Widow Who Kept Corpses May Get Them Back
Republican state Senators Joel Anderson, of La Mesa, left, and Bill Emerson, of Redlands, confer during the Senate session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday June, 14, 2012. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the 2012-13 state budget plan, Friday, to meet the constitutional deadline.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) / Rich Pedroncelli
The 91-year-old widow who lived with the embalmed corpses of her husband and twin sister until authorities found out and took them away is hopeful they'll be returned soon.
Workmen at Stevens' rural property outside the northern Pennsylvania town of Wyalusing have been busy the past few months, erecting a gabled building with gray siding and a white door. It resembles an oversized shed, or a smaller version of Stevens' detached garage.
In reality, it's a mausoleum that Stevens intends as the final resting place of her husband of nearly 60 years, James Stevens, and her twin, June Stevens. And authorities have told her it's the only way she can get them back.
She can't wait.
"I think about them all the time," Stevens told The Associated Press a few days before Christmas, "and I always will."
The coroner, she said, "has them up there in the cold box, which makes me shiver. He says, 'They're all right, Jean, you don't have to worry about them."'
Stevens had their bodies dug up shortly after they died James in 1999, June in 2009 because she couldn't bear not being able to see them again. She kept her husband on a couch in the garage, and her sister in a spare room off the bedroom, where "I could touch her and look at her and talk to her," Stevens told AP last summer.
"Death is very hard for me to take," she added then.
Stevens' tale touched a chord. She estimates she received about 70 letters from around the world, most of them expressing well-wishes and sympathy. She's written back to some. One of her new pen pals mailed a Christmas package with fruitcake, mints, and a holiday tin stuffed with Chex mix. "Dearest Jean," wrote her correspondent, "you've sent us a Christmas treasure, your letter!"
Stevens also knows that some people think she's strange. She laughs heartily as she leafs through a pair of supermarket tabloids that had blared her story. She says Jay Leno once cracked a joke about her.
But it's Stevens who may get the last laugh.
Bradford County authorities, who have been storing the bodies in the morgue since they took them away in June, have told Stevens she can have them back if she builds an aboveground vault.
Coroner Tom Carman said he plans to release them once it's completed.
"I want to get Jimmy and June back to her just as soon as I possibly can," he said.
Carman has struck up an unusual friendship with Stevens. He's spent hours listening to her talk, mainly about the past. "She's a wonderful lady," he said.
Stevens plans to place her husband and sister in body bags with clear panels, so she can see their faces.
The mausoleum is large enough to hold as many as eight bodies. Stevens said she'd like to transfer the remains of several loved ones to the crypt, including those of her long-deceased mother and father.
One of the spots will be reserved.
"She means to be placed there, as well," Carman said. "She's made that very clear."
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