'Bishop' receives two-year sentence for making kids live with corpse

Daily Tribune Staff/July 23, 2009

Mauston - A former Necedah church leader will spend the next two years in prison for keeping a decomposing corpse in the bathroom of a home where two children lived.

Alan A. Bushey, also known as Bishop John Peter of the Order of the Divine Will Church, was given three years of extended supervision to follow his prison sentence for being a party to the crime of hiding a corpse.

During the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer Jr. also ordered Bushey to have no contact with his co-defendant, Tammy D. Lewis, or her two children and to undergo domestic abuse counseling and not act as a member of the clergy.

A 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl were forced to live with the decaying body of Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth, 90, in Middlesworth's Necedah home for 65 days. On May 7, 2008, the body was discovered by a Juneau County deputy after the Sheriff's Department received a call from one of Middlesworth's concerned relatives, Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said.

Bushey and Lewis were paying their bills and the bills of the Divine Will Church with Middlesworth's Social Security and annuity checks, which continued being sent after her death.

In a written statement, the 12-year-old boy, now 13, asked the judge to sentence Bushey to a minimum of four years in prison, one year for each year he and his sister spent in Middlesworth's home cut off from the outside world. Southworth said the recommendation was appropriate.

Southworth said he visited Middlesworth's home a short time after the body was discovered and that he had to wear a chemical suit to avoid contamination.

"I have personal experience with war and I have seen death; I have never seen anything like that in my life," Southworth said.

According to the criminal complaint, Bushey told Lewis and her two children that if they prayed and believed, Middlesworth would come back to life. The children were punished and beaten with a wooden stick when the body began to decompose.

Three of Bushey's supporters, including the children's grandmother, Patricia Lewis, spoke at the sentencing. She said Bushey helped the family and everyone was happy. Bushey established discipline for the children, Lewis said.

"I don't think they were harmed by the conditions with Alvina (Middlesworth) in the house after she passed away," she said. "I believe that (Bushey) believed Alvina (Middlesworth) would come back to life. I think he made a mistake; it wasn't murder."

Tammy Lewis, 35, who now lives in Montello, previously was given a two-year delayed prosecution for her part in the incident. She has a review hearing on her case scheduled for November 2010.

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