Transcript: 112. The Exorcism of Irina Cornici | Romania

You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.

**Support for today’s episode Evidence Locker comes from June’s Journey and Best Fiends.

Transport yourself right into the middle of a 1920s murder mystery, and join us in playing June’s Journey today. Download the intriguing hidden-object game, using our link today.

Also, visit the Apple App Store or Google Play and download Best Fiends for FREE. Engage your brain with fun puzzles and collect tons of cute characters. That’s FRIENDS without the R – Best Fiends!

You can find links to both June’s Journey and Best Fiends in today’s show notes or on our website.

Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.

The Holy Trinity Church of Tanacu was perched on top of a hill, a steep walk from the village down below. In the icy northeast Romanian winter months, parishioners had to make their way through snow and mud if they wanted to attend Sunday service. Outside the convent, on a white fence was a sign:

“This is the House of God. Here the angels sing. Here God speaks. And people listen, pray, repent, become saintly, live as in heaven, next to God.

Construction of the church finished in 2001, so in 2005, it was still growing into itself. Religion had been banned in Romania for many years. The fall of Communism brought an insurgence of religious awakening, and many churches and monasteries were built across the country.

About 30 nuns lived and served at Tanacu Church. They were thankful for the peace of the Tanacu Monastery and felt that, in the silence, they would truly hear the voice of God. The man in charge of the convent was Father Daniel Corogeanu. He was young, vibrant and fiercely devoted to his calling to serve God and the community.

Father Corogeanu led his parish with a firm hand. Although he was only 29 years old, he had a larger-than-life personality. His long, red beard and piercing green eyes made him seem older and wiser than he actually was. He spoke with authority, and people clung to every word he said. He worked well together with the abbess of the convent, Mother Nicolata Arcalianu, they were a good team. The nuns called them Mama and Papa and existence at the Holy Trinity was quiet, controlled and seemingly peaceful.

That is until a childhood friend of one of the nuns came to visit. Irina Cornici and Paraschiva Anghel became friends when they lived in an orphanage in Bārlad together. They weathered many storms together and were loyal to each other to the bitter end. However, it soon became apparent to Irina that her friend had changed, her only loyalty was to God and the church.

Irina decided to become a nun herself, as she wanted to be near Paraschiva. But things began to unravel when she started hearing whispers in her head. Two months after Irina arrived at the monastery, she was dead. This is her story…

>>Intro Music

Maricica [Marie-sicka] Irina Cornici was born in the village of Perieni, Westen Moldovia, Romania, in 1982. She had a brother Vasile [Vas-sealie], who was two years older than her. The family did not have much and did what they could to get by. Irina’s father, Ion Cornici, was sentenced to prison for four years for stealing chickens. He could not face his punishment and decided to end his life instead.

The young, two-year-old Irina was at home when she witnessed her father’s suicide by hanging. Her mother was a violent alcoholic and could not care for Vasile and Irina on her own. The siblings were taken by social services and sent to an orphanage in Bārlad.

Romanian orphanages in the 1980s, under the rule of communist leader Nikolae Ceausescu [Ciao-ses-koo], were hell-holes. The government encouraged population growth, but families had meagre incomes, averaging $1,000 a year. Abortion was illegal for women with less than four children, causing countless women to die due to backstreet abortions. During this time, more than two million children were taken away from their impoverished parents and sent to over-crowded, filthy and dangerous orphanages.

This was also the fate of the Cornici children. Although Irina’s brother, Vasile, was two years older than her, he was a bit slow. He always looked to Irina for protection as she was, without a doubt, the stronger of the two. At the orphanage in Bārlad, children had very little food to eat, and bigger kids would often take food off the smaller ones. It was also not unusual for orphanage workers to take the children’s rations.

In this unforgiving dog-eat-dog environment, abuse was also rife. Older boys moved in on younger girls, as did administrators. Physical violence was an everyday occurrence, with supervisors hitting children in their faces or on their heads. Sometimes they would make the children hit each other as punishment.

