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On the ballot tomorrow: The former lawman who let Scientology’s drug horror clinic off the hook


[Joel Kerns, when he was sheriff of Pittsburg County, Oklahoma]

We are so glad this election season is finally almost over. But before you go to the polls tomorrow, we wanted to bring up one local race that has a connection to stories we’ve done in the past.

In 2013, we were paying a lot of attention to Scientology’s flagship drug rehab center in Oklahoma known as Narconon Arrowhead. Three patients died at the facility in a nine month period, including 20-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy, who died of an overdose on July 19, 2012.

Those deaths sparked numerous investigations at the local and state level, and by 2013 we were getting pretty impatient for some results from those probes. On the state level, an investigation that resulted in recommendations that Narconon Arrowhead should be shut down instead turned into a major debacle as state officials allegedly admitted that they were too afraid to take on Scientology and fired the investigators who had recommended closing the center.

And criminal investigations of the deaths by the local sheriff, Joel Kerns, and local district attorney also seemed to go nowhere.

Three deaths in nine months at a quack anti-science clinic? What the heck were these local clowns doing?


In May 2013, our worst fears were realized when Sheriff Kerns gave an interview and showed just how clueless (or co-opted) he truly was.

Here’s what he said in a local television interview…


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.

Yeah, he certainly sounded like a dogged investigator trying to get to the bottom of why people were dying at the local clinic.

Stacy Murphy’s family is still waiting for a trial date on the wrongful death lawsuit they filed (the other families have already settled theirs), but now, to add insult to injury, Joel Kerns is on the ballot tomorrow running for a state senate seat.

Last week, Stacy Murphy’s father Robert Murphy and former Narconon patient and friend to the Underground Bunker Colin Henderson held a press conference in order to remind local voters that it was Kerns who was assigned to investigate Narconon Arrowhead and found nothing wrong with it. That press conference resulted in some nice local coverage.

But we were disappointed to see that the Tulsa World piece left out Kerns’s quotes from that TV segment. So we thought we’d remind voters of what he said.

Kerns, a Democrat, is running in a district that is heavily Republican, so he may get a drubbing anyway. But we just wanted to make sure the voters of Oklahoma State Senate District 7 were aware that a candidate with such a poor record of investigating a house of horrors is on the ballot.


Is this really the Apollo‘s helm?


By now you’ve probably taken a look at this contraption that someone is offering on eBay for the low price of only $19,995.95. They claim that it’s the original helm from the Royal Scotman, the yacht that was later renamed the Apollo and was L. Ron Hubbard’s flagship while he ran Scientology from sea from 1967 to 1975.

The seller briefly brought the price down to $14,995 this weekend, but apparently didn’t get any bites.

But we wondered, is this thing actually authentic?

We decided to ask a couple of people who actually worked on the helm of the ship to see if they recognized it. Hana Whitfield at one time was Scientology’s “deputy commodore” and captained the ship. She said it did look familiar, but she wasn’t sure. She suggested we ask another old salt who also spent a lot of time on the bridge of the Apollo.

That person tells us that in fact it does look right and could well be the steering station of Hubbard’s ship. He points out that the Apollo was scrapped in Brownsville, Texas, and that a plate is marked with its origin — Edinburgh, which is consistent with where it would have been built.

Well, that’s fascinating. Does Bob Duggan know that this thing is for sale? Might be a nice tchotchke for Scientology World or whatever the hell he’s building.


Debunking hokum, mind-control division

Recently we were asked by a reader about some of our non-Scientology writing, and, at nearly the same time, someone else asked us about the phenomena of people who claim that they are mind-controlled slaves of the CIA.

Bet you didn’t see that sentence coming.

Anyway, these two very different questions motivated us to do a little work getting an old story of ours back in print because it’s one of our favorites of all time and hasn’t been online for many years. We wrote it in the year 2000 for a newspaper, New Times Los Angeles, that went out of business in 2002. And sadly, the paper’s archives vanished.

Fortunately, we managed to keep copies of our own stories from that time — which included a couple of our favorite Scientology cover stories, about Graham Berry (1999, also published at the Phoenix New Times) and another piece about Tory Christman (2001, archived by Operation Clambake).

But one story that disappeared was something pretty unusual. It consisted of our annotations to a local television investigation of a woman named Brice Taylor. If you take a look at it, you’ll see why it’s an unusual piece. And we think it actually holds up pretty well, 16 years later.

We’ve posted it as a separate page of the Underground Bunker, which means comments aren’t an option. But if you read the piece, come on back here and let us know what you think.

It’s titled “Sex, Spies and Videotape,” and it was published on December 7, 2000. We hope you find it diverting.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 7, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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