My son, Kyle T. Brennan—a twenty-year-old college student from Charlottesville—died under very suspicious circumstances in Clearwater, Florida, on February 16, 2007, while visiting his Scientologist father Thomas Brennan. Kyle was a bright and creative young man who suffered with mild depression and anxiety. He was prescribed Lexapro by his Charlottesville-based psychiatrist Dr. Stephen McNamara. Kyle died from a gunshot wound to the head. His medication was found locked in the trunk of his father’s vehicle.
During Kyle’s brief stay in Clearwater—site of Scientology’s headquarters—his father was under the supervision of what is known as a Scientology “auditor” or “chaplain.” This person was Denise Miscavige Gentile, the twin sister of the Church of Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige. As you may be aware, Scientology is vehemently opposed to psychiatry and psychotropic medications. Kyle was not a Scientologist. We later learned that, due to Scientology’s convoluted beliefs regarding mental health, the church had issued an order to Kyle’s father to “handle” Kyle. He would be dead within thirty-six hours. Kyle was traveling with thousands of dollars. All of it was taken.
A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed against Thomas Brennan, Denise Miscavige Gentile and her husband Gerald Gentile, the Church of Scientology, and Flag (another Scientology organization). They filed a motion for summary judgment, and that was granted by a federal judge on December 6, 2011.
The police report written by Detective Stephen Bohling of the Clearwater Police Department is full of fabrications and half-truths. We want the investigation reopened. We want to know what really happened to Kyle on February 16, 2007.
Here are but a few of the red flags raised by Detective Bohling’s investigation and police report. (All of the following can be verified by statements made in the police report and in the available depositions.)
• Lies concerning contact with Kyle’s doctor and his diagnosis – Bohling and Medical Investigator Martha/Marti Scholl lied about contacting and consulting with Dr. Stephen McNamara, 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: Dr. McNamara, 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 patients 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.
• Lies and red flags concerning police procedures – Asked by Kyle’s family whether a gunshot residue test had been performed on his hands, Bohling answered “no.” Asked if the weapon that killed Kyle had been tested for fingerprints, Bohling answered “No, we never processed the weapon or the scene for fingerprints.” However: The police report revealed that Kyle’s hands and the weapon had been tested. The GSR test was withheld from further analysis by the detective. The weapon tested for fingerprints came back negative of fingerprints or ridge detail. Also: At Thomas Brennan’s apartment, where Kyle died, the bullet that killed Kyle was never found. (Neither was the box of ammunition.) 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 if he was killed by the weapon found on the scene.
• Additional police red flags – Notes taken by the police have been destroyed. Officer Jonathan Yeun, one of the first to arrive at Brennan’s apartment that night, shredded the notes of his first interview with Brennan. Detective Bohling destroyed the notes of his first interview with Brennan. Marti Scholl, told to bring her notes to her deposition, said that she had forgotten to do so.
• Red flags concerning the cause of death – Kyle’s death was ruled a suicide. Medical Investigator Scholl told family members that she ruled his death a suicide because she was told that a suicide note was found with Kyle’s body. Detective Bohling, however, stated under oath that no suicide note was found. A reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, who presumably interviewed someone at the Clearwater police department, wrote that there were two suicide notes. Also: Kyle’s actions in the time just before his passing don’t sound to us like those of someone considering suicide. He made a bank deposit in Clearwater to make sure his checking account stayed open, and in the hours before his death he called several Clearwater-area personal injury lawyers.
• Brennan’s lies concerning the night of Kyle’s death – It was estimated that Kyle died at Brennan’s apartment at 11:00 p.m. The 911 call went out at 12:10. Detective Bohling was informed by family members that Brennan had told us different arrival times for that evening. We were first told that he arrived home at 10:30 p.m. after having dinner with friends. Brennan later changed the time and story, saying he arrived home between 11:15 and 11:20 after spending the day selling books at the State Fair. Of course if his first story is true, it places him in the apartment at the time of Kyle’s death. This would also increase the length of time before 911 was called. Which one of these stories is true? These multifarious stories, convoluted time-lines and lies went unchallenged by the detective. To top it off, Bohling wrote in the police report “Thomas Brennan returned home near midnight. . .”
• Lies told to protect Denise Miscavige Gentile – The Gentiles at first denied their relationship with Brennan, denied that Denise is a Scientology “chaplain,” and denied that Denise was Brennan’s “chaplain.” All of these statements were disproved: Scientology documents prove Denise’s status as a “chaplain,” and that she was indeed Brennan’s “chaplain”—meaning they had a very close relationship. Also: Denise at first denied that she went to Brennan’s apartment the night of Kyle’s death. Her husband, however, revealed that both had traveled to Brennan’s apartment.
