UPDATE TO CONTINUING COVERAGE: Questions arise over possible Necedah cult
The Juneau County Sheriff's Department is investigating the death of a 90-year-old woman, who was found dead in her bathroom at least two months after she died.
Wednesday afternoon, a deputy did a welfare check at a home on Shrine Road in Necedah Township. The woman's sister called because they hadn't heard from her for some time. That's when the deputy found 90-year old Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth dead in the bathroom. It's believed she had been dead approximately two months.
Three other people were living there: a 35-year-old woman and two children, a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.
A neighbor told 27 news the family kept to themselves.
"We never noticed anything out of the ordinary. They were just quiet folks," explained Kevin George.
According to the criminal complaint, the deputy had a hard time getting answers at first from the woman who answered the door. Tammy Lewis told the deputy she'd have to call her religious superior before answering any questions. The deputy entered the home and found incense, burnt wood, religious materials, and religious music playing a stereo. Eventually he came across a bathroom where he saw what's described as "a pile of something" laying on the toilet. It turned out to be the body of Middlesworth.
The criminal complaints states the deputy brought the woman and her children outside, at which time 57-year old Alan Bushey arrived. Bushey and Lewis, who go by the aliases Bishop John Peter and Sister Mary Bernadette, are part of a self-proclaimed religious organization which meets at Bushey's home on Queens Way.
At this time, Bushey told the deputy that about two months ago, Middlesworth collapsed while Lewis was helping her change her clothing. Lewis and Bushey propped the woman up on the toilet seat, and left her there. According to the complaint, Bushey told the family if they prayed hard enough God would raise her as a miracle. They kept the door to the bathroom open for four days while praying for her to wake up; Lewis later told police she's not sure when Middlesworth stopped breathing and actually died.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Lewis and Bushey. Lewis is tentatively charged with two counts of causing mental harm to a child and one count of obstructing an officer. Bushey is tentatively charged with two counts of causing mental harm to a child. According to the criminal complaint, the children told the deputy they called Middlesworth "Grandma" and she took care of the family financially. They say Bushey told them Middlesworth wasn't really dead, and that demons only made her appear that way, to trick them into not praying anymore. They also said Bushey warned them not to tell anyone that "Grandma" had died, or they'd have to go to public school, and get jobs to support the family.
Lewis and Bushey appeared in court Friday. Lewis is being held on a $5,000 cash bond; Bushey is being held on a $50,000 cash bond.
Click here to email comments and story ideas to Vanessa Shirley
Can't Find Something?
5727 Tokay Blvd., Madison, WI 53719
News Tips: 608-273-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org