Category Archives: Cults

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery

aleister-crowley_thumb
Aleister Crowley: Hubbard wrote Dianetics just a few years after his Pasadena escapades, and founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-1950s. His son Nibs has said that the OTO’s “black magic” was the “inner core” of Scientology, and Hubbard is also on record calling Crowley a “friend.”

io9.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Annalee Newitz

One of the weirdest historical confluences you can imagine took place in Pasadena, California, in the 1940s. There, a darkly handsome young man and chemistry autodidact named Jack Parsons had just made a bundle of money by inventing solid rocket fuel and selling it to the military. He was part of a group of explosion-obsessed researchers at CalTech who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where recently the Martian Rovers were made. He was also a goddess-obsessed acolyte and generous financial supporter of the infamous Pagan leader, Aleister Crowley.

Parsons used his defense contract money to convert an old mansion into a group house whose residents included other Pagans, artists, scientists, and writers. One of his boarders was a charismatic science fiction author named L. Ron Hubbard, who became Parsons’ greatest frenemy, participating in rituals of sex magic with the rocket scientist, sleeping with his girlfriend, and finally absconding with all his money. Here is the true story of how Scientology and JPL were both conceived by men under the sorcerer Crowley’s mystical influence.

Like many high-tech entrepreneurs today, Parsons never attended college. He spent most of his teenage years doing backyard experiments with rocket fuel, aided by a childhood friend who later worked with him at CalTech. Parsons’ brilliance with chemical compounds — and fearlessness in the face of explosions — helped him make friends at CalTech, where he became a researcher in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, he’d helped found JPL, invented solid rocket fuel, and was well on his way to becoming an international science superstar. He was also deep into a new project: reaching the highest level in Aleister Crowley’s mystical organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery In a fascinating account of Parson’s life called Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, John Carter recounts how Parsons claimed to have summoned Satan when he was 13 years old, in the late 1920s. This experience, which the scientist described as terrifying, was the beginning of a lifelong interest in the occult — an interest that became a fiery passion when he discovered the work of Crowley (pictured). Though both Parsons and Crowley mention Satan in their work, neither was a “Satan worshipper.” They were Pagans with a deeply libertarian streak (Crowley’s mystical slogan was “do what thou wilt”), who took hallucinogenic drugs and believed in free love long before the hippies discovered did. Crowley had followers all over the world, like Parsons, who corresponded with him, sent him money, and asked for spiritual guidance. Parsons was a Crowley favorite, however, and the young man rocketed through the ranks of the OTO.

By day, Parsons helped to create one of the greatest scientific institutions of our time, JPL, which has created and maintained dozens of space vessels over the past half-century. But by night, he and his housemates drove his neighbors nuts (several filed police reports) by lighting great bonfires in his backyard, and dancing in a state of near-nakedness. They were worshiping Crowley’s favorite entities. Parsons, for his part, preferred goddesses.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery Sex Magick

Parsons and his young girlfriend Betty — whom he’d been dating since she was 15 — were both smitten immediately by L. Ron Hubbard when the writer moved in with them. A war veteran who told crazy stories and eagerly lapped up Crowley’s spiritualism, Hubbard became Parson’s great ally in the scientist’s quest to incarnate the goddess Babalon on Earth. Babalon would be a bewitching redhead, who would eventually give birth to the Antichrist. In his book about Parsons, Carson describes Hubbard and Parsons’s joint rituals in great detail. Since Babalon was a sensual entity, raising her required Parsons to masturbate repeatedly, releasing his seed on a parchment while Hubbard chanted rituals and took notes. Often, Parson’s own notes on these rituals make mention of “invoking” with a “wand.”

It was magick, yes, but it was also the future founder of Scientology jerking off with the founder of JPL, in order to indirectly spawn the Antichrist. I think we can take this incredibly deranged situation as further evidence that Los Angeles has always been a weird place.

