Combined story of Lisa McPherson from newspaper articles and other sources

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Lisa joins the Church of Scientology.


for some years Lisa lives in California.


Lisa sends a letter to join the Cult Awareness Network, an anti-cult organization that was at the time under attack by Scientology. Many Scientologists at that time were trying to join CAN in an apparent attempt to take it over.

May 30 1993

Lisa writes in her diary about her recovery from a herniated disc; "I know what not having my health is like and I appreciate mine a lot more."


Lisa donates $75,275 to Scientology this year for services, and another $55,000 as a donation.

April 1994

Lisa's diary entries end.

April 24, 1995

Lisa writes a letter to the Tampa Tribune:

``I work for a company that has been using this technology for years, and we have continued to expand and do well as a result,'' McPherson wrote. ``My own personal income has increased over the past five years without ever dropping, and I just got promoted because of the application of all this information.''

She was asked to write that letter - and told how to write it - three days earlier.

``As before, this letter will need to be qualled back here at Valko, so when you're done, please fax it over here,'' said Alycia Silver of Valko & Associates. ``We'll either fax it back to you with an OK to send it on or we'll fax it back with the needed corrections for you to correct and then send it on.''[quoted from Tampa Tribune]

October 1995

Lisa gets an award for going Clear. Source #99 [1995]: lists Lisa McPherson as having attained the State of Clear and completed the Sunshine Rundown

Lisa speaks to a friend outside Scientology.

November 1995

Lisa McPherson told friends she was ready to get out of Scientology. ``She called me three weeks before she died and she was crying,'' Fannie McPherson (Lisa's mother) said. ``She said she was having trouble with her sales. She said, `Mother, I've let my group [AMC Publishing in Clearwater, her employer] down.' ''
Lisa also talks to her childhood friend. ``She said she couldn't get into it over the phone but she said she had a lot to talk about,'' said Kelly Davis, her friend since childhood. ``She said she would explain when she got here.''

November 18 1995

On the evening of Nov. 18, 1995, McPherson was driving her 1993 Jeep Cherokee on South Fort Harrison Avenue. A motorcycle accident had stopped traffic and McPherson smacked into a boat trailer being towed by a Ford pickup.

``It was a minor accident, but paramedics at the scene said she was wild-eyed,'' Detective Andrews said. ``She was walking down the street and removed all of her clothes. The paramedics put her in an ambulance, and although she had no physical injuries, took her to the Morton Plant [Hospital] emergency room.''

A psychiatric nurse was called, Andrews said. He said church members showed up at the hospital, said they didn't believe in psychiatry and insisted on witnessing the interview. The Scientologists said they would take care of Lisa 24 hours a day.

``There was nothing physical wrong with her, but the doctor wanted to keep her there,'' Andrews said. ``She signed out against medical advice and left with several church members.''

Before she leaves Lisa has a short psychiatric evaluation.

5:55 p.m.

McPherson snaps after becoming involved in a minor auto accident on S Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater. She disrobes and tells paramedics: "I need help. I need to talk to someone." She says she has been doing "wrong things she didn't know were wrong." She identifies herself as a Scientologist.

6:38 p.m.

She arrives in an EMS unit at Morton Plant Hospital.

6:50 p.m.

A Scientologist friend arrives and tells doctors it is against McPherson's religion for her to see a psychiatrist. But Dr. Flynn Lovett insists that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he can make a decision on her status.

7:30 p.m.

Another Scientologist, a liaison from the Church of Scientology, is present at McPherson's bed.

8:15 p.m.

Lisa McPherson tells Joseph Price, a psychiatric nurse, that she took off her clothes "for attention. I didn't want to be arrested." He notes that McPherson wants to go home with her "friends from the congregation," who are at her bedside. She has a fixed stare, speaks in a monotone and is teary-eyed. She insists she doesn't want to hurt herself.

8:20 p.m.

Dr. Lovett decides to release McPherson to the church liaison "for follow-up care." She signs herself out against the advice of Lovett, who says McPherson is suffering from "behavioral dysfunction" but he can find "no evidence of acute medical problem or injury." He concludes she can make a rational decision. Lovett writes that McPherson's "friends at Scientology will watch her 24 hours a day and be sure that she gets the care that they want her to have and the patient wants to have."

8:40 p.m.