• Other red flags concerning events the night Kyle died – As stated above, Bohling, in the police report, said that: “Thomas Brennan returned home near midnight. . .” However: On another page of the police report, Denise Miscavige Gentile—Brennan’s Scientology “chaplain”—said that: “Tom had, um, stopped by my house to borrow a book. It was around 11 … when he got home in like ten minutes, he called me up.” This places Brennan at his apartment, the location of Kyle’s death, at 11:10. Also: In Gerald Gentile’s deposition he said that after Brennan called his wife: “I quickly threw on a pair of pants … threw on my sneakers, and was in my pajamas. We just ran out the door and jumped in the car and ran down” [to Brennan’s apartment]. This statement places both the Gentile’s at Brennan’s apartment at 11:20 or maybe 11:30 p.m. Again, the 911 call went out at 12:10 a.m. What were these three individuals doing in Brennan’s apartment for the 30–40 minutes prior to someone finally calling 911?
These are but a few of the lies, half-truths, and contradictions easily found in the police report and depositions. Told about these things, Detective Bohling did nothing. My son’s right to a fair investigation has been denied by the Clearwater police. My family’s right to know exactly what happened to Kyle that night has also been denied. We believe something very different happened that evening, something different from the explanation found in the Clearwater police report. The false information written by the detective has been used in court documents by the attorney’s representing the Church of Scientology. The death of my young son has been devastating enough-the aftermath has been horrific.
In June of 2006 Kyle’s father, Tom Brennan, first learned that Kyle was seeing a psychiatrist in Charlottesville. Brennan was very unhappy about it, but I didn’t think much of it at the time as he was not directly involved in his son’s life.
Soon after this Kyle and I started receiving letters—and anti-psychiatry hate literature—from the Church of Scientology about the evils of psychiatry and psychotherapeutic drugs. I found these annoying, but I didn’t think much of it. At the time I regarded Scientology as a goofy, harmless organization.
In July of 2006, Tom Brennan convinced Kyle that he should come and stay with him in Florida at his apartment. He promised Kyle that he would take him to look at the Florida State and the University of South Florida campuses.
Kyle traveled to Florida the following month, arriving on August 15. Within three days he called me complaining that his father had duped him. Brennan at the time didn’t even have an apartment—he had lied to Kyle.
Instead, Brennan was living in Tampa, in what Kyle called a “Scientology flop-house.” Kyle said he felt uncomfortable being around Scientologists. They have their own vocabulary, he told me, and they were pressuring him to take a Scientology personality test—something he absolutely refused to do.
Within a few days of this conversation Brennan and Kyle moved from Tampa into an apartment at 423 Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater. This place is near the old Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology’s main headquarters. Things seemed to be going a little better after their move from the flop-house.
Within a week I received another distressing call from Kyle. I could hear a lot of noise at the other end of the phone line, and I asked, “Kyle, are you on campus?”
“Hell no,” he responded, “I’m at a mall watching my father make an ass out of himself. He’s chasing people down trying to sell them L. Ron Hubbard books.” (A third-rate science fiction writer, Hubbard founded Scientology in the 1950s.)
“Kyle,” I said, “you’re kidding about this, right?”
“Heck no, Mom,” came his answer. “ Please . . . tell me that I’m not sharing the same DNA with this dude.”
Kyle told me again that his father had duped him. Brennan, Kyle said, had no intention of taking him to look at colleges. Furthermore, according to Kyle, Brennan said that a college education was a waste of money, and that what he needed to improve his life was to get involved with Scientology.
Kyle wanted no part of Scientology. Despite this, however, Tom Brennan and his Scientologist girlfriend, Wendy Jill Borden, had been placing a great deal of pressure on Kyle to take a personality test. (Borden was a staffer at the New York City Org—or Scientology “church”—in Clearwater for training. Borden and Brennan were introduced by their mutual friend Denise Miscavige Gentile, the twin sister of the organization’s head. The two married soon after Kyle returned to Charlottesville in September.)
At this point Kyle wanted to come home. He wanted to go back to school in Charlottesville, at Piedmont Virginia Community College, but the fall semester was already underway. He asked me if I would talk with his professors to see if he could start the semester late, as he did not want to waste any more time.
Kyle called again the following day. He was upset. The previous evening, everybody in the apartment—Kyle, Brennan, and Borden—had gotten into a huge argument. Kyle said they were pushing him to pay for a personality test, and they wanted him to take Scientology courses. They also told Kyle that his mother was “evil” for allowing him to see a psychiatrist. Kyle told me that the argument had been extremely heated. At one point, Kyle said, he told Brennan and his girlfriend what he really thought of Scientology—he thought it was ludicrous—and also how he felt about his father spending all of his money on it.
When Kyle returned home he said that he had overheard Borden tell his father he was now “an enemy of their church.”
Kyle returned home without telling his father he was leaving—he took a cab to the airport on September 7th and left without saying goodbye.
Kyle was never the same after this visit.
Excerpt from the deposition of Dr. Stephen McNamara
Excerpt from the deposition of Tom Brennan
Copy of Kyle’s Bank Statement
Copy of Kyle’s Phone Bill
Copy of Scientology “SEC” Check
Excerpt from the Clearwater Police Report;Exchange between Attorney Lee Fugate and Detective Steve Bohling
Excerpt from the deposition of Detective Steve Bohling
Dr. Stephen McNamara
If you have any questions contact Victoria at: vbreton2062 (at) gmail.com.