Hubbard wasn’t content to watch Parsons invoking the wand, so he began sleeping with Betty. Parsons and Betty had always had an open relationship, so this wasn’t particularly shocking to anyone, least of all Parsons. But Betty really fell for Hubbard. The two were inseparable. Luckily, the incarnation of Babalon arrived just in time to soothe any feelings of jealousy Parsons might have had. A red-headed artist named Marjorie Cameron came to visit her friend at Parsons’s house, and both Hubbard and Parsons became convinced she was Babalon. Though Cameron wasn’t interested particularly in Paganism, she was an adventurous woman who liked the idea of free love. Plus, Parsons was hot. So she happily moved in and started participating in Hubbard and Parson’s sex rituals.

Hubbard would chant and invoke the spirits while Parsons and Cameron had sex. The men believed they were summoning spirits and lightning with their incredible potency and sorcery, though Crowley was so disgusted by their antics that he called them “goats” in a letter. Eventually Cameron did become pregnant, but instead of spawning Satan, she decided to have an abortion.

Is There Black Magick in Scientology?

As Cameron’s love affair with Parsons petered out, Hubbard’s relationship with Betty deepened. So did Hubbard’s fascination with the OTO. For those familiar with the basic outlines of Scientology, it will sound quite similar to the OTO. To achieve enlightenment, one ascended through many numerical “steps” on the way, gaining access to more secrets and rituals from Crowley as the apprenticeship went on. Giving money to Crowley was a good way to get more of his secrets, most of which involved achieving mystical power over one’s body and the physical world.

Scientology’s adherents likewise ascend through many steps on the path to cross the Void and become “clear,” which Hubbard promised would make them invulnerable to disease and capable of controlling other people’s actions. To achieve “clear,” however, Scientologists must give money and enact a number of rituals.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery In his new book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright explains that the influence of Crowley and the OTO has long been a controversy within Scientology. Hubbard wrote Dianetics just a few years after his Pasadena escapades, and founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-1950s. His son Nibs has said that the OTO’s “black magic” was the “inner core” of Scientology, and Hubbard is also on record calling Crowley a “friend.” But Scientologists say there is no relationship between the two spiritual systems.

Still, it’s hard to deny that Crowley had a strong influence over Hubbard, and many of the trappings of the OTO’s system appear in altered form in Scientology. You might say that Scientology is the science fiction version of the supernatural horror that was the OTO. So the religions may be different genres, but they have a lot in common.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery The Final Explosion

Once the war was over, Parsons began struggling with money. He tried to launch some businesses, but they sank. His old friends at CalTech had grown distant, but his new companion Hubbard offered a ray of hope. Hubbard suggested that he and Parsons go into business together selling boats. He’d worked on ships during the war, and was a fine captain; Hubbard and Betty would go to Florida, buy some ships, and sail them back to Los Angeles so the two men could sell them. So Parsons gave Hubbard his last $20 thousand, and saw his best friend and girlfriend off.

It seems that Hubbard never intended to make good on his promise, because as soon as he reached Florida he became unreachable. Weeks dragged by, and Parsons began to get angry. So he flew out to Florida, where Hubbard and Betty had bought a boat and were literally pushing off from port when Parsons arrived. The spurned and broke scientist sued Hubbard, and also wrote that he was working deadly spells on his former friend as well. Eventually, a storm grounded Hubbard and Betty and he was able to reach them. Parsons ended up dropping the charges — likely because Betty threatened to expose her unconventional relationship with him — and the couple never gave Parsons his money back.

In 1952, just two years after Hubbard shot to fame with the publication of Dianetics, Parsons died while handling explosives on his front porch. He was survived by the rockets built at JPL that have sent humans to the Moon, and the probes that took us to Jupiter, Saturn, and out beyond the solar system’s envelope. Parsons is also, like his frenemy Hubbard, survived by a snarl of conspiracy theories about his life and death.

Boy Scouts employ aggressive tactics in sex abuse defense

“They will tear you to shreds…”

Associated Press | Dec 25, 2012

boyscoutsLOGOWhen a lawsuit alleged that two young brothers in Michigan had been molested “hundreds of times” by a troop leader, the Boy Scouts denied responsibility and pointed the finger at someone else — the boys’ recently widowed mother.

The Scouts faulted the woman “for her failure to provide adequate parental supervision,” suggesting in court papers that she was responsible for any harm to her sons.

One of the boys’ lawyers called that argument excessive.

“The day their dad died, the perpetrator began to befriend the boys,” Kelly Clark said. “Then the Boy Scouts turn around and file papers saying Mom was the problem?”

