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A Scientologist is brutally murdered in Peoria, but you didn’t hear it from Scientology

[Jose Ramirez and his parents, Susan Brill de Ramirez and Antonio Ramirez Barron]

It was a gruesome crime that shocked a university community. On the night of October 25, two employees of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, were in bed in their home when they were awakened to be pepper-sprayed, stabbed, and bludgeoned to death.

Susan Brill de Ramirez, 63, was a highly respected English professor who had been on the university faculty since 1991. Her husband, Antonio Ramirez Barron, also 63, had been at the university even longer, since 1982, as a member of the technology staff.

The man arrested for the crime was their own son, Jose Ramirez, 21, and another man, 20-year-old Matthew Roberts. They both await trial on first-degree murder charges.

According to police, the reason Jose gave for killing his parents was that he was sick of them.

After the killing, Jose put his parents’ bodies into an SUV and then dumped them in a river a few miles away. He then called police to say he was concerned that his parents were missing. But eventually, he led them to the bodies.


The Bradley University community was understandably horrified, and online tributes to Susan Brill de Ramirez began showing up immediately, written by scholars around the country who admired her work.

Still, despite the terrible nature of the crime, here in New York we didn’t hear anything about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

One of our readers told us a strange story. She said, a bit sheepishly, that the home owned by the university couple was already on the market, and that it had garnered considerable interest, despite its association with such a gruesome scene. She herself was hoping to put a bid on it, and she had toured the home to get a good look at it.

It had been cleaned out of furniture and belongings, but when she happened to open a closet, she noticed a stack of boxes.

Because she reads the Bunker regularly, she knew exactly what she was looking at.

When she told us what she found, we checked with Scientology’s records, and sure enough, there it was.

Antonio Ramirez Barron, the brutally killed father, was a longtime and deeply involved Scientologist.

Left behind in a closet was a stack of “The Basics,” sets of books and lectures that in 2007 all Scientologists were under heavy pressure to buy in multiple quantities, at about $3,000 a set. (Many of the sets of books that church members felt obliged to buy that year sit in closets or garages unopened to this day.)


According to Scientology’s own publications, Antonio Ramirez Barron had gone “Clear” in 1991, and he had done the L Rundowns a few years later, in 1994.

The L Rundowns have been described as akin to graduate school for Scientologists. They are extremely expensive, and can only be done at the Flag Land Base, Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida.


Completing the three L Rundowns — L10, L11, and L12 — would have run Antonio about $70,000 each, plus accommodations and additional processes and security checks that are usually required. It wouldn’t be unusual for him to have forked out a quarter of a million dollars for the Ls alone.

Then, in 2007, he was pressured to buy multiple sets of The Basics at $3,000 each, which he would not have done if he weren’t still a member of the Church of Scientology in good standing.

[UPDATE: Patty Moher helped us find records in Scientology publications that Antonio was taking courses as recently as 2014, and on Scientology’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds, not an inexpensive investment.]

Friends of the family we talked to said that they knew Antonio had “dabbled” in Scientology at one time, but they were surprised when we told them how heavily involved he actually was.

But did Antonio’s involvement in Scientology have anything to do with his and his wife’s deaths?

Naturally, we thought of Elli Perkins, another Scientology parent who was stabbed to death by her own son. Elli had tried to treat her son Jeremy’s schizophrenia with vitamins on the suggestion of a Scientology doctor. As a devout church member, Elli resisted any attempt to get her son treated by psychiatrists, whom Scientology considers the ultimate evil in the universe.

In 2003, Jeremy Perkins fatally stabbed his mother 77 times. He was finally then institutionalized, but too late to save his mother’s life.

Had Scientology influenced the way Jose Ramirez was raised? And was he also denied mental health treatments that might have prevented last October’s tragic double murder?

We reached out to Jose’s defense attorney, Hugh Toner, who patiently took in our questions, but he did not give us an on-the-record response for this story.

Also, while on the surface this appears to fit the pattern of a crime carried out by a mentally disturbed young man against his own parents, the fact that he had help is extremely unusual. The police have not made clear what role was played by Matthew Roberts and why he also deserved to be charged with first degree murder.

And while Antonio was a longtime Scientologist, his wife was not. Susan Brill de Ramirez was a deeply involved member of the Bahá’í faith, and a family friend tells us that Jose was also active in the local organization.

Mary Ann Crenshaw, at Peoria’s Bahá’í center, told the Chicago Tribune that Brill was “a friend of the faith who frequented our Bahá’í center and was very engaged in the community. We’re just so sorry for what happened. Our community is reeling.”

We put in our own call to Crenshaw to ask about Jose’s involvement at the center, but we didn’t get a response.

Bradley University made public statements about the deaths of its two employees. The Bahá’í center spoke publicly about Susan Brill de Ramirez.


