Meet the women vigilantes behind Netflix's 'The Keepers' documentary

Meet the women vigilantes behind Netflix's 'The Keepers' documentary
Source: Netflix
Source: Netflix

There are two unlikely heroes behind the new Netflix series The Keepers, perhaps the most harrowing of the true-crime dramas to hit streaming services as of late. Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, both retired, have taken it upon themselves to unearth the murderer of their departed teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik.

The "grandma Nancy Drews," as they call themselves, respected and admired Cesnik when they knew her as students at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore. Hoskins even credits Cesnik as the inspiration behind her career path.

"She's really the reason I became a teacher," Hoskins told the Baltimore Sun. "And when I became a teacher, I used everything that I saw her do, and it worked."

Cathy Cesnik
Source: Netflix

Schaub and Hoskins were high-school seniors at Keough when Cesnik disappeared in 1969. They were not, however, among the many young women whom Father Joseph Maskell — one of the prime suspects in Cesnik's murder — sexually abused. So, why are they now so intent on seeking justice by unmasking Cesnik's killer? Based on their involvement in the series, it seems their drive is a combination of a desire to right an egregious wrong committed against a beloved nun and newfound free time courtesy of retirement.

Hoskins initially spearheaded the amateur investigation with the help of Tom Nugent, a freelance reporter who wrote the breakout investigative report on Cesnik more than 20 years ago for the Baltimore Sun. Nugent interviewed Hoskins about the Cesnik murder back in 2004, and roughly 10 years later, she called him and asked, "When are you coming back here to finish this?"

Nugent, now a 71-year-old freelance writer, had the time to delve into the cold case and is heavily featured in the documentary series.

Tom Nugent
Source: Netflix

Hoskins' reconnaissance efforts weren't limited to working with Nugent, though. According to HuffPo, she also posted on the official Keough alumnae Facebook page, asking if anyone had insights into the abuse that took place at Keough in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The page exploded with affirmations as well as criticisms from alumnae who felt Hoskins was stirring up some sort of witch hunt.

Administrators eventually barred her from the page, but that did not deter Hoskins from starting a new, Cesnik-focused page on the social media site. She now runs it along with Schaub and several others who believe in the veracity of the sexual assault allegations. The group is also dedicated to uncovering more about Joyce Malecki, who was murdered around the same time as Cesnik and whose killer remains unknown.

In the series, Hoskins is often touted as the "bulldog," aka the one who's more inclined to go out and meet face-to-face the people who might have insight into the murder and molestations. Schaub, on the other hand, is the researcher and does her best work when she's at her computer or digging through scores of old files. Suffice to say, the two make a very complementary team.

Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub
Source: Netflix

Now that their work has been highlighted in The Keepers, the almost half-a-century-old investigation is once again picking up steam. Recent updates include the exhumation of Maskell's body. While his DNA was not a match for prints found at the murder scene, that doesn't mean Maskell wasn't somehow involved.

More importantly, the series has incited significant interest from journalists and other amateur investigators. In fact, there's now an open Facebook group dedicated to the case in which more than 64,000 members post updates and possible leads.

In all likelihood, with so much brain power behind it, new and compelling information will eventually turn up. The fact that Serial's Adnan Syed has been granted an appeal of his first-degree murder conviction is a prime example of the influence vigilante justice-seekers can have.

In fact, the extra support could result in the Facebook group's mission finally being achieved.

"Cathy was once there for many people and did the right thing," Hoskins said. "Now we all need to try to do the right thing for her."

Mic has ongoing coverage of The Keepers. Please follow our main Keepers hub here.