McPherson is discharged from Morton Plant. Church officials say she checked into the Fort Harrison Hotel for rest and relaxation, and stayed for 17 days.

November 18 - December 5 1995

Lisa's mother stated her daughter's Scientology friends told her that, upon arrival at the Fort Harrison on Nov. 18, Lisa McPherson was put in ``baby watch,'' which an ex-church member says is Scientology terminology for solitary confinement.

Church spokesperson Brian Anderson said there is no such thing as ``baby watch,'' and that McPherson was never held in such a fashion. ``That's completely false and there is liability if you print that,'' Anderson told the Tampa Tribune. ``It's not true.''

Susanne Schnurrenberger allegedly stated that she was assigned to Lisa the first 2 days of her stay at the Ft. Harrison. She walked with Lisa along the beach and tried to work with Lisa as Lisa was not sleeping at all.
At some point, church attorney Elliott Abelson stated, Lisa was pounding the walls with her fist.
Lisa is billed $240 for "expansion of havingness" tape series.

November 30, 1995

According to the medical examiner, the last possible day Lisa has any liquids.

December 4, 1995

Abelson said that near the end of her stay at the Fort Harrison, McPherson's skin took on a yellow tint. She was seen by someone from the church's Medical Liaison Office, which refers church staffers to health professionals. "It didn't seem to be an emergency situation," he said.

December 5 1995

Three Scientologists, including Flag Medical Liaison Officer Janis Johnson-Fitzgerald, took Lisa to New Port Richey (25 miles and 4 other hospitals away) to be treated by Scientologist physician David Minkoff (who is at least an OTVII), Detective Andrews said. ``Lisa at first didn't want to see a doctor but we talked her into seeing a doctor,'' Brian Anderson said. ``She knew Dr. Minkoff and he is an expert in infectious diseases so that's why she was taken there.''

Elliott Abelson stated that Lisa asked to be taken to a Scientology doctor and that she walked part way to the van.
DEC. 5
9:30 p.m.

McPherson arrives at Columbia New Port Richey Hospital, which is 24 miles from the Fort Harrison Hotel - about a 35 minute drive. She is in the back seat of a Scientology van, accompanied by two people, including Janis Johnson, Scientology's medical liaison officer. Johnson is a medical doctor but is not licensed to practice in Florida. McPherson has no pulse and is not breathing. A nurse later tells police "she was dead" when she arrived. Emergency room personnel begin CPR.

9:51 p.m.

Dr. David Minkoff, a Scientologist on staff at the hospital, pronounces McPherson dead. A follow-up report states her Scientologist escorts said she "stopped breathing just as they arrived"" at the emergency room. They said they took her to the hospital after she became lethargic "some time today and tonight."

Liebreich [Lisa's aunt] said McPherson died with $11 in her savings account.

December 6 1995

DEC. 6 Clearwater police begin an investigation, which is later joined by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

An autopsy by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office showed McPherson's 5-foot-9, 108-pound body was severely dehydrated, her arms and legs were bruised, her skin was cracked and scaling and she had bug bites. Her left pulmonary artery was blocked by a fatal blood clot brought on by dehydration and ``bed rest.''

``The Clearwater Police Department doesn't think she died of natural causes,'' said police spokesman Wayne Shelor.

December 1995

Scientologists attend Lisa's funeral. They talk the family into having the body cremated. ``Ms. Mac couldn't breathe without them on top of her,'' family friend Davis said. ``They came to the funeral home in Dallas and they were checking us out and hovering and listening.''

Davis said Scientologists asked to stay with Fannie McPherson at her home, but she refused. They also insisted that Lisa McPherson wished to be cremated.

People who attended the wake in Dallas say Scientologists told them McPherson died of ``spinal meningitis.''

December 16, 1995

Lisa's family goes to her apartment at 901 N. Osceola Ave. in Clearwater. People were there carting away Lisa's belongings. The family gets a few belongings.

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November 1996

The Clearwater Police put up a request for information concerning lisa's death on their web page.

November 25, 1996

I notice the police homicide.htm page while looking at other Clearwater page stuff in preparation for the picket in Clearwater coming up. I post about it for the first time.

December 15 1996

The Tampa Tribune reporter Cheryl Waldrip breaks the story of Lisa's death in a front page story.

December 17, 1996

The St. Petersburg Times carries a story on Lisa.

December 18, 1996

The St. Petersburg Times in an editorial calls for a thorough investigation into Lisa's death.

