Friend fears dead man's faith did him in

Arizona Daily Star/March 1, 2003
By Joseph Barrios

A friend of James W. Killeen, the man found decomposing in his South Side home while his wife and others prayed for his resurrection, said Friday it was Killeen's faith that may have led him to be "sucked away" from their church and to his eventual death.

Killeen, 50, was found dead Jan. 23 at his home on the 5800 block of South Hillerman Drive. Killeen worked for several years with Union Pacific, supervising repairs to locomotives and other railroad equipment.

Killeen may have died in early January, police said. An exact cause of death has not been determined.

But his wife and other members of his group did not report the death. Killeen was kept on a bed in his home, rotting, while his wife, Eleanor, and others spent weeks praying for him to be "healed."

Stan Adair Bennett, listed on an Arizona Corporation Commission filing as a director of the World Ministries group, conducted prayers over Killeen's body at the home, according to police reports.

Buddy Martinez, Killeen's co-worker and friend, said he became worried about Killeen even before Christmas. The two men used to attend the same church on the South Side. Martinez started to worry about Killeen and his wife after they started missing services.

Killeen told Martinez that his new ministry owned property near Sahuarita and that during the apocalypse, it was a safe haven that "God wouldn't touch."

"That threw up red flags for me," Martinez said Friday. "I know that God doesn't work like that. He loved the Lord. I know this."

Martinez said he thinks Killeen was "deceived" by World Ministries, and that it may have contributed to his eventual death.

Martinez said Killeen suffered from diabetes and may have had other health problems.

Martinez, other co-workers and Killeen's brother, Christopher, called the home to check on his welfare. They were told that James Killeen was on a 40-day fast and was not to be bothered, Martinez said.

Christopher Killeen flew to Tucson from Rhode Island in January because he was worried his brother was being held in his own home against his will, according to police reports.

Christopher Killeen told police his brother was involved with a "cult," according to a police report. He told officers that his brother told him he was "going to be resurrected by the 'cult' leader." That was the last time he would hear from his brother, sometime around Christmas Day.

Two officers went to the home to check on Killeen on Jan. 23. One of the officers said that when he arrived, he could smell "death." Police were led inside the home, where they found Killeen wrapped in blankets and in plastic. One detective described Killeen as being in an "advanced state of decomposition" although police found no obvious signs of foul play.

On the headboard above Killeen were "numerous air freshener cans that were designed to cover odors or make the air smell nice," according to reports.

Both Eleanor Killeen and Bennett were "unavailable" for comment Friday night, according to a man at Killeen's home who identified himself as "Fernando."

Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay, who was called to the scene, said there were no initial signs to indicate criminal charges should be filed, but said he is waiting to see autopsy reports before making a decision.

"When the autopsy report comes in, I'd like to review it. There were no obvious signs of any traumatic death or anything that night and the medical examiner was there as well," Unklesbay said.

Unklesbay said there are circumstances in which a person can be charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report a death. It would be up to the City Attorney's Office to determine whether those charges will be filed.

According to court records, James W. Killeen and Eleanor C. Killeen applied for a marriage license Aug. 5, 2002. They were married Aug. 9 by a justice of the peace.

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