Housemate describes home where body sat for 3 weeks
Residents at home told Killeen weak from fast, recovering in room
By DAVID L. TEIBEL
Religious leader Stanley Adair Bennett promised an ailing follower that if he fasted for 40 days, not only would he be healed but a paraplegic woman would walk again.
The woman, Joanne Tapia, says she believes Bennett “deceived” the sick man, James Killeen – a diabetic whose January death went unreported for three weeks while Bennett and his followers prayed for his resurrection, according to police and autopsy reports.
Bennett, 51, who was in court yesterday for a hearing on charges he failed to report a death, has refused to comment on the case.
Tapia, paralyzed in 2001 when her ex-boyfriend shot her, was receiving care at the home of James Killeen and his wife, Eleanor, when police discovered Killeen’s body there Jan. 23.
Tapia said she had noticed an odor on Eleanor Killeen’s hair and clothing whenever Eleanor entered Tapia’s bedroom. But Eleanor told Tapia that it was Tapia’s own perspiration from night sweats that she smelled. Eleanor Killeen then sprayed a deodorizer in the room, Tapia said.
Police noted an “overwhelming odor of death” in the home.
Bennett and his wife, Jill – a registered nurse – do not believe in medicine, Tapia said. “They believe the Lord is the healer.”
When Tapia developed bed sores and a high fever, “they asked me to pray in tongues and the Lord would take care of my fever,” she said.
However, she eventually was hospitalized in early February for treatment of the sores and fever.
After being released, Tapia went to live with a friend in the Benson area.
Tapia said she met the Bennetts and the Killeens last summer when she was staying at a local nursing home where the couples regularly visited a young girl in a coma. The Killeens invited Tapia to live with them.
Bennett’s daughter, Myra, who lived at the Killeen home for a time, said she and others did not know that James Killeen was dead.
She said she never noticed a strong odor in the house but had never smelled a decomposing body before.
Myra Bennett said James Killeen, a Union Pacific Railroad supervisor, fell ill shortly after working outside in the cold for 14 to 15 hours at a train wreck site near Green Valley on Christmas Eve.
He seemed to be recovering but worsened Jan. 3. The next day Eleanor Killeen called Myra’s mother, Jill Bennett after finding him unconscious.
Myra Bennett said her mother examined James and could not find a pulse. She said her father and others moved him from a rocking chair to his bed, where someone detected a weak pulse and shallow breathing.
Ten to 12 days later, “we heard him coughing,” Myra said, explaining that James’ wife, Eleanor Killeen, stayed in the room with James and was the only one to go into his room after Jan. 4.
County Medical Examiner Bruce O. Parks said Killeen was dead at least three weeks when police discovered his body. That would put the date of his death around Jan. 2. The cause of death could not be determined because of the advanced state of decomposition.
Tapia, 28, said she and other residents were never told that Killeen had died. She said they were told Killeen was weak from fasting and was staying in his room to recover his strength.
Tapia said it was police who told her that Eleanor Killeen and Bennett were praying for James Killeen’s resurrection.
Police discovered Killeen’s body after his brother and other family members who had not been able to reach him asked police to check his welfare.
When Killeen fell ill in December, he was coughing and vomiting, Tapia said. The last time she saw James Killeen was at a prayer meeting at the Killeen home some time in early January.
“He looked like he was in pain, and he was breathing very heavily,” Tapia said, adding, “my heart broke for him.”
By that time, Tapia said, the Bennetts were holding prayer meetings almost daily at the Killeen home.
After Killeen’s death, group members were not allowed to show grief, Tapia said. “It was a sign of contaminated faith. You weren’t allowed to show any emotion,” she said.
Tapia described Bennett as a “very arrogant, controlling man . . . he wants everybody to be beneath him” and to accept him as their religious leader.
“Everyone knew what Stan expected of them, and everyone did what he expected of them,” said Tapia, who repeatedly stressed she was not part of Bennett’s religious group.
Tapia said she had her “own spiritual walk,” which became a source of tension between her and Bennett.
Myra Bennett, disputed Tapia’s characterization of her father.
“Arrogance implies pride, and my dad is a very humble man,” she said. However, “he is strict, he believes in order and discipline,” she said. “And he, as a father, has given us just the right amount of love, compassion and discipline that we need.”
