Five are cited on suspicion of failure to report a death after praying over James Killeen’s body
Tucson Citizen, Apr. 4, 2003
DAVID L. TEIBEL, Tucson Citizen
The leader of a religious group that prayed over the body of a Union Pacific Railroad supervisor for three weeks after he died has been cited on suspicion of failure to report a death, police said yesterday.
James Killeen’s body was found at his Midvale Park home.
The religious leader, Stanley Adair Bennett, said he believed Killeen, 50, would be resurrected.
Bennett’s wife, Jill L. Bennett; Killeen’s widow, Eleanor Killeen; and Killeen’s son, Timothy J. Killeen, also were cited on suspicion of failure to report a death.
Francisco Antonio Contreras, who was visiting the home, also has been cited, said Sgt. Marco Borboa, a Tucson police spokesman.
The suspects are scheduled to appear in Tucson City Court on April 14.
The charge of failure to report a death carries a maximum sentence of four months in jail, a $750 fine and two years’ probation, said City Prosecutor Laura Brynwood.
Police found Killeen’s body Jan. 23 in a bed at his home after friends and family complained to authorities they had not been able to contact Killeen for weeks and were concerned about his welfare. He apparently had stopped showing up for work, railroad officials said.
Also at the Killeen home with Killeen’s body when police arrived was Joanne Tapia, 28, paralyzed after a shooting July 11, 2001, outside her apartment.
Tapia was lying on a bed in the house, said police Detective Sgt. Mark Fuller. She has not been cited.
“It was her choice to be there. I think she was taking part in (Bennett’s) ministries,” Fuller said.
Tapia had been shot in the back and neck in a confrontation with her ex-boyfriend, Rafael Salazar, 36. Salazar shot and killed a man who tried to help Tapia get away from Salazar.
Bennett and his followers apparently lived on property in the Santa Rita Mountains while he worked to develop his ministry.
Reuben Birkholz, who owns the Santa Rita Mountains property where Bennett and his followers were living, said he never gave permission for him to live there and has hired an attorney to begin an eviction.
The only address authorities have for Bennett now is a Tucson post office box.
Stanley Bennett’s daughter, Myra Bennett, said yesterday her father does not want to comment on the Killeen matter.
“As far as we’re concerned, its over,” she said.
An autopsy failed to determine a cause of James Killeen’s death, said county Medical Examiner Bruce O. Parks. He said examiners were hindered by the advanced state of the body’s decomposition.
Last night, a number of cars were parked outside the Killeen home, in the 5800 block of South Hillerman Drive in Midvale Park, where Killeen’s widow, Eleanor, continues to live.
Through a spokesman, she refused to talk to a reporter about the misdemeanor citation.
Rick Unklesbay, chief criminal deputy county attorney, had said his office would not seek charges in Killeen’s death.
He said the case would be reviewed by authorities, however, to determine whether anyone should be cited on suspicion of not reporting the death.
The citations are a result of that review.
Killeen’s brother Christopher Killeen said James told him in the weeks before he lost contact with him that he had been fasting as part of a newfound religious belief.
Parks said the autopsy found no evidence of trauma, beating, stabbing or gunshot wounds.
Also, no signs of poisoning or malnutrition were found, Parks said.
Tucson police officer Michael Kishbaugh wrote in a report that when he walked into the Killeen home to check on James Killeen’s well-being, he was struck by “an overwhelming odor of death.”
Officer Corey Doggett wrote in a report that Killeen’s brother Christopher said that James “became involved in a ‘cult.’ “
Doggett wrote that “Chris also said that James told him that he was going to be resurrected by the ” ‘cult’ leader, Stan Adair Bennett.”
Killeen’s wife “kept the victim in the bedroom and she and others prayed so they could revive him,” Detective Raul Olivas wrote in a report.
Arizona Corporation Commission records list Stanley Bennett as an officer of World Ministries, in the 22000 block of South Helvetia Road.
Birkholz said that is the location of his 10 acres in the Santa Ritas.
He said the Bennetts and their followers are no longer living there and that the Bennetts owe him about $4,000 in back rent.
Birkholz, who lives north of Phoenix, said he and his wife started a religious retreat on the property in the late 1970s.
He said he first met Stanley Bennett five or six years ago when Bennett came to the property, said he was with a Christian organization and asked to hold a picnic there.
Birkholz said he gave permission for the picnic and then Bennett moved mobile homes onto the land and moved in.
“They squatted on the land,” Birkholz said. “I told them they couldn’t put any buildings on it.”
After about a year, Birkholz said, he demanded the Bennetts pay rent, and they did until about eight or nine months ago, when the rent payments stopped.
About five months ago, Birkholz said he began asking the Bennetts to leave his property.
They did, but Birkholz says he does not know precisely when.
Ralph Sumstine, board president of the Water of Life Christian Center, owns the neighboring 20 acres near Birkholz’s property.
He operates a religious retreat there.
He said he hasn’t seen the Bennetts in the area since Christmas.
However, Stanley Bennett’s son-in-law lived on the Water of Life property as a caretaker, Sumstine said, until about a month ago, when he left the area.
Sumstine said Birkholz gave Water of Life the 20 acres on which it operates its retreat.