In 1990s German photographer, Joachim Pfaff visited Romania. He had a history of sexual misconduct but was allowed to spend time with the children, unsupervised. Irina was among some young girls who were photographed in erotic poses for the purpose of child pornography.

In 1995, when Irina was 14, the kids from the orphanage were taken to summer camp in Tālāśmani in Vaslui county. A twenty-something camp counsellor called Manix, who also grew up in the orphanage, had his own room away from the others. Every night, he made a girl come to his place and forced them to give him oral sex. Eight girls were abused by Manix during that summer, among them was Irina Cornici.

The girls reported the abuse they suffered from Manix. But he claimed that he was being set-up by administrators of the orphanage because he had complained about how they treated the children. He had also accused one of the home’s psychologists of being gay, something that was illegal in Romania at the time. Manix was charged for the abuse, but in the end, he was found guilty based on Article 200: homosexual relations. He was sentenced to two to three years in prison. After his release, he went back to his old ways and was eventually imprisoned for molesting a 12-year-old girl and sent to jail where he died of a heart attack in 2006.

Growing up in the orphanage, Irina was exposed to many people like Manix. Because of the abuse, she suppressed her sexuality and learnt to protect herself from boys and men. She learnt karate so she would be able to defend herself if someone were to dare try to force himself on her again. She practised a lot and often fought with kids behind the hostel of Home Number 2, they fought until someone started bleeding, then they’d stop.

In her late teens, Irina realised that she was attracted to women. She explored a physical relationship with a girl called Paraschiva Anghel. Well, Irina gave her the nickname Kitza, and it stuck. By being together, they risked going to prison, because of Article 200 of Romanian Law. Not that this was a great deterrent, as life at the orphanage pretty much resembled a prison anyway. Theirs was a sadomasochistic relationship, with Irina deriving sexual pleasure from hurting Kitza. Kitza spoke about this element in their relationship in a matter-of-fact way when asked about it years later. Her is how she recalled it:

“She used to be really aggressive. She used to train with me back at the orphanage. She really enjoyed hitting me, she said I was very resistant – I could stand the kicks. I really enjoyed when she was hitting me, and I could stand it. I said: Hey if anybody kicks me, I can take it. You kick me, but I can take it. I don’t crumble and fall, even if I’m a woman. Her leg kicks were really strong. She used to kick me till my back was all red.”

In 1999, it was time for Irina’s brother, Vasile, to leave the orphanage. He was adopted by a family who needed an extra pair of hands to work on their farm in Cuptoare, western Romania. During this time, Irina went to an agricultural high school to complete her education. Sometimes during school holidays, Irina went to visit her mother, who still lived in Perieni. But her mother was always drunk, and Irina often suffered violent beatings at the hands of her mother. Her mother blamed her for not looking after her brother well enough and made no secret of the fact that Vasile was her favourite child. When Irina was old enough, she chose not to visit her mother anymore.

~We’ll take a quick break for a word from our sponsors, June’s Journey~

If you’re like me, you love a good murder mystery. Hidden-object game, June’s Journey, is set in the 1920s.

The beautifully crafted scenes takes you right into golden age of murder mysteries and glamour. If you’re a fan of Poirot or Miss Marple, you will – no doubt – fall in love with June’s Journey.

Travel with June as she tries to solve the deaths of her sister an brother-in-law. At first, it looked like Harry shot Claire after the couple enjoyed some cocktails in their parlour. The assumption was that they had had an argument and Harry lost his temper. But June feels that something else was going on… As she navigates her way through speakeasies, vintage shops and even the old family estate, she uncovers family secrets that could lead her to the killer.

Each chapter of this intriguing mystery begins with a short narrative that brings you closer to solving the mystery. As you move from scene to scene, looking for hidden objects and clues, you unlock the story. It’s relaxing to play, but challenging all at the same time.

