MAUSTON, Wis. — A judge sentenced the leader of a religious sect to 2 years in prison Wednesday for hiding an elderly follower’s rotting body on a toilet for weeks.
Alan Bushey, 59, of Necedah, kept Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth’s corpse on the toilet of another follower, Tammy Lewis, for two months last spring. Middlesworth, 90, moved to Necedah from Washington state in 2005 to join Bushey’s sect, the Order of the Divine Will.
Prosecutors said Bushey kept the body hidden so he could collect Middlesworth’s Social Security checks and annuities. Bushey’s attorney, Thomas Steinman, argued that Bushey thought God would bring Middlesworth back to life.
“A miracle like that is part of the Christian faith,” Steinman said. “He truly believed she would come back from the dead.”
Bushey appeared at the hearing in a black cassock with a crucifix around his neck. He told Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer Jr. that he should have known God would raise Middlesworth from the dead without his involvement.
“I should have called the coroner and leave the supernatural to God,” Bushey said.
Roemer, who called the case “horrific,” said living with a rotting corpse devastated Lewis’ daughter, now 16, and son, now 14. District Attorney Scott Southworth said they had to use a bucket in a closet for a toilet. Bushey told them that a demon was making the body decay and that they weren’t praying hard enough to bring Middlesworth back to life, Southworth added.
Southworth called Bushey’s group a cult and Bushey a “warped” con man. His church, the Orthodox Catholic Church of Russia in the Americas, defrocked him in 1998 but Bushey continued to pass himself off as a clergyman, Southworth told the judge.
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 the corpse of 90-year-old Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth.
Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer Jr. 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.
Lewis, 36, who now lives in Montello, 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.
Bushey told Lewis and the children that if they prayed and believed, Middlesworth would come back to life. When the decomposing body began to smell, the children were told it was because they didn’t believe enough and were punished because of it, according to documents.
During the time between Middlesworth’s death and her discovery, her Social Security checks and annuity payments continued to go into an account from which Lewis, whose name also was on the account, withdrew money to pay bills for herself, Bushey and the church.