The Strange (#1)

December 5, 2008

Okay, look, I owe you one.

No writing exercises, no befuddling sexuality. Just pure strangeness. Try this on:

    In mid-November, one Tammy Lewis rolled on her bishop, pleading guilty for her role in a Social Security scam that saw a religious leader collecting checks sent to the corpse of a ninety year-old woman decaying on a toilet.

Okay, show of hands … which of our mystery writers are cursing quietly to themselves and saying, “Reality! Always beating me to the punch!”

The sordid details:

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17 This week … kicks off like so many weeks before it—with a decaying corpse on a toilet. This week’s toilet corpse comes from Mauston, Wisconsin, where two members of a religious sect have been charged with allowing a dead fellow member to rot in a bathroom for months in order to collect the dead member’s Social Security checks. Details come from the Associated Press, which identifies the sect as the self-identified Order of the Divine Will, whose purported leader—58-year-old Alan Bushey—stands accused of executing the hideous scam with 36-year-old follower Tammy Lewis. Featured prominently in the alleged scam: 90-year-old Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth, a sect member who died in March, after which her dead body was placed in one of bathrooms of Lewis’s home. While Bushey allegedly collected Middlesworth’s Social Security checks, he reportedly assured Lewis—whose home increasingly smelled like a rotting corpse—that God would revive the dead woman. In May, investigators came looking for Middlesworth and were told by Lewis that the elderly woman was on vacation. But cops quickly followed the stench to the aforementioned corpse on the toilet, eventually arresting both Bushey and Lewis. Which brings us to today, when Lewis bargained for her future, entering into a plea agreement that reduces her conviction to a misdemeanor in exchange for her testimony against Bushey. “We also understand the power, the mental power, that Alan Bushey was exercising over [Lewis],” said District Attorney Scott Southworth. “We view her as a victim as well of Alan Bushey.”

See also, the same column’s original account of the arrests, back in May.

When you’re done cussing me out for this one, you can also send your love to David Schmader of The Stranger, to whom I am obliged by custom to tip my hat. Well, if I actually wore one.



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