“The Kyle Brennan investigation was merely a box to be checked on the way to a foregone conclusion in which only the victim is to blame.”
Kyle Brennan – Victoria Britton’s youngest son, Kyle Brennan, was born in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1986. Kyle was bright, creative, and outgoing. Like many youngsters, Kyle suffered from mild anxiety and depression. He was prescribed Lexapro, a well-regarded psychiatric medication, by his psychiatrist. Kyle was not a Scientologist.
Scientologist Tom Brennan (Kyle’s Father) – In 2007 Kyle’s father—a longtime Scientologist—was living in Clearwater, Florida, world headquarters of the Church of Scientology. He was working for the Church, living down the street from the Church’s main building, and was well-connected with the Church’s celebrity leadership. Brennan’s Scientology “auditor” (or spiritual advisor) at the time was Denise Miscavige Gentile, twin-sister of the organization’s controversial leader, David Miscavige. Brennan was pushing Scientology on Kyle: Kyle was resisting. When visiting Brennan in the summer of 2006, Kyle was told that Scientology was all he needed. He didn’t need college. During this visit he heard Brennan’s new wife, also a devout Scientologist, refer to him as an “enemy of the Church.”
Scientology and Psychiatry – The Church of Scientology’s hatred of psychiatry is extreme and vicious. One of the organization’s major tenets is that psychiatry and psychiatric medications are evil. Scientologists believe that psychiatry is Nazi pseudoscience. Scientology considers itself at war with psychiatry.
Kyle’s 2006-2007 Travels – Just after Thanksgiving 2006, Kyle left his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to travel the country. Kyle first hopped a plane to Waterloo, Iowa, where he was looking into a community college. He later flew to Maui in Hawaii where he camped on the beach. Just before Kyle left Charlottesville, Victoria had filled his Lexapro prescription. In preparation for his trip, Kyle purchased another bottles-worth of his psychiatric medication.
Kyle in Clearwater – Kyle arrived in Clearwater on February 8, 2007. He’d decided to visit with his father before returning home to Charlottesville. Brennan put Kyle up in his apartment and gave him his own room. Over the phone, Victoria asked Brennan to make sure Kyle took his medication. He said he would. Instead, Brennan continued pushing Scientology on Kyle, telling him that Scientology-recommended vitamins would be better for him than his Lexapro. On Thursday, February 15, Kyle walked three miles to a branch of his bank and deposited money to keep his savings account open. On the evening of Friday, February 16, Kyle called a number of Clearwater-area personal injury lawyers seeking assistance.
Kyle’s Death – Kyle died of a gunshot wound to the head that same evening—Friday, February 16—in Brennan’s Clearwater apartment. The EMTs found Kyle’s body in what Brennan said was his bedroom, not Kyle’s. Alongside him was a Taurus .357 Magnum revolver. Kyle’s head they found lying inside a laundry basket. Kyle’s Lexapro was found locked in the trunk of his father’s vehicle. Based on what we were told initially, we believe Kyle died at approximately 11 p.m. Brennan called 911 for help at 12:10 a.m. after first calling “chaplain Denise” for advice. The horrific 1:00 a.m. phone call his Charlottesville family received describing Kyle’s death was made—not by Kyle’s father, not by the Clearwater police—but by Gerald Gentile, Denise Miscavige Gentile’s husband. They’d driven to Brennan’s apartment that night.
Scientology “Handling” – In 2010 we learned that Kyle’s death had taken place only 36 hours after Tom Brennan had been given written orders to “handle” Kyle by Scientology’s “Flag Service Organization” (the Church’s “spiritual headquarters” located in Clearwater’s Fort Harrison Hotel). In Scientology, “handling” means taking care of a situation, removing a problem. To Scientologists, my son was an “enemy of the Church” simply because he was consulting a psychiatrist and taking Lexapro. Along with its hatred of psychiatry, Scientology teaches that ethics don’t apply when “handling” an “enemy of the Church.” As founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “An enemy . . . may be deprived of property or injured by any means. . . . [They] may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Brennan was ordered to “handle” his son or face the consequences. One part of this Church-mandated “handling” was the seizure of Kyle’s psychiatric medication, but how far did Scientologist Brennan go to stay in the Church’s good graces?
The Criminally Mismanaged Police Investigation – Clearwater policemen and emergency medical personnel arrived at Brennan’s apartment within minutes of his 911 call. Rookie patrolman Jonathan Yuen was put in charge of the crime scene. The following day, Detective Stephen Bohling took over the investigation. He never visited Brennan’s apartment. Bohling told our family that the police “never processed the weapon or the scene for fingerprints.” He lied. The police report shows that Kyle’s hands had been tested for gunshot residue. That test was withheld from further analysis by the detective. The weapon too had been tested for fingerprints. That test came back negative—there were no fingerprints or ridge detail on the Taurus. There was no blood on it. Someone had wiped it clean. The bullet that killed Kyle was never found. The medical examiner ruled Kyle’s death a suicide saying that a suicide note was found on his person. (The police later admitted that there was no note.) With a missing bullet, no GSR test, and a weapon negative for fingerprints it cannot be determined who pulled the trigger on the weapon that killed my son, or even if he was killed by the weapon found at the scene.
