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A Sheriff’s Kind Words About Scientology’s Drug Rehab Has Victims’ Attorney Riled

Joel_KernsWe talked this afternoon with Gary Richardson, the former federal prosecutor who has filed more than ten lawsuits against Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility in Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead.

Three of those lawsuits are in response to the deaths of Gabriel Graves, Hillary Holten, and Stacy Dawn Murphy, three Narconon patients who died in a nine-month period last year. Those deaths not only generated the lawsuits but also a new law recently passed which increases state oversight of the facility. But almost a year after the July 2012 death of Stacy Murphy, we still haven’t heard anything about the criminal investigations by Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns (pictured) and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Kerns forwarded the results of his investigation to Pittsburg County District Attorney Farley Ward as long ago as October. And last month, on Tulsa television station Fox23, Kerns praised the drug rehab center.

Richardson says he found those statements outrageous, but he’s waited until this week to speak publicly about it.

We put in a call to Kerns this morning, but haven’t heard back from him. When Fox23 recently asked for a comment from Ward’s office, the station didn’t get a call back.

On April 25, Fox23 aired two special pieces about Narconon Arrowhead. The first is easy to find at the station’s website (we’ve posted it below), and it includes an interview with former Narconon Arrowhead president Luke Catton and with Stacy Murphy’s father, Robert Murphy. But it was in the second part of that night’s specials that Sheriff Kerns spoke with reporter Janna Clark, and we’ve been unable to find that video online.


Richardson recorded the segment and made a transcript of the sheriff’s words. We ran it by Robert Murphy, who says the transcript is accurate. (We’ve also messaged Janna Clark to see if she can help us find the Joel Kerns interview on her website.)

Here’s the transcript that Richardson supplied us, with Kerns speaking about the drug rehab center…

Joel Kerns: Everything we found seems to be in order.

Janna Clark: Kerns says he personally knows three people who are drug-free because of Narconon.

Kerns: I know for a fact they are trying to save people’s lives to get them off drugs.

UPDATE: And here’s the video, showing that our transcript was accurate…


Richardson says for Kerns to speak this way about a facility which is technically still under investigation is outrageous.

“I’m a former US attorney, I’m a former state prosecutor, and I’ve been over investigations for the state insurance division at one time. And I think I can tell when someone is trying to uncover the truth,” he says. “I’ve talked to some people who, if [the sheriff’s office] was trying to figure out the facts of that night, they would have asked more questions. And some they didn’t even talk to.”

On the other hand, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is still actively gathering information. “I furnished a deposition yesterday to the OSBI,” he says.

“For Kerns to go on television and say ‘Everything we’ve found seems to be in order.’ That statement itself tells us he’s calculating what he’s saying. In my opinion they haven’t tried to find anything. He’s saying that Narconon is A-OK, even though they’ve had four deaths in recent months,” he says, referencing the March 2009 death of 28-year-old Kaysie Dianne Werninck, which is also under investigation.

“It angers me to have a law enforcement officer go on the air and say the things he did when supposedly they haven’t said the investigation is closed. It angers me because I’m close to the families of these deceased young people, and I know the pain and anguish they’ve been through. I think it’s extremely reckless of him to do that,” Richardson says.

We’ll let you know if Kerns gets back to us. Below, we’ve posted the Fox23 segment that featured Luke Catton. We’ll post the segment with the Kerns interview if we can find it. (We now have it: see above.)



Posted by Tony Ortega on May 24, 2013 at 15:30

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