December 19, 1996

The Tampa Tribune also calls for a thorough investigation.

December 22, 1996

The Tampa Tribune has a Second article about Lisa which includes more personal information.

January 13, 1997

I make this memorial page public.

January 21, 1997

Inside Edition runs an excellent report on Lisa's death. Joan Wood, the medical examiner is interviewed. Church attorney Abelson is interviewed and contradicts what Wood says. For instance, Wood says Lisa had cockroach bites, while Abelson says they were mosquito bites.

January 28, 1997

The Church of Scientology filed suit against the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Tuesday in an attempt to get access to records of a Scientologist whose death is being investigated.

The suit states that because Medical Examiner Joan Wood made comments to the press last week about the death of 36-year-old Lisa McPherson, all the records from the death investigation should be available to the church.
Clearwater in discussing three people the police want to question, Detective Sgt. Wayne Andrews said he thinks Susanne Schnurrenberger is in Switzerland or Germany, Ildiko Cannovas is probably in Hungary and Laura Arrunada may be working in the medical field in Mexico. These three are wanted by Clearwater police for questioning (Susanne has been found). He recently asked for help locating them by posting a request for information on the Internet.

The three former employees ``worked in an office that would have had control over her'' during her stay, Andrews said.

Church of Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said that is false. He said the three have no connection to McPherson's death and the investigation is nothing more than a harassment campaign against the church by police.

February 7, 1997 (Betti Freimann/Gefecht) posts to a.r.s. that she has conversed with Susanne Schnurrenberger, one of the 3 people the Clearwater police want to question in Lisa's death.

February 19, 1997

Ken Dandar, representing Lisa's estate, files a wrongful death suit against the Church of Scientology.

February 22, 1997

From alt.religion.scientology:

From the completion lists of the "Source"-magazines No. 95 until No. 99 (and from other sources) I could detect which auditing levels Lisa completed before she died in December 1995. Here they are:
Grade 1-4
New Era Dianetics (NED)
Power Plus
L 11
Clear Certainty Rundown
Sunshine Rundown

February 27, 1997

Circuit Judge Bob Barker rules that some autopsy photos of Lisa may be released after the Church of Scientology sues the medical examiner for the right to see the autopsy evidence in Lisa's case. The photos show emaciated arms and hands with bruises and sores, and large bruises on her hips are visible as well. There are scabs on her knuckles.

March 1, 1997

A barefoot woman ran from the Ft. Harrison Hotel to the Sandcastle Hotel early Saturday before jumping into Clearwater Harbor, where police took her into protective custody for a psychiatric evaluation.

March 8, 1997

Jeff Jacobsen during a picket in front of the Ft. Harrison asks Brian Anderson how often Brian goes to funerals and asks that the body be cremated. Is this a practice of the church? Brian's answer; "keep moving."
About 20 people hold a candlelight memorial for Lisa across from the Ft. Harrison Hotel. About 300 Scientologists crowd the sidewalk and taunt, bump, and blow out the candles of the mourners.

March 9, 1997

St. Petersburg Times reports that 5 other prominent medical examiners agree with the local medical examiner that Lisa was probably without liquids at least 5 days.

March 21, 1997

Inside Edition runs a second program on Lisa. They find the medical liason officer for Flag at the time of Lisa's death, Janis Johnson-Fitzgerald. She refuses to talk, however. They catch Abelson in a mis-statement because he claimed there was no one with medical training at the hotel during Lisa's stay (Janis was a doctor in Tucson Arizona before moving to Clearwater). Janis is one of the three Scientologists who drove Lisa to the hospital on December 5, 1995.

April 2, 1997

A German TV program interviewed Mike Rinder of the church. Rinder stated that Lisa had died while at the Ft. Harrison Hotel, thus contradicting Elliott Abelson's claim that Lisa died just before she arrived at the hospital. Abelson is sitting right next to Rinder.

December 5, 1997 About 45 people stand across the street from the closed Ft. Harrison Hotel at 6:30pm to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of Lisa's death. They hold lit candles while a bagpiper plays. As they leave they place a wreath against the Ft. Harrison Hotel. Some people place flowers on the wreath as well. Mourners blew out their candles and left. By the time I got to my car and drove by the hotel, the wreath was already gone.

November 2003 STILL no date for civil wrongful death trial.

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