A 28-year-old Berks County woman was charged Wednesday, Nov. 6, with taking pictures of dead Berks Heim residents, then sharing them with others while working as a nursing assistant at the county retirement home.
Stephanie R. Thomas of the 500 block of Vesta Place, Muhlenberg Township, was issued a citation for three counts of abuse of a corpse. She remains free awaiting further court action.
Bern Township police said they received a complaint from Doris Logan, director of nursing at the Heim, that she had received an anonymous letter about Thomas taking photos of residents who had died at the facility.
The anonymous source provided copies of photos sent from Thomas. The copies contained Thomas' phone number as the sender of the pictures.
Patrolman Joshua O. Santos said he went to Thomas' residence and she admitted taking the photos. Thomas told Santos her ex-boyfriend was interested in such photos.
However, Santos said he interviewed three different Heim workers, and they each said Thomas had shown them copies of the photos and that she seemed to be preoccupied with dead animals and humans. Santos obtained a search warrant for Thomas' phone and found photos of the three deceased people at the Heim and photos of deer skulls, decapitated deer heads, internet photos of a dog skull, and a dead shark. Santos also found a professional-type photo of Thomas posing with a deer skull and antlers.
Santos informed relatives of the three deceased Heim residents, who were between 84 and 92, in Thomas' photos and they all said they were disgusted and did not give her permission to photograph their deceased loved ones.
County Solicitor Christine M. Sadler said Thomas is no longer employed at the Heim or with the county. She confirmed that she worked at Berks Heim, but could not say when or why her employment came to an end, citing it is a personnel issue.
Santos served Thomas with the abuse-of-corpse citation, a second-degree misdemeanor. Each of the three counts is punishable by one to two years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.