Lies Tom Brennan Told About the Weapon & Ammunition – Brennan told many contradictory stories about the Taurus and its ammunition. He told patrolman Yuen: That the gun was unloaded; it was kept in a green bag; he didn’t know where the ammunition for it was; and that Kyle didn’t know it was in the apartment. He told Detective Bohling: That he did know the whereabouts of the ammunition, it was stored in the green bag with the weapon. Under oath, in his deposition, however, Brennan stated: That he didn’t know if the weapon was loaded or unloaded; that the ammunition was not in the green bag with the weapon; and that Brennan had shown the Taurus to Kyle just prior to taking Kyle and his older brother Sean to a local firing range. That’s where Brennan claimed he’d purchased the bullets. Sean, however, swore out an affidavit stating that: They’d gone to a local firing range, Fowler’s, but had not taken the Taurus .357. They instead rented a Heckler & Koch USP .45 and Fowler’s provided the ammunition. Obviously, the .357 caliber and .45 caliber ammunition are not interchangeable, so where were the .357 bullets for the Taurus purchased? The green bag was not retrieved from the crime scene.
Tom Brennan’s Various Timelines – Brennan first told Kyle’s family that the evening Kyle died he’d arrived at his apartment at 10:30 p.m. after having dinner with friends. He later changed his story, saying he’d arrived home between 11:10 and 11:15 after spending the day selling books at the State Fair and stopping by Denise’s to borrow a book. His first story places him in the apartment when Kyle died. And it’s obvious that he changed his story to distance himself from his apartment and Kyle’s death. But even if the second story were true, why had it taken an hour for Brennan to dial 911? Why did he lie about his whereabouts? Detective Bohling was told about Brennan’s contradictory stories, but he never challenged Brennan’s veracity. In fact Bohling, in the subsequent police report, improved on Brennan’s alibi, saying: “Thomas Brennan returned home near midnight. . . .”
The Wrongful-Death Lawsuit – A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division on June 17, 2010. Listed as defendants were: Tom Brennan, Denise Miscavige Gentile and her husband Gerald Gentile, the Church of Scientology, and “Flag Service Organization, Inc.” The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and that was granted on December 6, 2011. We appealed this ruling but we lost.
Lies Told by Denise Miscavige and Gerald Gentile –The Gentiles at first denied their relationship with Brennan, denied that Denise was a Scientology “auditor,” and denied that Denise was Brennan’s “auditor.” They also at first denied that Denise rode down to Brennan’s apartment the night Kyle died. And they claimed that Gerald’s call to me was placed from their home. All of these statements were later shown to be lies: Scientology documents prove Denise’s status as a “chaplain,” and that she was indeed Brennan’s “chaplain”—meaning they’d had a very close relationship. Gerald Gentile later admitted that both had gone to Brennan’s apartment and that the call was made from that location. Pressed for details concerning the “book borrowing” alibi, Denise and Brennan made contradictory statements.
Kyle’s Laptop Computer – Suspiciously, Kyle’s computer—instead of being taken into police custody—ended up at the Miscavige-Gentile home soon after he died. When the laptop was returned to Virginia, Kyle’s sister-in-law, a computer technology specialist, analyzed its content. She found that it had been accessed but a few hours after Kyle’s death, on Saturday the 17th. Files had later been deleted.
Lies Told by Police and the Medical Investigator – Detective Bohling and Medical Investigator Martha Scholl lied about contacting Kyle’s psychiatrist, saying in the police report that: “The doctor confirmed that Kyle had been exhibiting early signs of schizophrenia to include paranoia and delusions and . . . advised that he was not aware of any major side effects if one was to suddenly stop taking Lexapro.” However, Kyle’s psychiatrist, under oath, stated that he had absolutely no contact with either Bohling or Scholl. “Perplexed and dumbfounded” by their statements, he said he was “bound by confidentiality” not to release “information about a patient’s treatment.” Under oath, he stated that “Kyle’s diagnosis was mild anxiety and depression,” and that there are major side effects from the sudden termination of taking Lexapro, especially for someone Kyle’s age.
In Conclusion – So many lies were told by the defendants—and Clearwater-area public servants—that any reasonable person is left confused and extremely suspicious. What really happened in Brennan’s Clearwater apartment on February 16, 2007, the night Kyle died? Who killed my son?
Copyright © 2020 by Victoria L. Britton
Inside Charlottesville with Coy Barefoot
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
Inside Charlottesville with Coy Barefoot is a news-talk-and-ideas program that originates from Charlottesville, Virginia. A veteran journalist, speaker, best-selling author and historian, Coy Barefoot is the program’s creator, host, and Executive Producer. Coy teaches history at the University of Virginia and serves as the President and Executive Director of the Virginia History Lab.