To join more than 3 Million murder mystery enthusiasts and puzzle solvers around the globe, download June’s Journey for free from the App Store or Google Play, by clicking the link in the show notes.

~ Now, back to today’s episode ~

At the independent, adult age of 19, Irina was also fostered by the Stolojescu family who had taken in Vasile. Legally, Irina was considered to be an adult, but after school, she had nowhere else to go. Like Vasile, she worked for the family in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat. Mama Neli Stolojescu and her husband, whom they called ‘The Old Guy’ were the only parental figures the Cornici siblings ever looked up to.

After saving some money, Irina was able to go to Germany where she worked as a housekeeper and babysitter. It was more lucrative than working in Romania. Irina dreamt of settling down in Germany, hopefully with Kitza. The plan was to save enough money to make it all happen. Sometimes she sent a bit of cash to Kitza, along with letters promising that she would come back for her.  

In 2005, Irina returned to Romania. She checked in with her foster family who said that they’d keep her money and belongings safe. Irina and Vasile left, to go and find Kitza.

After being released from the Orphanage, Kitza had very few options. It was not uncommon for children from the orphanage to go to convents or monasteries, as they had nowhere else to go. Kitza joined a convent in the Carpathian mountains, where she and was preparing to become a nun.

The Orthodox convent was located in the impoverished northeast of the country, uphill from the rural village of Tanacu. Tanacu is a town of about 1000 people. The hilly, forested surrounds boast vineyards and cornfields. Other than that, not much happens in this quiet corner of the world.

The convent, located about 4km from any sign of civilisation, was not very accessible. The stony road snaking up the hill was not paved, and most people did not have motorised transport. Mud and snow made it difficult to navigate one’s way to church. People from Tanacu rarely attended services. However, on the other side of the hill, one would find the villages of Zāpodeni, Vāleni and Portari, that made up most of the congregation. Most parishioners had a hand-to-mouth existence and were mostly uneducated and illiterate. They were enchanted by the passionate and confident Father Daniel, who served as their spiritual leader.

Daniel Petru Corogeanu, the 29-year-old was Tanacu’s hieromonk, which means he was both a monk and priest in the Orthodox Church. He was born September 1975 in Portari, just on the other side of the hill from the convent.

Father Daniel founded and took on leadership of the monastery in Tanacu when he was only 24. In the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Romania experienced a religious revival. After years of enforced atheism and persecution of Christians, they were finally free to practice religion again—this led to some people following Christianity feverishly, taking things back to a Puritan level.

Father Daniel’s convent at Tanacu was no different – he had strict rules for fasting, prayer and confession. There was no electricity or running water, let alone the internet or mobile phones. Living there certainly had its challenges, especially in the winter months with average temperatures being below zero. The nuns worked long hours, fetching wood from the forest, cleaning the monastery and cooking vegetarian meals. Father Daniel believed it was through hard work and solitude that one could focus on your relationship with God.

Romania, during Communist rule, encouraged very little sense of community. People had an innate distrust of their neighbours, and friendship circles were small. Social services were basically non-existent, and kids like Irina and Kitza would have had very little support outside of the hellish orphanage where they grew up.

So when Kitza was welcomed to the convent in Tanacu, she was only too thankful to have a place to live. She was dedicated to the church, as she felt they asked nothing but devotion in return for room and board. Kitza saw it as her only option, and for her, it was good enough. In her correspondence with Irina, Kitza invited her to come to the convent. Kitza was no longer interested in pursuing a relationship with Irina, but there was a loyalty between them, a genuine concern for each other’s survival.

Irina and Vasile arrived at the convent at the beginning of April 2005. Kitza encouraged Irina to turn to God, but for him to bestow his mercy on her, Irina had to confess everything about her past: the sexual abuse she suffered, the pornographic material she was victim to, her lust for Kitza and her acts of violence.

