Two nuns who worked as nurses and helped the poor in rural Mississippi were found slain in their home, officials said Thursday. There were signs of a break-in, and their vehicle was missing. It was too early to say how the nuns died, but it doesn't appear that they were shot, Durant Assistant Police Chief James Lee said. The nuns were identified as Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard said. Their bodies were taken to a state crime lab for autopsies. The women, both nurse practitioners, were found Thursday morning when they didn't report to work at a nearby hospital, the AP reports.
"They were two of the sweetest, most gentle women you can imagine. Their vocation was helping the poor," said the Rev. Greg Plata, who oversees a small Catholic church the sisters attended in the Mississippi Delta. Maureen Smith, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, said there were signs of a break-in at the home and the nuns' vehicle is missing. She said the sisters worked at the Lexington Medical Clinic, about 10 miles away from their home in Durant, one of the poorest areas in the state. Authorities didn't release a motive and it wasn't clear if the nuns' religious work had anything to do with the slayings.