BERN TWP., Pa. - A Berks Heim employee is in trouble with the law, accused of taking pictures of deceased residents and sharing them with others.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams charged Stephanie R. Thomas with three counts of abuse of a corpse, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Thomas, a certified nursing assistant at the county-owned nursing home in Bern Township, was reported to authorities in September as having taken pictures of deceased residents and then sharing them with friends and co-workers, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
"The mere act of taking the photos was in and of itself inappropriate," Adams said.
Thomas, 28, of Muhlenberg Township, later admitted to police that she took the photos, but only because her ex-boyfriend "liked that kind of thing," according to the court paperwork.
Multiple people interviewed by investigators, however, disputed her claims, saying they received photos from Thomas via text message, with one of the witnesses telling police that Thomas has an "obsession with death" and another advising that she likes to collect "dead things."
Thomas surrendered her phone to police, who reported finding that it contained photos of three deceased residents, one of whom was face down with blood coming from her head.
Adams said the distribution of the pictures led to outrage and distress among family members of the victims.
"These families, they were particularly outraged that their photographs of deceased family members [were] exposed to public view," Adams said. "Frankly, I think it caused a lot of embarrassment and emotional issues for the families."
The residents' photos, police said, were taken on April 22, May 22, and July 29, 2019.
Other photos found on her phone include those of deer skulls, decapitated deer heads, an internet photo of a dog skull, and a small, embalmed shark, police said.
Court documents indicate that Thomas was suspended from her job at Berks Heim in September, but county officials have not commented on her current employment status with the nursing home.