Irina listened to her friend and knew that she had her best interests at heart. Lost and looking for any semblance of a family, Irina decided to become a nun too. She thought if she joined the convent, she could be with Kitza forever. She would also be able to buy her brother a small place nearby where he could live. He would also be able to help out with odd jobs at the church. It was the best future she could imagine at that point in her life.

Within days after her arrival, Irina took Holy Communion and made her first confession. She informed Mother Nicolta of her intention to take holy orders and commit her life to the service of God.

Kitza was confused about how swiftly Irina had changed her plans of returning to Germany. Irina also wanted to change the way things had been between them since the orphanage. Kitza recalled:

“She took Holy Communion and then she totally changed. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that could not be Irina. I cried and said to her:

‘ Irina, you were not like this. You were always open. Tell me what’s wrong with you, tell me what you’re thinking.

‘Get out of here,’ she said. ‘I feel tempted.’

I said: ‘What kind of temptations do you feel, Irina?”

She answered: ‘Well, I don’t want to sin with you. I don’t want to hurt you, to beat you anymore.”

Not long after this, Irina reportedly started hearing voices. She was convinced that the devil was talking to her, he whispered in her head. There is a theory that Irina never intended to become a nun. She taunted the nuns by having outbreaks of obscene anti-homosexual ramblings. These scenes made nuns believe that Irina was possessed. Father Daniel agreed and felt this was happening because Irina was sinful.

On the 9th of April, Irina had a violent outburst, and the nuns and Father Daniel managed to subdue her. They borrowed a car from someone in the village and took the windy 25-minute drive to Vaslui, where they admitted her to hospital. The nuns told hospital staff that Irina was a danger to herself and others and that she couldn’t stay at the convent any longer.

Father Daniel was ready to wash his hands of Irina, but Mother Nicoleta felt that they had to make sure she was okay. The Mother Superior could have had an alternative motive, knowing about Irina’s savings, and counting on the fact that she would donate it to the church and convent. The nuns visited Irina at the hospital, and her condition did not seem to improve. A wide-eyed nurse whispered that she thought Irina was possessed too.

However, a medical examination by Dr Gheorghe Silvestrovici concluded that Irina was suffering from disorganised schizophrenia. This is one of five types of this mental disorder, in which a person’s behaviour is unpredictable, and their emotional expression is erratic. In some cases, a person diagnosed with disorganised schizophrenia suffers from hallucinations and delusions, but that’s not always the case.

Two days after she was admitted, Irina was moved to the psychiatric ward. The doctor had no doubt that Irina had suffered her first psychotic break. Demonic possession never crossed his mind. She was paranoid and agitated with aggressive outbursts. Kitza recalled that Irina was troubled during adolescence. She often heard her deceased father’s voice. In hindsight, these auditory hallucinations would have been a red flag for her eventual diagnosis.

Irina did not only suffer from mental illness, however. While in the hospital, she was also diagnosed with leukemia. She was given strong doses of antipsychotic drugs, but her leukemia diagnosis did not seem to warrant immediate treatment, it was almost like a footnote in her medical file.

After a couple of days on medication, Irina’s mental state was much better. After two weeks, she was released and returned to the convent. Irina’s doctor instructed her to return to the psychiatric facility in Vaslui after 10 days, but she would never make it back…

~We’ll take a quick break for a word from our sponsors, Best Fiends~

As much as I’m addicted to the dark world of true crime, I do need a break sometimes. When I feel I need to escape, I enjoy losing myself in the magical, fun world of the puzzle game, Best Fiends.

Like connecting the dots of a true crime mystery, I need to employ my problem-solving skills to work my way through the levels of Best Fiends.

The farther I go along the challenges, the more challenging the levels become. Since the last time I mentioned the game in an episode, I’ve moved up to level 385, Helping Hands. As I progress, I receive awards, that allow me to evolve my characters, or get new ones. My motley crew of fiends (helping me defeat a stubborn slug) consists of a perky wasp called Whisper, the ever-angry stag-beetle Moose, Laploeon the cockroach, Buggles the dragonfly and a cute firefly called Vega.

