“As Scientology grew in the Clearwater area, it often hired local off-duty police officers to act as a private police force. Did this built-in conflict of interest affect the investigation?”
Detective Stephen Bohling; The Fox and the Henhouse-
In February 2007 my twenty-year-old son, Kyle paid a visit to his Scientologist father, Tom Brennan, in Clearwater, Florida, the site of the Church of Scientology’s world headquarters. Kyle—who was not a Scientologist—was under the care of a psychiatrist who had prescribed for him Lexapro, an antidepressant.
One of the major tenets of Scientology is that psychiatry and psychiatric medications are evil: they’re forbidden. As a practicing Scientologist, Brennan could not have a relationship with Kyle if Kyle was violating that tenet. (In fact, according to Scientology, Kyle’s use of his prescribed medication made him an “SP”—a “Suppressive Person”—someone to be reviled and avoided.) So Brennan reported this state-of-affairs to his Scientology “auditor,” Denise Miscavige Gentile—twin sister of Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige—and to his other superiors in the Church. Even though Kyle was not a Scientologist, Brennan received written orders from the Church to remove his son from his apartment and “handle” the situation per Scientology policy.
Thirty-six hours later Kyle was dead.
(Perhaps the subject of a future blog posting, “handling”—as per Scientology—may involve a wide range of actions. It’s not necessarily as innocuous a procedure as it sounds.)
Detective Stephen Bohling of the Clearwater, Florida, Police Department was the lead investigator looking into Kyle’s extremely suspicious death. His investigation, however, was careless and sloppy, even perjurious. Many quandaries were left unanswered and several deponents who’d obviously contradicted themselves walked away without further questioning. Bohling’s official police report, as can be imagined, was riddled with half-truths and lies. Facts critical to the case were omitted.
Detective Bohling was deposed on July 12, 2010, by Attorney Lee Fugate (the attorney representing defendant’s Denise Miscavige Gentile and her husband Jerry Gentile). During the direct examination, the Clearwater detective comes across as compassionate and caring—in fact overly-so, like someone overcompensating to counteract his real personality.
During Fugate’s questioning, too, Bohling lied about the “thoroughness” of his investigation, making it appear that he’d examined the case from every angle, pursued all the possibilities. “Apparently . . . you acted immediately upon each of the suggestions that he [Kyle’s older brother Scott] made to you and followed up on those?” asked Fugate. “I believe that I did as I documented it,” answered Bohling. “I felt that I had an obligation to the family to follow up on any concerns that they had and I did just that.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The list of unanswered questions—and obvious contradictory statements made by the defendants—presented to Bohling by Kyle’s family in the vain hope of finding the truth fills several pages.
Also disturbing, however, was how Bohling—under oath and in official documents—fabricated a false image of me, a grieving mother. He portrayed me as borderline hysterical, someone unable to accept the death of her child, someone making unrealistic demands and absurd accusations. “It was difficult at times to try and explain things to Victoria in a manner that she would understand. . . .” stated Bohling in his deposition. “At times I was accused of things that were just not true. You know, that I had connections to the Church of Scientology. I was being paid by the Church of Scientology.” More lies by Detective Bohling—I never accused him of being a Scientologist or of being paid by the Church.
Bohling referred to these fictitious accusations when, during his deposition, he described a September 7, 2007, meeting he had with Attorney Luke Lirot (the lawyer then-representing the estate of Kyle Brennan). “[C]omplaints are being made,” Bohling said he told Attorney Lirot, complaints that are “just clouding the investigation. We can’t have that.” (Here the detective overestimated his ability to recall important facts and dates. At the time of this Bohling-Lirot meeting, no complaints had been made regarding his faulty investigation.)
Bohling claimed, too, that he told Lirot he wanted “communication to go on with Victoria.” He also claimed he said: “I wanted her [Victoria Britton] to be aware of what was going on with her son’s case. . . .” Then why is it that this meeting was the only contact between Bohling and Attorney Lirot until Bohling closed the case in November of 2009, just two months shy of the Florida statute of limitations’ deadline? Was Detective Bohling really interested in keeping Kyle’s family informed? Was he actually interested in resolving those unanswered questions?