The Scouts’ legal tactics in the ongoing lawsuit are part of an aggressive approach that the youth group has long used in defending itself in child sex abuse cases, some victims, their families and lawyers say.

Since 1,247 confidential files were unsealed in October detailing allegations of sexual abuse in its ranks, Scouting has taken a more conciliatory stance.

“We have heard from victims of abuse and are doing our very best to respond to each person with our utmost care and sensitivity,” Scouting spokesman Deron Smith said in October, offering an apology, counseling and other assistance.

But in the years before the files’ release, some who alleged abuse say, their accusations were met with denial, blame and legal hardball.

“The knives are out and you’d better get your knife out because if you don’t, they will tear you to shreds,” said Timothy Hale, who represents a Santa Barbara County, Calif., teenager who was abused in 2007 at the age of 13 by volunteer Scout leader Al Steven Stein.

Stein had a history of inappropriate behavior with children but a local Scout official tried to keep the boy’s mother from reporting the abuse to police, according to the teenager’s lawsuit. She did anyway, and Stein later pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment.

Some plaintiffs’ lawyers, including Clark, say the Scouts deserve credit for the victims it has helped, even when it had no legal obligation. And the Boy Scouts is entitled to defend itself: It’s not unusual for large organizations to employ aggressive legal strategies, including accusing plaintiffs of causing their own injuries.

Hale and others contend, however, that discouraging victims of sexual abuse from reporting crimes, or blaming them when they do, goes too far.

An Oregon man’s lawsuit alleged that Scouting allowed troop leader Timur Dykes to continue in the group after he admitted molesting 17 boys in the early 1980s.

At the trial in 2010, regional Scouts official Eugene Grant faulted parents for letting their sons go to Dykes’ apartment for merit badge work and sleepovers.

“His parents should have known better,” Grant said of one victim. “I think it’s criminal.”

The jury rejected that assertion, finding the Scouts liable for nearly $20 million in damages.

The Scouts’ files made public in October were submitted as evidence in the Portland, Ore., trial and spanned 1965 to 1985. More recent instances of the Scouts’ tactics are detailed in court records across the country.

In 2002, Jerrold Schwartz, a 42-year-old former scoutmaster in New York, admitted abusing a boy in his troop in the 1990s. After being secretly recorded saying he “did something very, very wrong” and apologizing to the boy, Schwartz pleaded guilty to four counts of sodomy and was sent to prison.

Despite the conviction and the victim’s testimony that Schwartz “raped me and forced me to perform oral sex on him,” the Scouts, in a motion to dismiss a subsequent lawsuit, contended that the sex was consensual, records show.

“To argue that an adult scoutmaster in his 30s can have consensual sex with a 13-year-old in his Scout troop is something dreamt up in pedophile heaven,” attorney Michael Dowd told the New York Law Journal in 2006 after a judge rejected the Scouts’ motion. The lawsuit was later settled; terms were not disclosed.

Boy Scouts officials declined to be interviewed or make their lawyers in sex abuse lawsuits available. In a statement, the group stressed its multifaceted child protection efforts, enhanced in recent years to include criminal background checks for all volunteers and mandatory reporting to police of all suspected abuse.

“We deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims,” it said.

The Michigan lawsuit, which is pending, alleges that Assistant Scoutmaster Roger E. Young, a 25-year volunteer, had raped or otherwise abused both Scouts repeatedly at their home, his house and the church where the troop met.

The abuse occurred in 2006 and 2007, when both boys were younger than 14, according to the lawsuit. It also says that local Scouting officials knew of Young’s inappropriate behavior, including time he spent alone with the boys — in violation of the Scouts’ child-protection policies — but ignored warnings by police and others.

In 2007, a member of the Big Sister organization found the boys not wearing pants while alone with Young at their home and at a motel where the family was staying, according to court papers and a police affidavit. In at least one instance, Young was in his underwear, the records state.

Local Scouts officials took no action, allowing Young to continue with the troop even after police raised red flags about him, the lawsuit states. In October 2009, he was charged with possessing child pornography and criminal sexual conduct involving one of the boys.

He killed himself the next month.

