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Noted Scientology critic Arnie Lerma shoots and injures wife, then kills himself

[Arnie Lerma]

Shocking news out of Sylvania, Georgia today. Ginger Sugerman, 58, tells us that on Friday night her husband, Arnaldo “Arnie” Lerma, shot her in the face with a 9mm handgun, and then later that night turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. He was 67.

When we talked to Ginger, she was back at their home after being released from a local hospital. We spoke to her and to Lerma’s son, Joseph Fox, 24, who confirmed that Ginger had been injured and that his father had died.

Lerma was a former Scientologist who became one of the church’s fiercest critics and was a central player in Scientology’s struggles with the early Internet. It was Lerma who first posted the famous “Fishman papers,” and also helped to propagate the “Xenu” story from “OT 3” through Usenet groups. For that he was sued by the church, and his house was raided.

Lerma’s personal website became a huge repository for information critical of the church, and it made him a frequent guest of radio and television programs. His involvement in Scientology criticism decreased after the early 2000s, but his website was still a useful resource.

On July 14, 2015, Lerma married Sugerman, another former church member whose mother, Barbara Ayash, had been well known in the church for her work with the front group The Way to Happiness Foundation. We hadn’t heard from Ginger in quite a while, but Lerma continued to post things on Facebook and commented here at the Bunker just days ago.

Ginger tells us that Lerma was suffering from severe back problems, and after a second surgery, was still in great pain and was taking increasing amounts of oxycodone.

“He was miserable. He would talk about suicide,” she tells us.

Then, this week, she says that she found out that Lerma had taken money from her without telling her, leading to a row on Thursday evening.

“We had an argument over it. It just floored me. I told him I wanted a divorce and would file a civil suit. I went down to the court to get paperwork. I told him he had 72 hours to pay me back. That was the argument. He called me names, I called him names. A neighbor heard us and called the cops.”

Ginger says that at this point she became aware that Lerma was armed, and she asked the police to take his gun away. “If they’d done that this wouldn’t have happened,” she says.

The next night, on Friday, she says she was on the couch watching television when she noticed their dog’s tail begin wagging.

“That dog loved him, and that’s how I knew Arnie was coming. He walked down the hall, pulled out his gun, aimed it and click,” she says, making the sound of the gun being cocked.

“I ran, and I fell, and I was helpless on the ground. I held my hands in front of me saying I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. No, you’re not, he said, and he just shot. And that was it.”

Joseph, Lerma’s son, says his father’s firearm was a 9mm handgun. The bullet went through Ginger’s upper lip and took out several of her teeth, but she didn’t know that as she scrambled to her feet and began running.

“I ran out of the house. I ran to two neighbors, no answer. I ran two more houses down and saw a light on a stained-glassed window. I banged on the door. They brought me in and called 911,” she says.

On her ride into the hospital, she says she heard her address being talked about on the radio. “They got him,” she was told, and she assumed it meant that Lerma had been arrested.¬†Ginger’s neighbor had reported hearing a gunshot around midnight.

The next day, she was told that Lerma had committed suicide.

We asked her what he had been like in the months leading up to the incident.

“He was always paranoid, but his paranoia was tripled. He had binoculars, he’d come out on the patio and look at aircraft and said it was a military operation. He was really paranoid.”

When she returned to their house today, she found Lerma’s computer on, his Facebook page showing, and so she typed a message: “ARNIE HAS PASSED AWAY GINGER SUGERMAN…” and asked to get in touch with us. His son also left a message on Lerma’s page.

Now, Ginger is facing multiple surgeries and an uncertain future. “I didn’t deserve it. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have a lot of things to take care of now,” she says.

 

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 19, 2018 at 16:45

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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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

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