Stan Bennett, she said, “will give away his last dollar to someone who needs it, when the shirt on his back has holes in it.”
She also denied that her father was running a cult, as James Killeen’s brother, Christopher, has said.
“My dad frequently invited people to leave (his ministry), saying, “I know this is not for everyone . . . he never condemned anyone for coming or going,” she said.
She said her father sought out those in need of spiritual help who were not being ministered by mainstream churches: the homeless, gang members, drug users and prostitutes.
It is unclear how many followers Stan Bennett has in the Tucson area. Tapia said some 13 or 14 adults and about six small children attended prayer meetings held by Bennett at the Killeen home, on South Hillerman Drive.
“The six small children, they called Stan ‘Papa,’ ” Tapia said. She said Bennett never talked with her extensively about his background.
She said he told her he had been a minister for some 20 years and that he “grew up as a little boy in a Christian home, that his father was a minister in Kentucky.”
Tapia said Bennett told her he was “hurt by the church,” which was why he decided to form his own ministry. She did not know whether Bennett had graduated from a school of theology.
Arizona Corporation Commission records list Stanley Bennett as an officer of World Ministries, in the 22000 block of South Helvetia Road.
Records at the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office show a World Ministries in that state, with the Rev. Roy G. Bennett as one of the incorporators.
Myra Bennett said Roy G. Bennett is her grandfather.
She would not talk in detail about her grandfather, but said that he moved around the Midwest as part of his ministry while her father was growing up.
Tapia said she did not know whether to term Bennett’s group a cult and she felt people were free to leave the group.
But, she said of the religious group, “a lot of my friends warned me that there is something not right with this.”
Initially after learning of James Killeen’s death, Tapia said she felt animosity toward Stanley Bennett.
“But I prayed to the Lord to get that animosity out of me,” Tapia said.
“Because of my belief in the Lord, I forgive him,” she said. “He’s going to have to answer to the Lord on judgment day.”
Tapia said she regained the use of her arms and abdominal muscles before meeting the Bennetts.
She said she is confident she eventually will walk again through her religious faith and the intensive physical therapy she is receiving.
Tapia said she was living at Posada del Sol Health Care Center, Pima County’s long-term care home, when she met the Killeens, who later introduced her to Stanley and Jill Bennett. The family of a young girl in a coma suggested to the Killeens that they visit Tapia, thinking the Killeens could offer her spiritual guidance and help, Tapia said.
The Killeens eventually introduced her to the Bennetts for the same reason, Tapia said.
“James and Eleanor and the girls (Bennett’s daughters) and Stan came across as very good people,” Tapia said.
Tapia said she wanted to continue intensive physical therapy at St. Mary’s Hospital, but her doctor told her he would do that only if she could show she would live in the community.
When the Killeens learned of that, Tapia said, they invited her to move in with them at their four-bedroom home, where she stayed from Dec. 21 to Feb. 6.
“It’s very unfortunate about his death,” Tapia said of James Killeen, “he was a very good man . . . he was a man of God.”
Killeen’s body has been in the Pima County morgue since police found it. Christopher Bennett was in Tucson last week for a hearing where he sought to have his brother cremated and the ashes interred, something that legally is Killeen’s widows right and obligation.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Clark W. Munger ordered that Christopher Killeen could arrange for his brother’s cremation and interment.
But Munger ordered that those steps could not be taken before today so Eleanor Killeen, who was not at the hearing, could have time to object to the order.
By Friday afternoon she had not filed an objection with the court.
At the hearing, a burial specialist with the Pima County Fiduciary’s Office testified about five to six conversations he had with Eleanor Killeen in which she said she would make arrangements for her husband’s body, but never did.
The reason Eleanor Killeen has not made burial arrangements, Tapia said, “is because she is still waiting for him to be resurrected.”
PHOTO CAPTIONS: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
Stanley Adair Bennett and his wife, Jill L. Bennett, leave Tucson City Court yesterday after being cited on suspicion of failing to report the death of James W. Killeen.
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Joanne Tapia lived in the home where James Killeen’s body was prayed over for three weeks in hopes of his resurrection.