Friends, family say they warned woman, 90, not to move

NECEDAH, Wis. – Friends and family of the 90-year-old woman whose remains were found on a toilet in a house said they warned her not to move to the area from Washington state.

But in the fall of 2005, Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth ignored that advice, sold her house and moved to Necedah.

“People warned her that she was getting involved with a dangerous cult, but she refused to accept that reality,” said Father Michael OBrien, pastor of St. Mary of the Valley, a Catholic church in Monroe, Wash., where Middlesworth had been a parishioner for years.

A sheriff’s deputy discovered her remains in a house she shared with a woman and two children last week.

Tammy Lewis, 35, and 57-year-old Alan Bushey (pronounced “boo-SHAY”) have been charged with two felony counts of being a party to causing mental harm to a child. Lewis was also charged with obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor.

Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said authorities believed it was a “cult-type situation where fraud was enacted by the leader of this cult in order to obtain money.”

Authorities made the discovery Wednesday after they were called by one of Middlesworth’s sisters to check in on her. She lived in the home with Lewis and her 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

Another sister, Marcella Stein, 89, of Lyle, Wash., said the family still isn’t sure who persuaded Middlesworth to move. She said her sister was religious, generous and gullible.

Middlesworth, the oldest of five children, entered a convent at 16 but wasn’t ultimately accepted to be a nun, Stein said. She moved to Washington and married but never had children. Her husband died about 15 years ago. Stein wondered how people could treat her this way.

“She never hurt a soul in her life,” Stein said.

Lewis told the deputy who arrived at the house that Middlesworth died about two months earlier, but God told her Middlesworth would come to life if she prayed hard enough, authorities said. She said she couldn’t say anything more until she spoke with her “superior” Bushey, also known as Bishop John Peter Bushey.

Michael Van Hoof, who has known Lewis and Bushey for several years, said Bushey had tried to affiliate himself with the Queen of Holy Rosary Shrine but was turned down. Van Hoof’s grandmother, Mary Ann Van Hoof, was reported to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1949, and that gave rise to the shrine in Necedah.

Bushey said Mass in the Latin Tridentine rite at the Immaculate Conception Chapel, a small house converted into a church not far from the home where Middlesworth’s body was found, according to a sign outside.

Neighbors said Lewis wore the veil and pale blue habit of other nuns who worshipped at Bushey’s Chapel. Mary Johnson, who lives next door, said the family was reclusive.

“We’d try to wave, but they wouldn’t even acknowledge us,” she said. “Sometimes their kids would try to come over and try to play with our puppies, but they’d always get scolded.”

The two children have been placed in foster care. An autopsy has been done on Middlesworth but results won’t be available for some time, authorities have said.

Bushey and Lewis are scheduled to make an initial court appearance May 19.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

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The Daily News, WIS, USA
May 10, 2008

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This post was last updated: May. 13, 2008