Best Fiends is updated monthly with new levels and events, so it never gets old!

Engage your brain with fun puzzles and collect tons of cute characters. Trust me, with over 100 million downloads, this 5-star rated mobile puzzle game is a must play! Download Best Fiends FREE on the Apple App Store or Google Play. That’s FRIENDS without the R – Best Fiends!

~ Now, let’s resume today’s episode of Evidence Locker.

On the 9th of June, two weeks after being released from the hospital, Irina returned to her foster family to get her stuff, including the money she had saved while working in Germany. She told them that, instead of starting a life with Kitza in Germany, she had decided to donate the money to the convent. But it was all gone. Irina was shocked to learn that she had been robbed by the only people she ever trusted. Not only did the Stolojescus spend all her hard-earned money, but they had also taken in another foster child, replacing Irina. This was the breaking point that led to Irina’s gargantuan breakdown. Irina’s doctor later said that he felt the psychotic break was because she had run out of her medication and that it was not triggered by the emotional event.

After her visit to the Stolejescus, Irina returned to the Church in Tanacu, where the nuns continued to care for her. They were never informed about the fact that she had leukemia and were not equipped to help her.

Irina was still on her journey of becoming a nun. Mother Nicoleta prepared her, worked through a list of sins. The sexual abuse Irina suffered was considered to have been sinful, and she needed absolution. She also confessed to the sin of onanism, or provoking own pleasure through masturbation, also known as ‘fornication with the devil.’

After confessing to Father Daniel, she received her penance: prayer, one thousand kneeling genuflections with head bowed to the ground and fasting with bread and water. Once this was done, she could take communion. Irina spent long hours in the church, crossing herself while looking up at an icon of the Mother of God. Then she would kneel and bow her head touching the floor with the top of her head, then stood up again and repeated everything. She counted off a rosary bead every time she completed one round, drawing a line on a piece of paper once she made it to one hundred. After concluding the genuflections, she was permitted to take Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. On the Romanian Orthodox calendar, this was on the 1st of May.

Irina was not doing well, and Kitza and the other nuns were deeply concerned about her. Bear in mind, she was not taking medication for her schizophrenia at this point, as she did not return to the hospital in Vaslui after ten days of her release as instructed. Irina was also unaware of the fact that she was suffering from symptoms related to leukemia. And with the gruelling penance she served, something had to give.

Before long, the whispers in Irina’s head came again, haunting her. She became violent, even setting fire to the cell where she slept. When Irina had another outburst, this time directed at Father Daniel during Sunday Mass, he proclaimed that the Devil was inside of her. There was only one thing to be done… She needed to be exorcised. In his own words:

“You can’t take the Devil out of people with pills.”

In the brief existence of the church in Tanacu, between 2001 and 2005, Father Daniel performed many successful exorcisms. It was common knowledge that he was the go-to guy to cast out demons if you were possessed. He also had a knack for getting rid of charms placed on people. Most parishioners of Tanacu came from impoverished rural towns where very few people were educated.

Older people came to him seeking disenchantment from spells. For instance, if someone was suffering from a particularly bad bout of flu, they were convinced someone had cursed them. The only way to recover from such a situation was to call in the big guns, someone like Father Daniel Corogeanu. He was considered to be a miracle worker, a holy man, taking on the Devil with his bare hands.

Exorcism has been performed for many centuries. In fact, The Vatican had guidelines regarding the practice drawn up in 1614. For centuries, this is what priests used to drive out demons. The guidelines were only revised as late as 1999. The renewed version urged priests to consider modern psychiatry before performing an exorcism. Countless people around the world, who suffered from mental illness were subjected to treatment for demonic possession. Typically, a bishop or someone with specific training in exorcism would perform the ritual. It is advised that more than one priest is present and that the person in charge holds a senior rank, like a bishop.

