Scientology Rehab Deaths to Be Investigated

By McCarton Ackerman 07/26/12

A multi-agency investigation is launched into Oklahoma's Narconon rehab after a third patient dies within three months.

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A sheriff's investigation has been launched into an Oklahama Narconon rehab center with ties to the Church of Scientology after a third patient within the last three months died. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Human Services and Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation are also involved in the case. Twenty-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy was found dead in her room at Narconon Arrowhead last week; she didn't have any abrasions or prior medical conditions. Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns confirmed that Murphy had tested positive for drugs upon returning to the center from visiting family and investigators are exploring whether the death was an overdose. Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead at the facility on October 26 last year, and his autopsy report was unable to reveal a cause of death. Although trace amounts of morphine were found in his system, the report said it's unlikely that was related to the death. Hillary Holten, 21, also died on April 11 last year, and didn't have an autopsy report completed. A fourth patient, 28-year-old Kaysie Dianne Werninck, died in March 2009 after being transferred to a Tulsa hospital—a wrongful death lawsuit was settled in that case. "For those of us who have committed their lives to saving people from drug and alcohol addiction, losing a young adult to drugs during their recovery process has taken an extreme emotional toll on us as well," says center director Gary Smith. "It is truly a sad day for everyone when something as unfortunate and devastating as this occurs." Narconon uses a highly unconventional regimen of saunas, vitamins, mild exercise and a special diet in its three-month drug treatment program, which the center's website says is designed to flush toxins from the body, including drug residue that the center says get lodged in "fatty tissues" and cause cravings.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.