Scientology, meanwhile, said nothing about the death of its longtime member.

We reached out to one of the academics who provided such moving tributes to Brill, Christopher Buck, who is affiliated with Penn State University. “Although my friendship with Susan was cordial, it was neither frequent nor close. She did not take me into her confidence. So I did not know of Tony’s connection with Scientology,” he wrote to us.

But we are grateful for some help from another friend of the family, author David Von Behren, who has written some of the most interesting portrayals of Susan Brill online. Here’s a sample…

Dr. Brill de Ramirez was an electrical socket of intellectual thought. She published a book on Wittgenstein and Critical Theory. She brought cool Native American authors to campus. She was an endless avatar for environmental change indefatigably championing human rights across ‘our’ solar address of the globe. She took off religious holidays no one had ever heard of or could more or less pronounce. She was a visionary with her diet, espousing the salubrious tenets of vegetarianism and organic vittles decades before high-brow restaurants began modifying their menus to accommodate millennial demand….

She was passionate about her faith as well as Native American culture. She loved her students and nothing gave her more pleasure than watching formative words they scribbled on the anemic pad of the page the first day of class fledged into promising prose by the end of the semester. She also (hear me out) cared about students’ spiritual trajectory. She wanted her students to grow spiritually as well as intellectually. You might enter her classroom a literary zygote, you would leave with a newfound child ajar-eyed curiosity at the WONDER of the arboretum of this planet — and how you play a vital role in your finite time spent on this earth…

She was a loving wife to Antonio, whose affable gait and friendly, demure light-voiced demeanor was a Bradley institution all to itself. She was wonderful mother to Jose…

We reached out to Von Behren, and he was enthusiastic about helping us out.

The Bunker: Thank, you David. Were you aware of Antonio’s extensive history in Scientology?

David: I did hear that he used to dabble in Scientology back in the day but the bulk of the time I knew him he was a Bahá’í with Susan… Every time I saw either her or Anthony with Jose they were exceptional, exceptional parents. Very loving and kind. As far as I know Jose adopted Susan’s Bahá’í faith… At Bradley I spoke with Antonio lots but he never once mentioned Scientology and I was a fervid student of world religions.

The Bunker: By the way, your tribute to her was luminous. Really a nice piece of writing. But Antonio was no dabbler. Records show he spent hundreds of thousands, at least, and went to Florida for extensive processing. And was buying boxes of books at least as recently as 2007. [And taking expensive courses as recently as 2014.] But what can you tell us about Jose? It’s hard to believe this statement from the police that he was “tired of his parents.” Was he pretty emotionally disturbed?

David: I had more of a rapport with Susan than I did Antonio. I really didn’t know much about him at first other than he was married to Dr. Brill and was rather meek and polite and pretty much her shadow. He was always gentle and kind. Laid back and extremely soft-spoken. He always had a coy, yet benevolent smile on his Peter Yarrowesque countenance. One of those mellow types you would tell him something and he would imminently nod his head and smile vertically and say, ‘Oh, OK,’ kind of like a mantra. He nodded his head and smiled a lot. That was Antonio. I want to say they adopted Jose in either late 2004 or early 2005 and (honestly) to the amazement of all, from my experience, they were just exceptional parents. Jose was a beautiful soul and they loved him — loved him. Susan (god rest her soul) harbored a kind of intellectual intransigence. Dr. Brill was just so adamant in her intellectual and dietary beliefs, so much so it was hard to eat around her because she would almost, like Derrida, deconstruct whatever vittles one was placing in their mouth and then delineate the negative ramifications of what that particular food is doing to your succinct anatomy at this moment, and no one wants to hear that shit while chomping into a quesadilla during the Super Bowl. Antonio also purportedly subjugated his own dietary code when he married Susan and we had a loooong running gag that, just as an alcoholic burrows bottles, Antonio had a stash of Fast Food hidden around their country abode and would binge like there was no tomorrow on red meat and cholesterol the second Susan went out of town. I had heard only tacitly about Antonio’s brush with Scientology but that’s what it was — just a brush or something he experimented with in the past, nothing serious. I was led to believe it was passé and that he was a Bahá’í like Susan (note: he was always at the Bahá’í events). I probably had at least 30 in-depth conversations — most intellectually invigorating (both Susan and Antonio were at my college graduation party) — tête-à-tête with Antonio and never once was Scientology brought up. Truthfully, I wanted to inquire about his dalliance with Dianetics but I figured it was an embarrassment to him and never brought it up. Ninety percent of the Scientologists I have interfaced with seem to ask you why you are unhappy and make subtle allusions to their chimeric faith, but Antonio never did. The fact that he was spending thousands of dollars on Hubbard-affiliated errata in 2007 literally astounds the hell out of me. He didn’t fit the mold. One thing about looking at this case is that Susan wore the pants in the family. Everything went through her and I just don’t think Antonio was Scientology-stringent enough to foist even an ersatz E-meter reading on Jose. I don’t think Susan would have allowed it. I think that Jose’s wrath towards his adoptive parents had to do with Susan and Antonio not being able to relate to Jose once he hit puberty and Jose not being able to deal with Susan’s parenting psychology, much of which included diet and religious codes.