Two years later, in November 2011, the Scouts filed court papers saying the mother had in effect abdicated her role and delegated “parental authority” to Young after her husband died.

“For the Scouts to say this is her fault, when they have said to single mothers all over the country … ‘We know you’ve got it tough: Give us your boys and we’ll help you raise them’ — to me, this is absolutely astonishing,” said Clark, the boys’ lawyer.

In at least one case, local Scout leaders faulted the victim and defended the perpetrator.

“They threw my son under the bus,” said the father of a Florida Scout who was 12 when a 16-year-old Scout lured him into a tent and molested him in March 2007.

The boy was so traumatized that he told no one for months, he and his father said in an interview. When the boy did speak up, local Scout leaders accused him of lying.

“(He) is quick to make up stories,” the troop’s merit badge counselor, Chuck Janson, wrote in a two-page memo supporting the assailant, who later admitted to the sexual assault in a plea deal.

The abuse occurred on a camping trip when the older Scout, Robert “Robbie” Brehm, who as senior patrol leader was the top elected troop member, invited the Sarasota boy into a tent to play cards, court records show. Instead, Brehm pulled a knife from a duffel bag and put it to the boy’s throat.

“I told him I wanted him to perform oral sex on me,” Brehm later said in a lengthy sworn statement. “I told him that he had to or else I was going to hurt him.”

Brehm testified that he also threatened the younger Scout if he told anyone.

“I was just so freaking scared, like, I didn’t know what the hell to do,” the boy, now 18, told the Los Angeles Times. “I just went back into my tent. … I was in shock. I was so violated.”

Six months later, he revealed his secret to his high school counselor, who notified authorities.

Local Scout leaders including Janson, who had clashed with the boy’s father over troop issues, sided with Brehm and said the boy was lying.

He and at least two other adult leaders planned to testify for the accused, according to interviews and Brehm’s sworn statement.

“The worst thing you can do to a child victim is call him a liar,” said Adam Horowitz, the victim’s lawyer in a pending lawsuit. “The reason so many children don’t come forward in the first place is that they fear adults won’t believe them.”

In a recent interview and a follow-up email, Janson defended his actions.

“I came up with an honest interpretation of what I knew,” he said. “Can you fault someone for having an honest opinion?”

The boy said he felt betrayed by Janson and the other leaders.

His father said their support of Brehm made it nearly impossible for his son to get justice.

For more than three years, he said, he pressed prosecutors to file charges. When they did, and confronted Brehm with the prospect of 15 years in prison, he confessed to the sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated battery.

“Looking back, I was a bully,” Brehm said in statement.

The victim’s father calls the five-year ordeal “beyond a nightmare.” His son’s relationships have been affected, his grades have suffered and he’s had flashbacks, the father said.

At times during the first year after the attack, he said, the boy was in twice-weekly therapy, with only part of its cost covered by his health plan.

Had the Boy Scouts stepped up early on, he said, his son’s lawsuit might never have been filed.

“After we got the conviction, one would have thought they’d say, ‘Oh, my God, we were wrong in our assumptions. What can we do to help this child and his family?’ ” he said. “But it was just more of the same — attack, attack, attack.”

Missing girl buried in murdered mobster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties


Emanuela Orlandi, 15, went missing in Rome in 1983. Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother said it was time for the Vatican to come clean about what it knows of Emanuela’s disappearance

Daily Mail | May 22, 2012

By Nick Pisa

The Catholic Church’s leading exorcist priest has sensationally claimed a missing schoolgirl thought to be buried in a murdered gangster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 85, who has carried out 70,000 exorcisms, spoke out as investigators continued to examine mobster Enrico De Pedis’s tomb in their hunt for Emanuela Orlandi.

Last week police and forensic experts broke into the grave after an anonymous phone call to a TV show said the truth about Emanuela’s 1983 disappearance would be ‘found there’.

And although bones not belonging to the mobster were recovered they have not yet been positively identified as hers.

However Father Amorth, in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, said: ‘This was a crime with a sexual motive.

‘It has already previously been stated by (deceased) monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.

‘I believe Emanuela ended up in this circle. I have never believed in the international theory (overseas kidnappers). I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation.

‘It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.’

