Former End Time member's suicide leaves questions

Lake City Reporter/February 17, 1992
By Joe Callahan

For her entire adult life, 32-year-old Wanda Annette Handy was a devout member of End Time Ministries.

During her 14 years in the group, Wanda married and gave birth to five boys at home, a common practice of End Time members. It appeared to be a typical End Time family.

But something was wrong.

On January 12th Wanda Handy was found dead, hanging by a rope in her back yard.

On that Sunday evening while her husband and five boys attended an End Time service, Wanda walked into the back yard. Clad in a blue, ankle-length skirt and navy sweater, Wanda climbed a ladder standing next to a tree, wrapped one end of the rope around a limb and made a noose-like slipknot in the other end. She placed the slipknot around her neck, tightened it, placed a pillowcase over her head and leapt to her death.

Authorities have ruled the death a suicide, and the case is closed.

But beyond that official ruling, questions remain about why this devout woman killed herself. Questions remain about the women of End Time Ministries, a religious group that has been haunted by controversy.

Wanda's husband, 32-year-old Doug Handy, refused this week to comment about his wife's suicide.

But earlier, he told officers Wanda had gotten out of End Time about a year prior to her death.

No one really knows what led to Wanda's death, but family members and others have speculated.

Former End Timers and parents of group members feel she may have been ostracized for leaving the group and that she couldn't handle the pressure. They also feel the pressure put on End Time women is often unbearable.

Her parents think she was lonely and depressed about moving from her South Dakota home to Lake City in May 1990.

The Handys were among numerous people who began converging on Lake City from the Midwest-mainly South Dakota and Montana - beginning in the late l980s under the leadership of Charles Meade of Southwood Acres.

The morning following Wanda's death, Doug called her parents, South Dakota residents Gene and Pauline Stucky.

"I was shocked," said a weeping Mrs. Stucky as she remembered the morning she received the tragic news. "I just never thought she would do something like that".

"All End Time people are good people- I know because I met most of them," she said. "But the problem is at the top. Charles Meade needs to be looked at".

Meade couldn't be reached for comment.

Mrs. Stucky said Wanda Joined the group while she was a senior in high school. She said at the onset she was pleased that Wanda was getting involved in religion, but that was until she realized the group was what she called a "cult."

"I'm sure the Lord had his hand in this (suicide)," Mrs. Stucky said. "Something good has to come of this. God would want it that way".

"I'm glad she's out of the group now," she continued. "I wish it wasn't this way, but she wanted out and now she is. If one person leaves the group because of this, her death will be worthwhile".

Mrs. Stucky said she was one of the few lucky parents of End Time followers because she had a good relationship with her daughter before the family moved to Lake City. Many End Time followers shun family members who are not believers of Meade's teachings.

"We had a good relationship," Mrs. Stucky said. "We often had good visits. In fact the day before they left (for Lake City), we spent a whole day together with all the grandchildren".

Mrs. Stucky said, however, that after a few months in Lake City, she began realizing that Wanda was lonely.

"Wanda called one night and cried," she said. "She said 'I miss you and Daddy.' I think Wanda was lonely for a long time...and extremely depressed".

Mrs. Stucky said she talked to her daughter about two months prior to her death, but Wanda "didn't say anything about leaving the group".

"I don't think she would (tell her parents) anyway," Mrs. Stucky said. "If she did, that would have only made things worse for her. She would have been totally cut off from everyone".

On several occasions, Gene and Pauline Stucky were invited to Lake City to visit.

"We run our own business and it's hard to leave for any amount of time," she said of her husband's maintenance business. "Now, I wished we had".

Because of their private business, the Stuckys were also unable to attend Wanda's funeral in Forest Lawn Cemetery two days after her death. Pauline said they couldn't afford the cost of an airplane ticket and it would have been impossible to have gotten there in time by car.

The suicide occurred after Doug and all five children-who range in age from 6 to 13-left their County Line Road home in western Columbia County for the service around 5:30 p.m. leaving Wanda home alone,

He told officers they attended the group meeting at a pasture off Walter Little Road near Southwood Acres for about four hours.

While they were gone; Wanda walked outside and killed herself.

Around 9:30 p.m., Doug returned home from the service and became worried when he couldn't find Wanda. Thinking she may have gone for a walk, he put the four youngest children to bed at 10:30 p.m. and began checking the area. Moments later he found his wile's lifeless body at the end of a rope, tied to a limb of a tree about 35 yards behind the brick home near their shed.

Her feet were only four inches from the ground.

Handy called 91l. Following is a transcript of that telephone conversation:

91l: "911, what is your emergency?"

HANDY: "I'd like to report a suicide. "

911: "Suicide?"

HANDY: "Yes."

911: "Did the suicide already happen"?

HANDY: "Yes it did".

911: "OK, Is this person considered dead"?

HANDY: "Yes. It is my wife".

911 transferred the call to the Sheriff's Office. After getting the background of the case, dispatcher Susan Banks asked Doug several questions.

DISPATCHER: "OK, how did she do it"?

HANDY: "By hanging from a tree in the yard".

After giving directions, Doug continued talking.

HANDY: "I'II have a light on...I have children sleeping".


HANDY: "So, I would prefer that you don't use sirens..."

DISPATCHER: "OK. All right, rescue will have to respond, OK"?

HANDY: "I understand".

DISPATCHER: "I'll make sure that they understand no sirens".

Deputy R.C. Dees arrived at 10:46 p.m. and inspected the scene. Around 11 p.m., investigators Denise Hanna and Sgt. Randy Roberts arrived.

Roberts questioned Doug Handy, who said his wife had left End Time but added she hadn't been depressed.

After Wanda's body was carefully examined, Biggs Funeral Home removed the body and transported it to the Medical Examiner's Office in Jacksonville, who later classified the case as a suicide.

"We believe there was no foul play because there was no sign of struggle", Roberts said. "If she was murdered, there would have been skin under her fingernails, bruises, cuts, lacerations or something to indicate that she struggled for her life".

No suicide note was found.

Former End Time member Joni Cooke Eddy, a South Dakota resident who left the group in fall 1986, was highly upset when she heard the news of Wanda's death.

Eddy said she was close to Wanda. She said when she left; she almost talked the Handys out of the group in early 1987.

"When I left in late 1986, I tried to get them to leave", she said weeping. "I almost convinced them to leave. In fact Doug told his family they were getting out. But my ex-husband convinced them to stay and she was back in with group 199 percent".

"She always had a smile", she said. "It's just so sad this could happen".

Eddy said it doesn't surprise her that someone committed suicide, but it surprises her that it hadn't happened before now.

"You just don't realize the pressure that's on the women of End Time", she said. "They have many children at home and can't show pain, are responsible for their (children's) education and must wait on their husbands hand and foot. Not to mention the pressure from group members when you decide to leave".

Sandy Huber, a South Dakota resident who has two children that have been in the group since the late 1970s, is the head of a South Dakota support group for parents who have children involved in End Time.

Huber feels Wanda was ostracized.

"If it's true she left the group, then there's no doubt she was shut out", Huber said. "Whenever someone leaves, they are considered to be the devil and none of the members can talk to that individual".

"I am sure she was isolated and had no lady friends to confide in", Huber said. "The pressure on an End Time woman is unbelievable, but the pressure on an End Time woman leaving the group is probably incomprehensible".

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