The Romanian Orthodox Church acknowledges the notion of demonic possession, but they have strict regulations regarding exorcisms. Such a ceremony should only be practised twice a year, and three or more priests should be present. Father Daniel didn’t have the luxury of guidance, nor did he have any back-up. He was the only monk at the church who also served as a priest. His confident conviction in his faith made him a strong leader, and people trusted him. He used the Molitfelnic, the Romanian Orthodox book of prayers for priests and monks, as his weapon against the Devil.

Father Daniel discussed his exorcism plan with the abbess, Mother Nicoleta Arčalianu. Because of Irina’s aggressive behaviour and her experience in fighting, they realised that they needed help and asked three nuns to assist them: Adina Cepraga, Elena Otel and Simona Bardanas. Because exorcism was a regular occurrence at Tanacu, no one batted an eyelid. It was an honour to work with Father Daniel, as everyone respected him for his work in the courageous battle against demons.

The hieromonk and his posse of nuns cornered Irina in her musty cell inside the monastery. The first challenge was to immobilise the disturbed Irina. Father Daniel used what was later described as a ‘wrestling grip’ to hold Irina in a headlock, while the others tied her hands and feet behind her back. To stop the growling, noises the group described as ‘pornographic sounds’, Mother Nicoleta gagged her, using a towel. Then they left her there.

As a part of the exorcism ritual, Father Daniel and four nuns tried forcing her to drink holy water, but Irina refused. Irina was continually trying to break free, to get out of the hand and foot ties. The nuns sporadically went to her cell to fasten it all again, as she almost managed to free herself. The banging sounds of Irina trying to get out of the restraints caused a lot of noise in the otherwise dead-silent convent. Irina was left in this state, hysterical and restrained for three days.

At some point, the group decided to restrain her further. They built a stretcher of sorts, placing two planks next to each other and a third perpendicular to the two, resembling a crucifix. They tied Irina to the cross, arms stretched out, using chains and padlocks. They removed the towel from her mouth and covered it with tape, or as many sources claim a large band-aid.

On the 14th of June, five days after the exorcism began, Father Daniel and the nuns carried Irina out of her cell, still tied to the crucifix, to the porch of the church where they held a service in her honour, praying for the demons to leave her body. Afterwards, they took her down, untied her and laid her down on a blanket in the monastery courtyard. The nuns claimed that they gave her some bread and tea and that she appeared to be lucid, but soon after eating, she passed out. They checked on her and found that she was breathing very slowly, barely at all. Before long, Irina was unconscious and unresponsive.

Father Daniel called an ambulance, that arrived in due time. The nearest ambulance service was in Vaslui, a 25-minute drive at the best of times. And the church was not easy to access as the road up the hill was pretty bad. Ambulance workers tried to revive her but were unsuccessful. Irina Cornici was announced dead when she arrived at the hospital in Vaslui.

In his first statement to the media, Father Daniel was quick to deny any responsibility for Irina’s death. He was quoted saying:

“She was sick and possessed. We said several Masses to end the spell. From a spiritual point of view, we did exactly the right thing.”

Irina’s aunt, Anisoara Antohi, was not convinced. She saw Irina after she had passed and told journalists that…

“She was disfigured, she had marks on her hands, her ankles and her stomach.”

Four days after her death, on the 18th of June, Irina’s funeral was held at the Tanacu Church. She was laid out in an annex, not in the main church, as she was still considered to have been possessed.

A video of Irina’s funeral shows her in an open casket, dressed in a black cassock. Her lifeless face is pale, with scabs, showing the violence of her last days. The four nuns and Father Daniel Corogeanu stand vigil around the casket, all of them crying. The nuns hold candles and cry inconsolably. Mother Nicoleta speaks in a semi-hysterical, tearful rant, saying:

“We thought you were feeling better. But you went to God. Now they are accusing us of your death. Only our Lord can help us now. Nobody believes us. They’re calling us criminals.”

