Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts July 2010

Mummy Wrap Up

This is the way my life works. I wait and wait and then, no sooner do I finally act, then the situation changes.

Such is the case with our mummy case in Bradford County. I posted the first entry a couple of weeks after the story broke. I waited about a month to post an update. No sooner do I post that update, then there's an update to the update.

The update is this. A couple days ago, well past the original July 9 deadline mentioned in a news release along the way, authorities finally filed charges in the case. And very anticlimactic charges at that.

 In short, the only person charged in the case is a 62-year-old neighbor of the 91-year-old woman. The neighbor admits that he dug up the body of the woman's twin sister last year. For his trouble, he is now facing a misdemeanor charge of abuse of a corpse and a summary charge of digging up a body. For charges such as these, it's appropriate to let the offending party know about the offense(s) through the mail. Then, he'll probably go to a magistrate's office and pay a fine.

A news release sent out by police mentions that they also know who dug up the body of the elderly woman's husband. But, because that episode happened more than 10 years ago, the staute of limitations has run out and no charges will be filed.

It also seems unlikely that the elderly woman will face any charges. I get the feeling that no one really has the heart for that.

So, it looks as though the case of the mummified remains is a wrap.

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Mo' Mummies

Since I appear to have some blogging energy units today (must be all that coffee I drank this afternoon), here's an update on the MUMMIES IN BRADFORD COUNTY.

When last we left, the mummified remains of two bodies had been found in early June in the home of an elderly woman who lives near Wyalusing. Further investigation revealed that the remains were those of the woman's husband, who died in 1999, and the woman's twin sister, who died in 2009. It seems that, soon after each of their deaths, the elderly woman enlisted someone or someones to dig up the bodies from their graves and bring the remains to her home.

Case workers who had gone to the home to check on Stevens, which is when she first admitted the presence of the mummified bodies, said that Stevens seemed fine and in complete possession of her mental faculties.

In early July, as the official investigation continued, Stevens talked with a reporter from the Associated Press. You can read the article HERE. In short, Stevens said that she had the bodies dug up because death is hard for her to take. She also said that she sprayed the remains of her dead twin sister with perfume and spoke with her frequently.

(As an aside, I should point out that my TV station - and others in the area - first covered the story in early June when state police sent out a news release to say that mummified remains had been found in the home. I will pinky swear that people at the network were soon made aware of this story through the course of daily telephone contact. Yet, the network and its affiliates expressed almost no interest in the story until early July, when the AP article appeared. Suddenly, stations in Philadelphia and everywhere else were clamoring for video that we shot three weeks earlier! Just sayin'.)

Following the publication of this article, my station attempted to speak with Stevens. She refused, telling us that she had been "tricked" by the AP reporter into doing the interview. Stevens POSED FOR PICTURES for the AP photographer, so I'm not exactly sure just who she thought she was speaking to at the time. Anyway ...

The latest on the investigation is this. Authorities apparently have a pretty good idea of who actually dug up the bodies but, as of now, no names have been revealed and no charges have been filed. No charges have been filed against Stevens so far, either. And, there's no word on when investigators will wrap up the case of the mummified remains.

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Act of God

I'm not a reporter. But, because I work in television news, sometimes I get to play one.

In the course of my career, I've been assigned to cover a few court cases. The biggest one was in 2000, when the mayor of York, PA and a few other white guys went on trial for the death of a black woman during a race riot back in the 1960s. That trial lasted for about a month and I was in the courtroom for every day of it. My other forays into courtroom drama have not been as extensive. A case here, a case there, mostly just to take notes until an actual reporter showed up. I always find it fascinating and wish I had the opportunity to do more of it.

For instance, I would have loved to have been in the courtroom today when a man named RANDY PRATT went on trial in Columbia County.

The case basically lays out like this:  Back in 2008, Pratt deposited a check for roughly $1,770 in his wife's bank account. But, the bank made an error and recorded the deposit as roughly $177,000. What did the Pratts do? Did they report this error to the bank? No. They spent the money. They donated some of it to churches, but they spent the rest of it on themselves, including using the cash to fund a move to Florida.

Soon enough, both Pratts were under arrest on theft charges. The wife fessed up last year and spent close to a year in jail. In court today, she testified against her husband, saying she knew that keeping the money and spending it was a mistake.

Randy Pratt testified in his own defense, and his defense was that he didn't steal the money. God wanted him to have it. He called the banking error an "act of god," arguing that because he routinely gave money to the church, God was just giving it back tenfold.

As far as I know, Randy Pratt was the only defense witness.

The jury deliberated for one whole hour before finding Pratt guilty. He faces up to eight years in prison when he's sentenced.

God giveth, and God taketh away.

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