Today there was no immediate response from the Vatican to Father Amorth’s claims.

But Vatican officials insisted they had always co-operated with the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance – a claim that her brother has often disputed.

Father Amorth is a colourful figure who in the past has also denounced yoga and Harry Potter as the ‘work of the Devil’. He was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

It is not the first time Father Amorth has raised eyebrows with his forthright views – two years ago he said sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence ‘the Devil was at work in the Vatican.’

In 2006, Father Amorth, who was ordained a priest in 1954, gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

According to secret Vatican documents recently released the then wartime Pope Pius XII attempted a ‘long distance exorcism’ of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.

Charismatic mobster De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee’s daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

At the time of his funeral there were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church chiefs allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant’Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because prison chaplain Father Vergari told bishops that De Pedis had ‘repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity,’ including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the £12,000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant’Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city’s famous Campo De Fiori.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a ‘free hand’ because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980’s probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God’s Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person’s programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi’s kidnap would be solved ‘if De Pedis tomb was opened’.

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

Pastry-making cannibal cult seeks to ‘purify the world and reduce population’


A screen grab from Vanderlei Almeid TV shows Jorge da Silveira (L) and Isabel Pires in Garanhuns, Pernanbuco, Brazil (AFP/Handout/Policia)

Brazil cult members arrested for cannibalism

AFP | Apr 13, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police announced Friday that they had arrested a man and two women on suspicion of having murdered and cannibalized at least two women in what was described as a purification ritual.

The three defendants formed a sect called “Cartel” that seeks to purify the world and reduce the population, police spokesman Democrito Honorato from the northeastern Brazilian town of Guaranhuns told AFP.

The three defendants, Jorge and Elizabeth Pires da Silveira, both 51, and Bruna da Silva, 25, intended to kill three women per year, police said.

Brazilian Cannibals Make Empanadas With Human Meat

“The details of the actions of the trio, with drawings and explanations of cannibalism, were found in a 50-page book written by Da Silveira, a man with a diploma in education and a black belt in karate,” Honorato said.

The book, entitled “The relationships of a schizophrenic,” hints at acts of cannibalism.

“The three ate the flesh of their victims to purify their souls,” said the police spokesman.

Two bodies were found in the garden of the house occupied by the three defendants, which police believe were those of two women who disappeared recently: Alexandra Falcao, 20, and Gisele da Silva, 30. Both had been seen in the vicinity.

The house of the three suspects was set on fire Thursday by neighbors.

One of the suspects confessed she knew the name of a woman the group killed in 2008, Jessica Pereira, in the nearby city of Olinda.

A five-year-old girl found with the trio is believed to be the daughter of the victim, police said. She was placed under the protection of a juvenile judge to find her a new family.

The group attracted victims “by offering them well-paid babysitting jobs,” Honorato said, and they chose victims when “a spirit warned them they were bad people.”

Welsey Ferandes, the police official in charge of the case, told reporters the suspects planned to kill another woman in the neighboring town of Lagoa de Ouro. Police did not rule out the possibility there had been other victims.

After families of the victims reported their relatives missing, police were drawn to the suspects when a credit card bill arrived at the home of one of the victims after her death. Security cameras at the shops where the credit card purchases were made showed images of the suspects doing the transactions.

Police chief found with cult-like Knights Templar leaflets

AP | Mar 22, 2012

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican Army says it has detained the police chief of a town in western Mexico who had pamphlets and banners about the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel, as well as cocaine and hand grenades in his patrol car.

The Defense Department says in a statement released Thursday that Raymundo Monroy was detained Monday in the town of Huetamo in Michoacan state, where he is police chief. Soldiers also found cocaine, two automatic rifles, and two hand grenades.

It says troops searched Monroy’s car after he began acting nervously at a military checkpoint in Huetamo.

The Knights Templar cartel appeared in 2010. It claims to protect Michoacan and defend ethical principles, but in fact engages in drug trafficking, killings and extortion.

Knights Templar cease fire for Pope’s visit

AFP | Mar 19, 2012

THE Knights Templars drugs cartel is calling a short truce – but only to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico.

“They did put up signs announcing this,” a Guanajuato state government source told AFP privately on Sunday.

