Manhunt Underway for Killer of 2 Nuns in Mississippi

Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held were killed in their home.

— -- A manhunt is underway in rural Mississippi for the killer of two nuns who were found dead in their home Thursday morning in the town of Durant.

The nuns may have been victims of a break-in and car theft, police said, according to The Associated Press.

A car apparently taken from the nuns' home was found Thursday night about one mile away from the crime scene, said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The car has been taken to the crime lab to be processed.

Officers are also checking local surveillance cameras for any unusual activity in the small town, Durant Police Chief John Haynes said, according to The AP. Durant, with a population of about 2,500, is about 60 miles north of Jackson.

The bodies of Sister Paula Merrill and Sister Margaret Held were found by police when they did not report to work, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson said.

"She was so good to the people down there and they just loved her," Merrill's sister, Rosemarie Merrill, told ABC affiliate WAPT in Jackson.

“These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi," Bishop Joseph Kopacz said, according to a statement on the Catholic Diocese of Jackson site. "They absolutely loved the people in their community."

"We got each other's backs over here," a community member told WAPT. "So when this happened, it's devastating."

Authorities did not release a cause of death but Rev. Greg Plata said police told him the women were stabbed, The AP reported.

A wake will be held Sunday evening at the St. Thomas Church in Lexington and a memorial mass will be held Monday morning at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.