The unbelievable story of Jean Stevens
Alone in the world, Jean Stevens did the unthinkable.
She decided to live with her dead loved ones.
The 91-year-old Wyalusing woman was found to have in her house and garage the embalmed, mummified bodies of her late husband and her twin sister.
The discovery last week sent shock waves across the country, partly because of the circumstances: Jean Stevens is perfectly normal. She does not have dementia.
"She has all of her mental faculties," say social workers.
Pennsylvania State Police say both bodies had been there for quite some time.
Jean's husband, James Stevens, passed away in 1999 and was buried May 21 of that year at Lime Hill Cemetery. The cemetery does not require coffins to be placed inside burial vaults. Shortly after burial, Stevens had his body privately exhumed and taken to her house. She said she wanted to change his shirt, and maybe his shoes. But she kept him with her. He was never reburied.
Same with her sister, June Stevens, who was married to James' brother and who died in October 3, 2009. According to her obituary, June's only survivor at the time of her death was her twin sister Jean. The body of June, a retired schoolteacher, was found in a spare bedroom in Jean's rambling, century old wood frame house along Old Stagecoach Road.
June and James Stevens had died of natural causes, according to records.
Of course, Jean Stevens didn't personally dig up the bodies. She hired somebody to do it.
Police say they found out about the bodies when employees of the Area Agency of Aging paid a visit to Jean.
Apparently, Jean talked about her dead loved ones in a matter-of-fact way, and even showed one of the bodies to the social workers.
Police are dumbfounded and the district attorney doesn't seem to be sure how to proceed.
"Mrs. Stevens did go to the barracks and was later returned to her home," said Cpl. Al R. Ogden.
At a special news conference, State Police Lt. Rick Krawetz told the media that this case is the first of its kind he's seen in his 28 years in law enforcement.
So far, no charges have been filed.
Nor should they be.
Jean Stevens poses no threat to the public.
Her only crime was being lonely and missing the comfort of the presence of her loved ones.
Prosecuting Jean Stevens would be a misappropriation of judicial time and a waste of taxpayers' money.
It's true that most people likely wouldn't understand how Jean could live with the bodies of her family. But at age 91, Jean is a product of a different era. She grew up in an age when funerals often were held at home and bodies kept on ice. A family took responsibility for the deceased and burials sometimes were conducted on the premises, maybe in space reserved in the backyard.
Whatever the case, Jean felt she wanted to be near her loved ones.
It's a universal feeling for anyone who longs for the presence of the departed; anyone who lost the world as they knew it. Jean apparently felt a need to act on those feelings.
Some events in life are strange and unexplainable. Sometimes behavior goes beyond the pale. Sometimes faith is tested.
Jean Stevens needs compassion and understanding, not prosecution. She needs support from friends and neighbors
Some issues need to be addressed through the love system, not the legal system.