Search warrant: Religious group in Necedah was collecting dead woman's Social Security

Search warrant: Religious group in Necedah was collecting dead woman's Social Security

Associated Press/May 12, 2008

Madison, Wisconsin - Someone continued to write checks on an account belonging to a 90-year-old woman whose remains were found in a Necedah home weeks after she died, according to court documents released Monday.

Prosecutors believe Tammy Lewis kept Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth's remains in the bathroom of the Necedah home Lewis shared with her two children for two months after the elderly woman died. Lewis has said her "superior," Alan Bushey, told her God would bring the woman back to life.

Detectives believe Middlesworth died March 4. Social Security and annuity checks totaling $2,790 were deposited directly into an account she shared with Lewis after that date, according to an affidavit for search warrants for Lewis' and Bushey's homes.

Twenty-five checks were written on the account after Middlesworth died. The affidavit does not say who wrote the checks or for how much.

Investigators seized checkbooks, bank records and other financial records from Lewis' and Bushey's homes over the weekend, according to court documents.

Lewis told the deputy who found the body she is Middlesworth's power of attorney, and the older woman used all her money to support their six-member religious group, dubbed the Order of the Divine Will.

Lewis' son told detectives Bushey warned him that he and his sister would have to go to public school and get jobs if Middlesworth's body was found because she paid all the bills, according to a criminal complaint.

Lewis, 35, and Bushey, 57, each face two counts of causing a child mental harm. Lewis also faces a misdemeanor obstruction charge.

Neither has been charged with financial fraud, but Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said additional charges could come this week or next. Sheriff Brent Oleson said Monday a state Justice Department agent would help his investigators with the case's financial aspects this week.

Online court records do not list attorneys for Lewis or Bushey. Lewis was scheduled to appear at an indigency hearing Monday afternoon to determine whether she qualifies for a public defender.

Authorities discovered Middlesworth's body Wednesday after her sister asked the Juneau County Sheriff's Department to check on her because she hadn't been heard from for some time.

Deputy Leigh Neville-Neil went to Lewis' home. Lewis initially told her Middlesworth was on vacation and she didn't know where she went or when she'd be back, according to a criminal complaint.

When the deputy pressed, Lewis said she needed to call her "superior." She went inside, returned and let the deputy in. The house smelled of incense and religious hymns were on the stereo.

The deputy searched the house and discovered Middlesworth's remains on the toilet. The complaint described the body as a "pile" with a "horrific stench."

Lewis told investigators Bushey, who also goes by Bishop John Peter, told her to leave Middlesworth's body in the bathroom and pray for God to bring her back to life. Lewis' son told detectives Bushey told him demons were destroying Middlesworth's appearance to make it look like she wouldn't return to life, the complaint said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.