The Knights Templars are holding off on all violent action, we are not killers, welcome to the Pope,” the official said paraphrasing one of the signs put up in the town of Irapuato, Guanajuato state.

The signs were seen in at least seven towns statewide.

The Pope arrives March 23 in Leon, in the neighbouring state of Michoacan, where the Knights Templars were founded.

President Felipe Calderon has launched a military crackdown against the cartels battling it out for control of the lucrative drug trade, in which some 50,000 Mexicans have lost their lives since 2006.

The Strange Death of Flo Barnett, Mother-in-Law to Scientology Leader David Miscavige


A Ruger 10/22 rifle: Even if you were depressed and wanted to end your life, could you shoot yourself three times in the chest, and then once in the head with this weapon? We’re just asking.

Villiage Voice | Jan 25 2012

By Tony Ortega

We were stunned when Debrah Kitchings said it: in the 26 years since she investigated the odd death of Mary Florence “Flo” Barnett for the Los Angeles County Coroner, she has not once been asked by a reporter about what she remembers of the case.

Only once in that time, she says, was she ever asked about it at all.

“I think her daughter or a relative sent a letter, an inquiry, I think,” Kitchings says.

Today, Kitchings is retired and lives in Riverside County, California, but in 1985, she was an investigator with the LA Department of Coroner when, on the night of September 8, she was called to Dominguez Valley Hospital in Compton to conduct a gunshot residue test on the hands of the dead woman.

Despite the passage of time, Kitchings remembers the case well. And she suspects that there’s a reason I’m interested in this one death out of the many she handled over her career.

“It has something to do with Scientology, right?”

Indeed, it does. Over the years, interest in the death of Flo Barnett has endured because of her connection to the Church of Scientology — Barnett’s daughter, Michelle “Shelly” Barnett, in 1981 married David Miscavige, who today is the supreme leader of the worldwide religion. Flo was Miscavige’s mother-in-law, and Shelly herself has not been seen in public with her husband since 2006. But that’s a story we’ll be going into on another day.

There is another reason why Flo Barnett’s death is still a matter of interest on the Internet, I told Kitchings.

Quite a few of us, I explained to her, wonder how Barnett managed to shoot herself three times in the chest and once in the head — with a long rifle — in what the County Medical Examiner ruled was a suicide.

“It is very unusual,” Kitchings told me Monday night when we talked by telephone.

We spent some time going over her report of the incident, a document that can be found online. She wanted to confirm the facts in her report with what she remembered: that she didn’t respond to the scene of the incident, but was called by Sheriff’s Office personnel to the hospital, where Barnett had already been pronounced dead.

Kitchings wanted me to understand why that made a difference. Normally, if death is pronounced at a hospital, it’s not a pressing case, and student workers in the Coroner’s office would go down in the next couple of days to retrieve the body. Instead, in this case, Kitchings was personally called down to the hospital the same night Barnett’s body was taken there.

“The detective must have had some concern. We respond because they have a question,” she said.

That concern was pretty obvious, and something Kitchings put in her report that night: “Detectives felt, at the time of this report, the decedent may be the victim of a homicide due to the number of times she was shot. However, they were still interviewing at the time of this report.”

After performing an autopsy, however, medical examiner Joan Shipley decided that Barnett’s death was a suicide: “The case is that of a 52-year-old woman who died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds which were self-inflicted,” reads Shipley’s report, which came out more than a month after the incident. I asked Kitchings how an autopsy determined that cause.

“I’ll tell you how. It doesn’t mean it was a suicide, but I’ll tell you how they came to that conclusion,” Kitchings answered. “It’s real easy to get away with murder anyway. It’s only as good as the investigator.”

She explained that a medical examiner like Shipley could describe wounds and other conditions of a corpse, but she couldn’t tell by looking how a wound came to happen.

She gave me a hypothetical example of a man with a gunshot wound to the head. “A doctor has no clue whether the man shot his head off, which is a suicide; or died playing Russian Roulette, which is an accident; or if somebody shot him, which is homicide. The doctor cannot tell you whether it was accidental or on purpose. They have to rely on the investigator. So it depends on several things.”

