West York ritualistic suicide forgotten by many, but investigators remember
Mary Breighner discusses a body found in a Peach Bottom quarry in 2004 with her boss, Coroner Barry Bloss. In 2008, Breighner said she retiring. Background posts: York’s Wonder Women: The stories of four more movers and shakers, Witman murder among York County’s most notorious crimes and Hex murder house visit offers surprises.
York County’s Chief Deputy Coroner Mary Breighner talked about her pending retirement recently.
In so doing, she brought up a case that many have forgotten. But the longtime assistant coroner – she assisted Kathryn Olewiler before current coroner Barry Bloss – obviously remembers it well… .
Here’s an excerpt from the York Daily Record/Sunday News story (10/19/08) on Breighner’s upcoming retirement and that case – a horrendous mass suicide that happened in West York in 1985:
After more than 20 years, she still remembers the suicide of a West York family of four across from the York Fairgrounds.
That family had dutifully paid the rent in August, then poisoned themselves in a ritualistic suicide. The landlord made the gruesome discovery when he went to collect the rent in September.
The two girls were found in their bed with a Bible at their side turned to their favorite passage. The bodies were mummified.
Despite her years of experience, Breighner said, it is particularly hard handling any death involving youth, whether it’s a car crash, a drug overdose or a suicide.
How did Breighner hold up all these years?
The story explained that, too:
And each time, she did her job, prayed to God for strength and found a way to break the tragic news to surviving family members.
Without her faith, Breighner said, she would not have survived 28 years in the York County Coroner’s Office.
The coroner’s office and West York Police were involved in another hideous case two years later, as summarized along with the mass suicide in “Never to be Forgotten:”
West York police investigate two of the most hideous county incidents in years. A minister, his wife and two grown daughters commit suicide by drinking a toxic substance. Police are called to the scene several weeks after the act when downstairs neighbors complain of a stench. The minister reportedly was despondent in not gaining a ministerial post. Two years later, two elderly sisters kill their younger sister, Cassandra Life, to gain her financial assets. The criminal investigation reveals old and new abuses. Police charge the sisters, who later plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter. A judge sentences them to 23 months probation and removes them from their sister’s estate. The sisters’ actions attract statewide attention to the problem of elder abuse.