During Irina’s funeral, as her coffin was lowered into the ground, roars of thunder silenced the mourners. To Father Daniel, it was a sign from God that he had done the right thing – that ‘helping’ Irina was God’s will.

News of the botched exorcism spread like wildfire, causing hysteria in the rural north of Romania. Most people trust the church above all else, so learning that something so atrocious could have happened in a place of refuge, scared the average god-fearing townsperson. Ioan Hristea, a local man who suffered from epilepsy, said to a journalist:

“I am scared that if I went to the monastery, they would crucify me too.”

Irina’s autopsy concluded that the 23-year-old had died due to dehydration, exhaustion and lack of oxygen.

The red-bearded hieromonk and four nuns who assisted with the exorcism were arrested and charged with Irina’s murder. Father Daniel said that Irina did not die on his watch. When he called the ambulance, they took her to the hospital, not the morgue. He was convinced she died in the ambulance due to something paramedics had done to her.

Daniel Corogeanu spoke outside the court and said that he is innocent. He blamed the media for blowing the situation out of control, pressuring law enforcement to arrest him and the nuns. He insisted:

“We did our duty in those moments when you couldn’t do anything else. We had to help her.”

Protesters outside the courtroom hurled insults at him, calling him ‘Satan in a priest’s robe’, demanding that justice was done for Irina. As the protestors pulled closer to Corogeanu, he was physically pushed into the courtroom by the movement of the crowd.

However, the red-bearded hieromonk also had many supporters filling seats in the courtroom every day. Many people claimed that he had saved them from demons by performing exorcisms. They also felt that he did nothing wrong and that his intentions were pure. The Defense claimed that Corogeanu did his best to help a deeply disturbed individual and that it was the ambulance workers who caused Irina’s death. They even said that he had called the ambulance in the days leading up to Irina’s death, but they never came. No proof of these alleged phone calls was ever found. Corogeanu spoke in his own Defense and said that he was convinced that Irina would still be alive if he hadn’t called the ambulance on that fateful final day.

The entire country followed the court proceedings religiously. The opinion was divided: some people felt Corogeanu, and the nuns acted in Irina’s best interest. Others thought that they should have been charged with manslaughter, as the intention was to help her. Then there were the ones that believed that charging them with murder was the right thing to do. Irina’s family felt that justice would only be served if Corogeanu and the nuns should all be crucified like they crucified Irina.

Speculations about the extent of Irina’s torture were also floating around Tanacu town. The fact that Corogeanu and the nuns had taped Irina’s mouth shut, to ‘keep the devil in‘, became the fibre of urban legend. Even Irina’s own brother Vasile, unlike the rest of her family, believed she had been possessed by the devil.

Another theory doing the rounds in Tanacu was that she was actually killed once she was at the hospital as ‘they’ wanted to incriminate the Orthodox Church. ‘They’ in this context being whoever ‘they’ are in conspiracy theories – pro-Communist, anti-religion activists perhaps, who knows.

The Orthodox Church distanced itself from the sordid event by releasing a statement calling Corogeanu’s actions in Tanacu’ abominable’. They made it clear that this type of exorcism was not acceptable practice in the Romanian Orthodox Church and stripped Father Daniel of his robes.

Father Daniel Corogeanu and the nuns were found guilty because they partook in a religious practice that is NOT recognized by the Romanian Orthodox Church, but by primitive religions. Irina’s condition had been diagnosed, but she stopped taking her medication. She was deprived of her freedom, taken against her will, in prolonged, brutal treatment. She was restrained, harmed and starved – conscientious actions in the name of religion.