The day after Jose senselessly slaughtered and then deposed of the bodies in the Spoon River he went to the Bahá’í center by himself. It was Sunday school and everyone thought it was odd that Jose would be there sans progenitors. Jose just stood outside and gradually about eight people showed up, the only problem being that the lady giving the lecture, for some perhaps pre-ordained reason, just could not get the door to the building open. The key would not work. Everyone stood outside and just idled around in the autumnal rain before classes for that day were canceled. What’s crazy is that the next day a locksmith was called and when the teacher handed the locksmith her key it worked perfectly. Door opened no problem. Later that day Susan and Antonio were reported missing. Some local Bahá’ís have thought that maybe Jose was going to axe them off after butchering his parents and that the door being locked was divine intervention and protection but who knows. As Wittgenstein once posited, not how the world is, is Das Mystiche, but that it is…

The Bunker: That’s extremely helpful, David. And what an amazing couple. Their death is so troubling. So, how about Jose leading up to it. You say he hit puberty and rebelled, but did you see signs of mental illness? And here’s the key question, because this has come up in the past with parents involved in Scientology who have children with mental illness: Did you ever perceive that Jose was not getting the care he needed because of some aversion to psychiatry that Susan or Antonio might have had? We checked at the Bahá’í website, and found something saying that it doesn’t dictate to its members whether or not to seek psychiatric care. But Scientologists hate psychiatry with a white-hot fury. Did you see any indication whether or not Antonio or Susan were trying to treat Jose with alternative therapies once he hit puberty and began to act out?

David: Brother I honestly can’t say… I left Bradley in 2009 when Jose would have been ten (he was an adorable ten year old, used to draw me pictures of the Incredible Hulk) I would only see them periodically after that. There was an instance where Jose wrote I WANT TO KILL MY PARENTS on one of the mirrors in Bradley Hall when he was 13. Every time I saw him he looked fine but I guess the last four years things really went sour but I don’t know much of the details. He was a loved kid. I do know that, even early on though, they placed him through a number of schools and I was kind of surprised because one was a Catholic school (St. Marks) across the street from my then apartment and I would always see Antonio pick Jose up and they seemed fine. I honestly ( I hate to say this) think that it was Susan’s parenting-peccadillos that perhaps drove Jose batty and pushed him over the edge. I’m sure she placed dietary restrictions on him. Susan (god love her) would just be dogmatic in her belief systems. It was hard to have intellectual argument with her because you weren’t going to win. I guess that’s what made her interesting. I can see Jose being a typical teenager and experimenting the way typical teenagers experiment with life and Susan not knowing how to deal with it. It’s just sad for all parties involved. Yeah, you expect teenagers to rebel. But not to do what he did. Ugh.

The Bunker: You may be right that Antonio kept his Scientology involvement in the background, and that it had nothing to do with this senseless crime. But we’re still interested to see how the case evolves in the courts, and whether Scientology comes up at all during trial.


HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

THURSDAY NIGHT OPPORTUNITY: This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. But we also want to point out that Cathy Schenkelberg’s “Squeeze My Cans” will be running at the Hollywood Fringe, and we encourage HowdyCon attendees to see her show on Thursday night, June 20. Tickets and more dates available here.

Friday night June 21 we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22. Note: You need to ask for the “family reunion” special rate.



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Scientology’s elaborate use of child labor for pennies an hour, spelled out in black and white
[TWO years ago] Scientology may be crumbling, but around the world it’s still plotting a planetary takeover
[THREE years ago] Atack: Contradictions in L. Ron Hubbard’s “tech” only increase Scientology discipline
[FOUR years ago] Leah Remini and Paulette Cooper? Scientology can start worrying now
[FIVE years ago] No, LA Weekly, Tom Cruise’s career was not ruined by a GIF
[SIX years ago] Disconnection: Scientology’s Most Toxic Sacrament
[NINE years ago] Scientology Raided in Italy, Stash of Personal Records on ‘Enemies’ Found


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,453 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,582 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,086 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,606 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 626 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 517 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,824 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,692 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,466 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,240 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,586 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,152 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,072 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,239 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,820 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,081 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,120 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,832 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,358 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,447 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,587 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,907 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,763 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,882 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,238 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,540 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,646 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,048 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,920 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,503 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,998 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,252 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,361 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 21, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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