Brother gets Ministries member's body

Arizona Daily Star/April 9, 2003
By Joseph Barrios

A judge has allowed a relative to claim the remains of James Killeen, a Tucson man over whose decomposing body relatives and a religious leader prayed for three weeks.

The group reportedly was praying for the man's resurrection.

Superior Court Judge Clark Munger ordered Tuesday that Christopher Killeen can claim his brother's body next Tuesday, more than three months after James Killeen's estimated date of death on Jan. 4. The brother plans to cremate the body.

Although an autopsy was inconclusive, friends and family suspect Killeen, 50, died during a 40-day fast because he suffered from diabetes. His body was not discovered until Jan. 23, after Christopher Killeen called police to his brother's Southwest Side home.

Police found Killeen's decomposing body in a bedroom surrounded by air fresheners. Killeen's wife and members of her religious group had been praying for him to heal. Police estimate he had been there for three weeks.

Killeen's wife, Eleanor C. Killeen, 49; son Timothy J. Killeen, 20; and three members of the religious organization World Ministries have been cited on charges of failing to report a death, a misdemeanor. They are scheduled to appear in Tucson City Court Monday for their arraignment.

World Ministries spiritual leader Stan A. Bennett and his wife, Jill, had been holding religious gatherings at James Killeen's home and on a 10-acre parcel in Sahuarita. The owners of the property said recently that Bennett was no longer welcome on the property. Former World Ministries members say Stan Bennett considered the Sahuarita property to be a haven when the world ends.

Christopher Killeen had been trying to claim his brother's body, which remains at the county morgue, since late January.

He wanted to have his brother cremated but could not claim the body because Eleanor Killeen has legal priority as next of kin. She did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

Christopher Killeen filed a petition in Pima County Superior Court, seeking "special administrator" status to his brother's estate. Killeen asked only that he be allowed to claim his brother's body and did not seek authority over finances or property.

Christopher Killeen said he felt "numb" after Munger's ruling, which he described as "hopefully the last chapter" in the struggle for his brother's remains.

"It means a lot more than I thought it would. I know that that's not Jimmy. I know he's in a much better place," Killeen said Tuesday. "Frankly, I'm surprised at how emotional I am."

Eleanor and Timothy Killeen, can file their own petitions in court. Christopher Killeen said that would be fine with him if she arranged to have his brother buried.

"If she buries him here in Tucson, I'm all for it. I'd even pay for it. But it's been three months. Enough is enough," Killeen said.

Once James Killeen's body has been cremated, his ashes will be mailed to his brother's home in Rhode Island, where the family is expected to gather. The ashes will then be turned over to their mother.

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