The court in Vaslui sentenced Corogeanu to 14 years in prison. Mother Nicoleta Arčalianu was handed a sentence of eight years, while the three nuns, Adina Cepraga, Elena Otel and Simona Bardanas each received five-year sentences. Corogeanu appealed his ruling, and the Alba Lulia court halved his sentence to seven years. Mother Nicoleta’s was reduced to six years, the others remained unchanged.

As the case progressed, the church closed the convent, locking the gates with a thick chain. Today, it is a monastery for men only, no women are allowed.

In 2011, Daniel Corogeanu was released. Although he lost his position in the Romanian Orthodox Church, he still had people who believed in him and wanted to follow him. There was a local businessman with interests in Spain and Italy who was gravely ill before Irina’s death. His illness had rendered him blind, and doctors said that his eyesight would never recover. He had heard about Father Daniel and went to Tanacu where the red-bearded man-of-God laid his hands on him and prayed for him. Miraculously, he began to see again.

This man never forgot what Corogeanu had done for him. He made his holiday home in Portari available to the disgraced clergyman and said he could use it as he pleased. Before Irina’s death, Corogeanu tried to expand the Tunacu monastery to Portari. After his arrest, the cells he had built were demolished by the Archdiocese of Husi.

But Corogeanu was not done. Using his benefactor’s home as a monastery, he has founded the commune of Zapodeni. A local article commented:

“As in horror movies, Corogeanu regenerates: the monk from Tanacu creates another monastery.”

Reporters have tried to get inside the monastery, but no one can make it inside. Men dressed in monk robes have told the press that it is NOT a monastery, they are simply friends congregating at their host’s home. The Orthodox Church denies any involvement with the men, which makes one wonder what dogma they follow?

In 2014, almost ten years after Irina’s death, her body was exhumed. There were too many unanswered questions about the cause of her death. The coroner, Dan Gheorghiu, stated that the first responders gave her six injections of adrenaline. The paramedic in question denied this. Doctors from the National Institute of Forensic Medicine were asked to examine the evidence, and they sided with the paramedic, saying that she acted correctly, within the acceptable practice. The coroner, however, commented, saying:

“I was part of the team who handled the exhumation of the nun’s body. It was concluded that the woman died of an overdose of adrenaline. Don’t ask me, I don’t know why the judges did not take that into account.”

BBC reporter Tatiana Niculescu Bran followed the case from the beginning and investigated the events leading up to Irina’s death. She wrote two novels, detailing Irina’s childhood and commenting on the fact that she had been let down by the system all her life. Bran’s work inspired Cristian Mungiu’s film, Beyond the Hills, which won the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay as well as a shared award for Best Actress.

This case continued to haunt the collective consciousness of everyone who followed the case. An element that has filled superstitious residents of northeast Romania with quiet anguish was all the deaths that followed in the wake of the trial. The primary role players who condemned Corogeanu, all died shortly after the proceedings. The prosecutor, the judge and the person who handed down the sentence all died in mysterious circumstances. Whispers floated around Tanacu that it was Father Daniel Corogeanu who had placed a curse on them. The thought arose: if The Father had the power to exorcise demons and lift curses, who’s to say he couldn’t inflict evil?

**We’d like to thank today’s sponsors, June’s Journey and Best Fiends.

  • To join more than 3 Million murder mystery enthusiasts and puzzle solvers around the globe, download June’s Journey for free from the App Store or Google Play, by clicking the link in the show notes or on our website.
  • This show was also made possible by Best Fiends. Download for FREE on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Engage your brain with fun puzzles and collect tons of cute characters. Trust me, with over 100 million downloads, this 5-star rated mobile puzzle game is a must play! Download Best Fiends today. That’s FRIENDS without the R – Best Fiends!

If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes.

Also visit and like our Facebook Page at” to see more about today’s case. If you like our podcast, please subscribe in Apple Podcast or wherever you are listening right now.

This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!

©2020 Evidence Locker Podcast

All rights reserved. This podcast or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a podcast review.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.