WYOMING, Mich. -- The young disabled man who had lived in 'Kevin's House' at Jim Bakker's PTL ministry has died, his brother said Tuesday night. Kevin Whittum would have been 24 on Friday.
The house that television evangelist Bakker raised $3 million to build was to have provided shelter for disabled children and adults, but the only people with disabilities who lived in the 18-bedroom home was Whittum and his sister, Carolyn, who was a double leg amputee. It eventually was learned that Whittum was Bakker's cousin.
Whittum lived in the home from September, 1986 to August, 1989 and was forced to move out when the PTL Ministry, under imminent financial collapse, was taken over by Jerry Falwell, said Kevin's brother, David Whittum.
Whittum's brother told UPI in an interview that cause of death of Kevin Monday night was undetermined because 'no autopsy was done.'
'The only thing we can think of is that he was having a hard time breathing on oxygen,' Whittum said of his brother, whom he said had suffered multiple fractures from his brittle bone disease.
He said there had been no earlier indication his brother, who was adopted by David and Ione Whittum, was ill. Because of his birth defect, Kevin Whittum was about 29 inches tall and weighed about 40 pounds.
'But, you know, he had been needing oxygen more and more,' the brother said. 'There wasn't a little bit of time he had to be off of oxygen. He had to be on it constantly. But he could get in his chair and go places as far as that goes.'
Kevin Whittum, who graduated from Heritage High School in the Charlotte, N.C. area, had started his own business, Whittum Enterprises, his brother said. The company sold computers and related materials.
During the fund-raising drive for the home, Kevin Whittum often appeared on Jim and Tammy Bakker's PTL television show. Of the estimated $3 million that was raised for the home, about $1 million was spent on construction.
However, the builder failed to put in fire walls and South Carolina law required such walls in any facility for someone with a disability.
'I am deeply grieved by his death,' Jim Bakker said in a statement released from prison, 'but I know he is in a better place and his tiny body that was wracked with pain is made perfect and whole as he walks with his God.
'My hope was that Kevin would have lived out his short years in the home so many people lovingly built in his honor, but I have, as Kevin also has, learned to put my hope in eternal things. Kevin was asked to leave 'Kevin's House', but Christ has a home prepared for him he will never be evicted from.'
Bakker, who was born in Muskegon, Mich., was convicted of 24 counts of fraud and perjury and sentenced to 45 years imprisonment in October, 1989, stemming from misuse of PTL money. His sentence was reduced to 18 years and he is serving the sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn.
Bakker's attorney, Jim Toms of Hendersonville, N.C., described Kevin as 'a person with a good mind and personality and courage.'
Bakker's wife, Tammy, of International Falls, Minn., divorced Bakker earlier this year.
After the scandal over the misuse of donations from the public for the PTL Ministry, Bakker was defrocked as a minister of the Assembly of God denomination.
Whittum's brother said Kevin Whittum's funeral will be Saturday in Wyoming.