The answer to that question is found in a July 1, 2008, letter from Attorney Lirot to Detective Bohling, a letter written almost eleven months after the above-described open-lines-of communication meeting. “After being retained in June of 2007,” wrote Lirot, “I cannot be surprised that my client thinks that I am incapable of getting any final answers on the investigation involving the death of Kyle Brennan. I will not level any criticism at you or the CPD [the Clearwater Police Department], but where does this investigation stand?” Here Attorney Lirot’s dissatisfaction with Bohling’s lack of communication is clearly evident.
The result of Detective Bohling’s fraudulent behavior was a miscarriage of justice. Bohling’s police report is a collection of misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies. As soon as this public document became available, the Scientology lawyers—the attorneys representing Scientologists Tom Brennan, and Denise and Jerry Gentile, as well as the Church itself—tacked it onto their motion for summary judgment (their request that the judge rule in their favor and dismiss the case before it went to trial). Detective Bohling’s fabricated police report made sure that my point of view regarding this case—my list of unanswered questions and glaring contradictions—was never heard by a Florida jury.
Indeed, Kyle’s extremely suspicious death was never properly investigated in the first place.
Detective Stephen Bohling made sure of this by falsely claiming that he’d conducted a thorough investigation. According to Bohling and subsequently the Scientology lawyers, Kyle’s death was investigated by not one, but by three separate agencies. This misrepresentation appeared in court documents filed in the Federal Middle District Court of Florida, and in court documents submitted to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals located in Jacksonville, Florida. What were the three Florida agencies that supposedly left no stone unturned while investigating Kyle’s suspicious death?: Bohling’s Clearwater Police Department, the State Attorney’s Office, and the Florida branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI.
There is a kernel of truth at the core of this statement. I contacted the Florida State Attorney’s Office and the FBI regarding Detective Stephen Bohling’s unprofessional behavior and shoddy investigation. All of that correspondence I carefully saved and filed.
Here’s the pertinent question: Was Kyle’s case investigated by the FBI as claimed by the defendants’ attorneys? No, it was not.
What about the investigation supposedly conducted by the State Attorney’s Office? Following the advice of then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum—he wrote saying that his office did not “have the legal authority to investigate the actions of law enforcement officers as they pursue their official duties”—I contacted the Sixth Judicial State Attorney’s Office. In January of 2008 that office assigned investigator Doug Barry, himself a former Clearwater Police Officer, to “look into the investigation conducted by the Clearwater Police Department.”
Detective Bohling stated in his deposition that “I opened up my books, everything to him. . . . [He] looked over everything that I had done to that date and eventually, they came up with the same conclusion that I did. I know they also conferred with the Medical Examiner’s Office as “I had early on reviewed all their documents to make sure that everything had been done properly.”
What’s disturbing about Doug Barry’s investigative work—is the lack of it. Kyle’s case was less than a year old when Barry was assigned to look into it. And it would be wrong to conjecture exactly what information Detective Bohling provided when he “opened” his books. I, too, opened my books for Barry—I wrote to him about the numerous times Kyle’s father, Tom Brennan, had contradicted himself in statements made within days of Kyle’s death.
“The result of Barry’s “investigation” In a letter dated June 27, 2008, Barry stated that, in fact, he did not conduct an independent investigation—he merely “reviewed” Bohling’s incomplete report.
The fact is: If the State Attorney’s Office had conducted an actual investigation they would have discovered the case’s many glaring contradictions. (Instead, all of this work was left to me.)
One thing is certain: The State Attorney’s Office sending Doug Barry—a former Clearwater policeman—to look into the misconduct of a detective from his former workplace is a perfect example of that popular ancient proverb about the fox guarding the henhouse.
Anybody would have to conclude that in the State of Florida justice cannot be found when it involves the Church of Scientology.
The narratives above are all copyright 2020, Victoria Britton.
The exchange between Attorney Lee Fugate and Detective Stephen Bohling
If you have any questions contact Victoria at: vbreton2062 (at) aol.com.
(For more information regarding the highly questionable events surrounding Kyle’s death, the extremely mishandled police investigation, and the perjured testimony given by the defendants please refer to “The Truth for Kyle Brennan” blog at vbreton2062.wordpress.com.)