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Elderly Woman Disinterred Relatives - for Company

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 08, 2010 1:23 PM

Let's file this one under: that's why there is a law against it. Although some rush to the "that's creepy" side of the following story, as usual, there is more to it. Part of the complication though, is that it is also just plain illegal. A ninety-one year old widow living in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, kept both her husband and twin sister around for company. The difficulty is they had both been dead for some time.

The Associated Press reports Jean Stevens had the embalmed corpses of her loved ones disinterred and more or less resurrected in her home, her twin sister June on a couch in the spare bedroom and her husband, James, on the couch in the detached garage. That way, she could visit with her sister and talk to the husband she was married to for nearly 60 years. Old habits die hard.

The whistle was blown on this domestic set up, Mrs. Stevens thinks, by a relative of her late husband's. The bodies are now residing with the Bradford County coroner, who happens to be a fan of the unusual lady. "I got quite an education, to say the least," said the corner, Dr. Tom Carman, of his dealings with Mrs. Stevens. "She's 100 percent cooperative -- and a pleasure to talk to," Carman told the AP. "But as far as her psyche, I'll leave that to the experts."

Other experts need to weigh in as well. According to the AP, the local district attorney, Daniel Barrett, will decide by the end of the week whether or not to press charges. There are a few possible violations of law, including misdemeanor abuse of a corpse, according to the D.A.

Laws around the burial of the dead are often based on common law and protect society's interest in health and public welfare by encouraging burial and proper handling of a corpse. It is a violation of law to neglect to bury a body after a reasonable time, or to disinter a body without legal authorization. Usually, this would apply to disinterment to seek evidence in a criminal case, not for company.

Whether or not charges are brought against Mrs. Stevens might depend in part on whether she promises to put her relatives back where they belong. The AP reports she has plans to build a crypt on her property. If that is the case, no doubt the D.A. will come for a visit, just to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be and not on the couch, chatting with relatives.

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