Police investigate letters received by funeral homes

by Shira Kantor

As citizens embark on the path to recovery, Hudson police continue to investigate more than 100 leads in a recent double homicide – including a link to a religious group that has sent threatening notes to several Wisconsin funeral homes.

Kathryn Padilla, 55, a member of The Rest of Jesus Ministry, was charged Tuesday in connection with two letters – hand-delivered to Eau Claire, Wis., funeral homes – that decry embalming as desecration of the human body.

Hudson police Sgt. Marty Jensen said he found it suspicious that the letters were dropped off during the two days following the deaths of University student James Ellison, 22, and funeral home owner Daniel O’Connell, 39, who were working at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home when they were shot and killed Feb. 5.

“We’re definitely taking a look at her organization,” Jensen said.

Police charged Padilla with stalking and disorderly conduct for notes left at Eau Claire, funeral homes. The O’Connell funeral home received a similar threat last February.

Padilla admitted she sent letters to numerous Wisconsin funeral homes in 2001, according to the Eau Claire County criminal complaint.

The notes, both handwritten and typed, always read the same:
“Thus saith the Lord, ‘because you have heard not the words of the Lord, I take from you your sons and daughters into early graves. And prepare for burial yourself.'”

Padilla told police she created the letters after receiving the “inspired word of God” and said she was carrying out God’s commands, according to the criminal complaint.

Jensen said many Wisconsin funeral home directors were aware of the group but “didn’t think much of it at the time.”

He said Hudson police have sent investigators to Eau Claire to pursue leads.

Gary Foster, deputy police chief in Eau Claire, said it was “common sense for law enforcement to look for a connection” between Padilla’s notes and the double homicide at the O’Connell funeral home.

A man who answered Padilla’s home phone said her attorney had advised her not to speak with anyone.

Padilla was released on bail. She is to appear in the district attorney’s office for a pretrial conference on March 11.

Shira Kantor welcomes comments at
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