Wife prayed 3 weeks with dead man in home

She and other members of their religious group kept his body, hoping for his resurrection, police say.

Tucson Citizen/February 28, 2003
By David L. Teibel

A woman remained in her Tucson home for up to three weeks with her dead husband as his corpse decomposed and friends and a religious leader prayed for his resurrection, police said.

Tucson police officer Michael Kishbaugh wrote in his report that when he walked into a home on South Hillerman Drive, in Midvale Park, on Jan. 23, there was an "overwhelming odor of death" that made him gag.

Other officers reported seeing room deodorizers and incense burning in the house, apparently to mask the odor of the decomposing corpse.

There is no indication of criminal activity in the death of James W. Killeen, 50, a Union Pacific Railroad manager, police said. Police learned Jan. 23 that Killeen, a diabetic, had died at home. Killeen's brother Christopher came here from Rhode Island to learn why he and other family members had not been able to speak with James Killeen since shortly before Christmas, according to police reports.

Christopher Killeen told officer Corey Doggett that other family members had tried to contact James Killeen by telephone and by going to his home.

James Killeen's wife, Eleanor Rojas Killeen, told them James could not come to the phone or that he did not want to talk to them, Doggett wrote in his report. However, James Killeen was dead.

"Chris said that James became involved in a 'cult,' " Doggett wrote, adding, "Chris also said that James told him that he was going to be resurrected by the 'cult' leader, Stan Adair Bennett."

A friend of James Killeen told Doggett that "Stan told his 'followers' that he could resurrect people from the dead," Doggett wrote. Bennett, identified in police reports as the minister of the World Ministries Church, did not return phone calls from the Tucson Citizen and could not be reached for comment.

The Citizen obtained the censored police reports through a state public records request.

Christopher Killeen, 47, told the Citizen in telephone interviews from his Rhode Island home that his brother was diabetic and on medication but was fasting as part of his new religious belief.

At one point, Christopher Killeen said, his brother told him that through diet, exercise "and the help of God," he could control his diabetes without taking his medicine.

Christopher Killeen, also diabetic, said his brother was told to fast for 40 days and was doing so. He said such a long fast could cause a diabetic coma, leading to James Killeen's death.

Detective Sgt. Mark Fuller, head of the Tucson police homicide detail, said there was no indication Killeen was held in his home against his will or that food or medication was withheld.

Christopher Killeen said his brother had worked for Union Pacific for 26 years and earned about $100,000 a year as the railroad's mechanical maintenance manager for the Southwest region.

Union Pacific spokesman Mike Furtney confirmed that Killeen was hired by the railroad in 1977. Christopher Killeen said that as he and his wife were notifying James Killeen's financial institutions of his death, a woman at an El Paso, Texas, credit union told Christopher's wife that someone made a cash withdrawal on James Killeen's ATM card Jan. 24, the day after police found his body.

Fuller said he is not aware of any financial irregularities in connection with James Killeen's death. Fuller said initial autopsy results were inconclusive in determining the cause of Killeen's death. Toxicology tests are not completed, and Fuller said Killeen's death is classified as "a death unknown" because "we haven't made a determination of the cause of death."

Detectives have obtained a subpoena for Killeen's medical records, but his doctor's office is closed for vacation, and the subpoena has not been served.

Doggett wrote that Eleanor Killeen escorted police to a darkened bedroom where they found James Killeen's body on a bed, wrapped in blankets. A gray hat covered his swollen, discolored face, and a stereo was playing music with "religious tones" that spoke of resurrection.

Eleanor Killeen, reached by telephone at her home, said she did not want to comment on her husband's death and asked a reporter to stop calling the home.

Christopher Killeen said the Bennett family had been living with his brother and sister-in-law and, "to the best of my knowledge, he was supporting those people."

Among those in the house were Bennett's three adult daughters, police said.

A report by Detective Russell Charlton said several people in the house when police arrived were staying at the "Water Life Christian Retreat" in Sahuarita. No telephone listing for such a place could be found.

"He was reluctant at first; he didn't want to join that group," Christopher Killeen said of his brother. "After he got involved in it (Bennett's ministry), he got very enthusiastic and upbeat about it. He was very happy.

"The last time he called, he referred to himself as an apostle." He said James Killeen referred to his wife as a prophet.

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