Baker-acted Scientologist released By
SEAN LENGELL of The Tampa Tribune
Published in The Tampa Tribune March 3, 1997
CLEARWATER - A woman who was taken into police custody for a psychiatric evaluation
after running barefoot from a Church of Scientology building and jumping into Clearwater
Harbor has been released from the hospital, a church spokesman said Sunday.
A Clearwater police officer on patrol early Saturday saw the woman sprint from the
former Fort Harrison Hotel building downtown, used as a residence by the church, followed
by a security guard.
The officer followed the woman and offered assistance, but she kept running until
arriving at the Sandcastle Hotel on Osceola Avenue, another Scientology residence.
She then jumped into about 1 foot of water in Clearwater Harbor, in back of the
The woman appeared distraught, so police admitted her to Morton Plant Hospital under
the state's Baker Act, which allows for the temporary committal of those who pose a
physical threat to themselves or others.
Church spokesman Brian Anderson said the woman, a Scientologist visiting from New
Jersey with her two small children, checked into the hotel Friday night. About 5:40 a.m.
Saturday, she went to the lobby and told a security guard that she needed help because of
an emergency at the Sandcastle, Anderson said.
The 36-year-old woman asked the guard if he had a car, and when he said he didn't, she
ran out the door, Anderson said.
The guard radioed the Sandcastle before running to the hotel to assist, Anderson said.
There apparently was no emergency at the Sandcastle. The woman later told church
officials and police she was upset about the loss of her husband, who died last summer,
Anderson said the church did not object to the woman receiving psychiatric treatment,
saying that the case was ``a private matter.''
``I think [utilization of the Baker Act] was unnecessary, as evident by her release,''
The woman's family arrived from out of town Sunday and is caring for her, Anderson
Anderson denied that the woman was trying to leave the church.
``That [question] is absolutely asinine, she was just trying to go to another
Scientology building,'' Anderson said.
The incident occurred as the Clearwater Police Department, the Pinellas-Pasco State
Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the 1995
death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who was pronounced dead at a Pasco County
Seventeen days before her death, McPherson, 36, was involved in a minor car accident
where she received no injuries. According to police, she got out of her vehicle, exhibited
``unusual behavior'' and removed her clothing at the scene.
She was taken by ambulance to Morton Plant, where doctors wanted to admit her for
Scientologists, however, persuaded McPherson to leave with them to return to the Fort
Harrison Hotel. The hospital released her to the church.
An autopsy by Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood stated that McPherson suffered
from ``severe dehydration'' and had bruises and bites that likely were caused by
cockroaches. In comments to reporters, Wood said McPherson was comatose for 24 to 48 hours
before a blood clot killed her.