She pointed out that there was no question that what killed Barnett was the shot to the head: “The gunshot wound of the head was immediately fatal and occurred following the 3 gunshot wounds to the chest,” reads the autopsy report.

But the detective would also perform what Kitchings calls a “psychological autopsy,” interviewing people at the scene — such as Barnett’s husband, James Miller, who found his wife’s body and was initially treated as a possible suspect.

“Here you’ve got what appears to be a homicide. But you run into these other factors,” she said. “The hesitation marks on the wrists, for example. Were they fresh or were they healing?”

That was another odd detail in the case: Barnett not only had four bullet wounds, her wrists also showed evidence that they had been slashed.

According to the coroner, Barnett’s wrists had likely been sliced days before: “The wounds are consistent with those of several days’ age but are extremely superficial and may be more acute,” the autopsy report reads, suggesting a possible suicide attempt a few days prior to Barnett’s actual death.

On the other hand, Kitchings says, there were the multiple gunshots.

“Of course it’s unusual to have that many gunshots. And with a rifle? Totally bizarre. But if you think that case is bad, you should hear about this other one, Crystal Spencer,” Kitchings said, referring to a 1988 death. After telling me some things about that case, she came back to the matter at hand.

“It is very unusual and the sheriff’s detective thought it was important,” she said, referring again to her being called down to the hospital that night. “That’s a good detective and that tells me a lot right there. The detective was smart enough to say, ‘Come now.’ And believe me, that was a time we were incredibly busy. The gang problem was never worse than in those years.”

That the Coroner’s Office ultimately ruled it a suicide, however, said more about the detective and his investigation than it did about the autopsy.

“The doctor must have been convinced that it was a suicide based on what the detective told her. The doctor has no clue, and cannot tell you how or why.”

And relying on a homicide detective bureau was not any kind of assurance that the correct conclusion would be reached.

“If it was the LAPD, I’d tell you it was automatically bad. But it was the Sheriff’s Office. And Havercroft, he was good,” she says when I tell her the name of the detective on the reports.

“I didn’t hear anything more in that case, so the doctor relied on the detective. If it was iffy, they would have gone with homicide. But they must have done enough interviews with the husband to convince them that it was a suicide,” she said. “It does sound very suspicious to me. It does. But it was out of my hands.”

I thanked Kitchings for being so helpful, and for not only telling me what she remembered of the case, but for taking the time to explain how a cause of death would be determined.

It was now crystal clear: I needed to track down retired LA Sheriff’s Office detective Bob Havercroft and ask him how he had come to the conclusion that a small, frail woman could kill herself with four rifle shots.

Yesterday, I managed to get him on the phone. Having retired to Oregon, Havercroft was traveling in Southern California, enjoying the warm weather.

I told him why I was calling, and hoped that he remembered the Flo Barnett case out of the many he must have investigated.

“I remember that one,” he said. “This one was very, very, very unusual. But it was a suicide.”

But how, I asked, could Barnett have managed to shoot herself four times?

“Very easily,” Havercroft answered.

“We reconstructed the scene. My lieutenant was there. It was fairly simple to do. The way she was positioned on her bed, the way the rifle was in her hand. I think we even recovered a bullet from next door — this was a trailer park,” he said.

“It was obvious what she was doing, which was typical of some women. She was trying to shoot herself in the chest, and in a critical area. There was a gunshot wound to a breast,” he said.

“When we finished the investigation I was absolutely convinced it was a suicide. There was no question,” he said, adding that he remembered a suicide note being found. In fact, two notes were found.

“I have never heard another word about this case since it was investigated. And I worked another 10, 11 years after that,” Havercroft said.

Again, he acknowledged that the situation was extremely unusual, and that on its surface, it seemed to suggest a different conclusion.

“Hey, I can tell you my patrol deputy who was there was ready to take the husband to jail for murder. I had to cool him off. I walked him through it,” he said, and explained that eventually, his deputy came to the same conclusion.

“There’s no question,” he added. “It’s never a murder until it’s a murder. We never got beyond suicide. It was easy to reconstruct with the body and the position of the gun and so on. There was no cover-up. It was a suicide. It was not a murder,” he said. “It was one of those very, very interesting cases.”

Interesting, to be sure. And one wonders why Barnett was so determined to kill herself that she endured what she did.

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