Body's morgue stay lengthens

More than two months after his estimated date of death, James W. Killeen has yet to be cremated or buried.

Arizona Daily Star/March 12, 2003
By Stephanie Innes

The 50-year-old Tucson man, whose body police found in a state of decay on Jan. 27, is lying in the morgue at the Pima County Forensic Science Center. Killeen's next-of-kin, wife Eleanor Killeen, is entitled to claim the body but hasn't. And Killeen's siblings and mother are anxious that he have a proper burial.

The Pima County Attorney's Office is awaiting results of an autopsy before it decides whether to conduct a criminal investigation. Dr. Bruce Parks, chief Pima County medical examiner, said the autopsy results will take about two more weeks. Parks said he is awaiting test results. But he added that the work on Killeen's body itself is completed.

"It would be nice if someone moved ahead on this. I'm hoping the family will work it out,'' Parks said.

The City Attorney's Office has not commented on any possible charges in connection with the death of Killeen, a railroad worker and diabetic who had reportedly been fasting at the time of his death. Failure to report a death is a misdemeanor.

Eleanor Killeen's telephone has been disconnected. Family members say her involvement with a religious group called World Ministries led her to pray with other group members over Killeen's dead body for three weeks, believing it would be resurrected.

The local leader of World Ministries, Stan A. Bennett, operates a retreat center in Sahuarita. When a photographer and a reporter visited the compound last week, Bennett asked them to leave. He said he would not talk about World Ministries, nor would he speak about accusations from Killeen's brother and sister that the group is a cult.

If a body is not claimed at the Pima County Forensic Science Center, or if Killeen's wife says she cannot pay for funeral expenses, Parks said the matter is referred to the county's Public Fiduciary Office, which handles indigent burials. Raymond Rodriguez of the Public Fiduciary's Office was not available for comment on Tuesday.

"I'm beside myself. We all are,'' said Killeen's sister, Patricia Doane, who has not heard anything from her brother's wife since early January, when she asked Doane to leave her home. On that visit, when Doane and her 77-year-old mother went to check on James, Doane said Eleanor Killeen told them Killeen was fine, but that he was busy and not able to see them.

"She said it wasn't a good time. She just kept saying that and at the same time there were all these people coming in and out of the house,'' said Doane, who lives in Connecticut but spends the winter in Oro Valley.

Doane said Bennett came into the house with his wife and children. She described them as friendly, but they all made it clear that Doane and her mother were not welcome at their gathering.

"We were thinking they were having some kind of prayer session. My mother was angry and I was very, very hurt,'' Doane said. "Eleanor had never treated us that way before."

Doane described her brother as a leader and not a follower. Her brother had described World Ministries to her as, "people in the mountains being carefree and happy."

A few weeks after their visit in early January, Doane called Eleanor Killeen again and asked for her brother. She said his wife described Killeen as being fine but said he'd been sick with some kind of flu and has lost some fluids. She would not tell Doane when she could see her brother again.

At that time, a worried Doane called her youngest brother, Chris Killeen, who flew to Tucson from Rhode Island to check on James Killeen's welfare.

"I thought maybe he was sick, but I had no idea he was dead, and not for so long. It was so bizarre that I couldn't wrap myself around it," Eleanor Killeen said. "And I felt so guilty that I didn't somehow get in there. And it's absolutely ludicrous, ridiculous that my brother still hasn't been buried."

Chris Killeen is back in Rhode Island but determined that his brother is going to get a proper resting spot.

"I'm a Christian and I don't believe the body is anything more than what it is, but for us, and especially for my mother, it represents closure,'' Chris Killeen said.

"The family has been willing to assume the cost of all burial expenses, and has expressed this to Eleanor and the Medical Examiner's Office. . . . Why the stalling? Are they trying to reclaim the body in hopes of resurrecting Jimmy again?"

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