “The Keepers,” Gemma Hoskins has continued leading the charge to solve the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in Baltimore and next week releases her first book “Keeping On,” which delves into her life before and after gaining worldwide notice.
Ocean City resident Hoskins said. “Keeping On: How I Came to Know Why I Was Born,” which is being released globally on Nov. 3 by Mascot Books, is divided into three sections starting with the Netflix series.
“Part one of the book is what people already know about the Keepers and how I got into the investigation,” she said.
On Nov. 7, 1969, Cesnik, an instructor at Archbishop Keough High School, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school in Southwest Baltimore, was reported missing. Two months later on Jan. 3, 1970, her body was discovered in a nearby wooded area.
Hoskins met Cesnik in 1966 during her freshman year at Archbishop Keough and she felt an instant affinity for the 20-something nun.
The subsequent portion of “Keeping On” explores her earlier days, starting with childhood memories as far back as two years of age.
“The middle part is things in my life, good and bad, that got me to where I am now,” she said. “Every time something happened to me, whether it was an up or a down, I just kept feeling like there was something different about me and just kept trying to learn from it.”
Hoskins said as she progressed through life, she felt a gnawing sense of purpose.
“I felt like there was something out there waiting for me [but] I didn’t know what it was,” she said.
Hoskins struggled to find meaning when her husband, Ernie, died from cancer in 1989 when the two of them were just 35 years old.
“We were really soulmates [and] best friends,” she said. “I kept thinking maybe my purpose was to have given this person happiness because he had a bad first marriage, but I know he was happy right up until the very end.”
In time, Hoskins found a new focus in life.
“I had not really thought about Sister Cathy’s murder for many years because there were other things that were going on in my life that took priority,” she said.
The final section of “Keeping On” brings the storyline up to the present day.
“When I got drawn into the investigation and the series, that’s the third part of the book,” she said. “It’s the things that have happened to me since and people that supported me or people that let me down and the boundaries that I had to draw.”
Hoskins initially teamed up with veteran newspaper reporter Tom Nugent, who wrote an expose in 2006 about Cesnik’s murder mystery that was rejected for legal reasons by major publications, including the Washington Post, New York Times and Baltimore Sun, before eventually being published by the City Paper in Baltimore.
Nugent took an interest in the cold case during the 1990s after interviewing alleged abuse victims of Father Joseph Maskell, who taught religion classes at Keough prior to his death in 2001. The deceased clergyman has long been considered a suspect in Cesnik’s murder.
More than half a dozen years later, Hoskins rekindled the partnership with Nugent.
“Then for some reason in 2013, and all this is in the book, I wrote to him and said, ‘When are you coming back to finish this story,’” she said. “I don’t know what made me write that.”
The second go-round Nugent and Hoskins launched an inquiry that continues evolving to the present day.
Hoskins said following the release of the seven-part Netflix documentary series The Keepers confidential sources began surfacing.
“People aren’t sure what to do if they’ve been abused or if they have information about Sister Cathy’s murder, so they get in touch with me,” she said.
Hoskins often refers those seeking help to appropriate resources.
“I’m not a lawyer … doctor or therapist ... I’m a retired teacher,” she said. “People think I know more than I know as far as my skills, but I have great resources to send them for whatever they need.”
Letters have arrived at her Ocean City residence from all corners of the globe seeking guidance.
“They find me because they know I’ve been down this road before with other people,” she said. “I feel like I’ve made a difference … which is really kind of surreal.”
While not every contact is related to Cesnik’s unsolved murder, at least one source came forward to help Hoskins develop a suspect.
“It happened by chance that somebody that didn’t know me got in touch after the series came out and said, ‘I have some information for you about this person,’” she said.
After further research Hoskins made contact with surviving family members of the murder suspect.
“That’s all confidential and the last names are different,” she said. “I think I have enough information, although it’s all circumstantial, that’s its very likely this person did it.”
Hoskins reveals the suspect’s name within the pages of “Keeping On.”
“People will have to read it because I don’t do spoilers,” she said. “Most people are shocked when they read my theory.”
Hoskins is quick to note numerous parties are involved with the effort to find justice for Sister Cathy and other alleged victims of Maskell.
“I have a great team of people with skills that I don’t have that are helping with this,” she said.
“The most information that I’ve been able to get is from the person that lived in the area and … got in touch,” she said. “The only people that won’t give me any information are the police.”
Hoskins harbors suspicions that law enforcement officials know who killed Cesnik.
“There are some people that don’t want this solved because it’s going to take down lots of institutions and it could take down a whole bunch of police families,” she said.
Prior to the official Nov. 3 release date, Hoskins has already signed and shipped nearly 500 copies of the volume to her network of contacts.
“I’ve been shipping them to Australia, New Zealand, every country in Europe and Canada,” she said. “I didn’t have to do any marketing.”
Starting on Tuesday “Keeping On” can be ordered on Amazon in soft cover for $16.95, and is also available in eBook or audio formats .
Hoskins credited Kevin Palmer with Top Cut Off productions in Salisbury for recording her audio portion.
“The magic is that people recognize my voice before they recognize me,” she said. “I have a very heavy Baltimore accent.”
Hoskins also has a book signing at the Greyhound Bookstore in Berlin on Nov. 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I still spend time on this case every single day and still get new information,” she said. “I’m supposed to be doing this work and continuing to dig for answers and advocating for survivors of abuse.”