Church: Cops Planted False Story

Source: Tampa Tribune
Date: December 17, 1996

As police pursue the question of why a Church of Scientology member died, the church says police are attacking it.

The Church of Scientology sent a statement to media outlets Monday attacking the police department that is investigating the death of one of its members.

The Tampa Tribune reported Sunday that Clearwater police are trying to learn what happened to Lisa McPherson, 36, a member of the church who died a year ago after spending less than three weeks at the church's local headquarters.

An autopsy shows her death was caused by a blood clot brought on by "bed rest" and "severe dehydration." McPherson's skin was cracked and her arms and legs were bruised.

In a statement released Monday, Scientology officials claim the police "planted a false story in The Tampa Tribune for the express purpose of creating hate and prejudice against the Church of Scientology."

McPherson went to Scientology's headquarters at 210 S. Fort Harrison Ave. Nov. 18, 1995, for "rest and relaxation," police say. Seventeen days later, on Dec. 5, 1995, she was dead on arrival at HCA Hospital in New Port Richey.

Last month, police posted a request on the Internet for information on the whereabouts of three former church staff members sought for questioning. Suzanne Schnuremberger, Ildiko Cannovas and Laura Arrunada are no longer employed by the church and have left the country, the church says.

"Detective {Wayne} Andrews has had some responses to his Internet query in the last couple of days," Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said. "I don't know the nature of those responses."

In the statement, Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson and church attorney Robert Johnson say McPherson had a "deadly staphylococcus infection." Larry Bedore of the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's office, which conducted the autopsy, confirmed Monday McPherson did have a staph infection, but said it was not the cause of death.

Church officials say the police, have "slandered the church, abused their authority {and} lied to the media and the public ... "

Shelor declined to discuss such accusations.

"We've done nothing other than try and define what happened to a resident of Clearwater," Shelor said.

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