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Georgia police department closes its case on Arnie Lerma attempted murder-suicide

[The small apartment building on the right is where the March 16 tragedy took place]

We spoke yesterday with Lt. Tony Taylor of the Sylvania Police Department in Georgia, which investigated the March 16 death of noted Scientology critic Arnie Lerma.

He confirmed much of what we had already gathered in our previous reporting. Lerma’s wife, Ginger Sugerman, told us that Arnie shot her in the face with a handgun. She had been sitting on the couch of their home when he approached her. She remembered running and falling before Lerma shot her, but the two bullet holes in the wall behind the couch suggest that he shot before she ran.

Ginger said she was surprised when she was told that, but it’s understandable given what she went through.

“I’m sure it was a very traumatic experience and it happened in just a few seconds,” Lt. Taylor points out.


He also said that one of the two bullet holes showed blood spray, consistent with Lerma hitting Ginger once out of the two shots. She apparently turned her head just as he shot, and the bullet tore off her upper lip and took out two teeth, leaving her face disfigured. After she was shot, Ginger ran to a neighbor’s house, who called 911.

Lerma and Sugerman lived in a small apartment building, and someone else in the building told police that she heard shots.

“She said she heard two shots about seven or eight minutes apart. What I think happened was that she heard the first two shots in rapid succession as a single shot,” Lt. Taylor said. “Later she heard the additional shot and a ‘blam’ sound, which we think was Arnie falling against the wall.”

When police arrived, according to the report, Officer Mike Dickerson talked briefly with Ginger before she was taken away by emergency services. Then the police carefully went into the apartment and found Lerma.

He was in a downstairs bathroom. Lt. Taylor said the door opened inward, and Lerma’s body was blocking it. So the fire department had to remove the door’s hinges to get to Arnie.

He was found with a single gunshot wound through the mouth and out the top of his head.

A textbook suicide? “Yes, sir,” Lt. Taylor said.

While his stepdaughter was staying with Ginger at a Savannah hospital, Pastor Reggie Spires of Covenant Church asked the police department for permission to clean the apartment before Ginger returned home on Sunday. By then, Lt. Taylor said, the police department was done with the scene.

“The pastor asked if it was all right to clean up the scene. We gave them the go-ahead. They certainly didn’t want her coming home to that,” he said.

Lt. Taylor added that the county Medical Examiner’s Office had given him an initial statement after examining Lerma. “Intra-oral gunshot wound to the head, cause of death suicide,” he said.

Results of an autopsy, including toxicology, will take several weeks more.

“The case is closed and we’re going to move on. I’m going to miss Arnie. He was a good guy,” Lt. Taylor said.


SMERSH Madness 2018

We’re continuing with our the Final Four today in our big dance that features the people we think are working hardest to defend Scientology against its enemies. These are not only Scientologists, but also the people who enable the church as it works against its foes. Which of them do you think deserves the most recognition for Keeping Scientology Working, spreading disconnection, and litigating former Scientologists into the ground?

Our matchup today features our #1 seed, Scientology leader David Miscavige, who defeated Mike Ellis in the second round and Bert Deixler in the third. He’s at the top of the heap because he’s been leading the Scientology movement for more than 30 years now. His biggest accomplishment in that time, no doubt, was winning tax-exempt status for the church in 1993. In more recent years, he’s been consumed with making appearances of Scientology “expansion” with his “Ideal Org” program, opening buildings around the world as a media strategy. But the relentless pressure he’s put on members to donate, coupled with his legendary ruthlessness, has produced a steady exodus of many longtime, loyal fans of L. Ron Hubbard. And now, his new grand scheme: Scientology TV. We were actually surprised to see him introduce the new TV channel with a short monologue. Now, if he’d only sit down for a real press interview.

He’s taking on our number #5 seed, Washington DC tax attorney Monique Yingling, who defeated Bodhi Elfman in the second round and Kendrick Moxon in the third. Monique has been working for Scientology for many years. But for much of that time she was somewhat overshadowed by her husband, the late Gerald Feffer, who was Scientology’s biggest legal heavy hitter. After his death in 2013, Monique has really come into her own as David Miscavige’s legal shield, particularly her spectacular performance two years ago on an episode of ABC’s 20/20. She was a last-minute addition just as the program was about to air an episode about Ron Miscavige’s book, Ruthless, and she blinked her way through an amazing series of obfuscations and half-truths, becoming an overnight star for the church. She even brought the crew muffins that had been baked by Sea Org workers. With Miscavige not able to put any Scientologists in front of news cameras, we may be seeing more of Yingling in the future.


[David Miscavige and Monique Yingling]

Who deserves to move on as champions of Scientology? Who has done more to perpetuate the church’s reputation in this time of crisis? Cast your votes!


Yesterday’s winner: Marty Rathbun defeated Tom Cruise!


Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,069 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,672 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 215 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,278 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,052 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,826 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,172 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,666 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,706 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,418 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 944 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,033 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,173 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,493 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,468 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 824 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,126 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,232 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,635 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,507 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,089 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,594 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,838 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,947 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 30, 2018 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 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…

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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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