Biggi Reichert: Does Scientology Have Another Lisa McPherson On Its Hands?
When I talked to Marty Rathbun after his return from Germany recently, he mentioned that one of the things he and Ursula Caberta hoped would come from their new friendship was cooperation on a mysterious death involving a German Scientologist.
Today, Rathbun held up his end of that bargain, going public with what he knows in the apparent suicide of a woman named Biggi Reichert, and asking for the public's help in solving some strange unanswered questions in her death.
Rathbun had told me that Caberta, a German government official who has been working since 1992 to curb Scientology's influence there, considers this a very troubling and potentially damaging situation for the church.
And I can't help wondering: Does German Scientology have a Lisa McPherson on its hands?
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Marty Rathbun may be in a very good position to help Caberta. Until 2004, he was the second highest ranking executive in Scientology before defecting. Since 2009, he's been writing a very influential blog which, we hear, reaches deep into the ranks of current church members. There may be no better way to canvass for information about what might have happened to Reichert when she made a trip to Scientology's spiritual headquarters just a few days before her death.
Rathbun writes that Reichert was an "OT VIII" -- which means that she had reached the ultimate level of Scientology spiritual training, Operating Thetan level eight. But after reaching that goal, she still had trouble with her marriage and with debts.
In 2006, she traveled to Clearwater, Florida to "handle" those concerns. Experienced Scientologists are encouraged to travel to the town to take upper level training and other counseling at the church's most lavish facilities and at exorbitant prices. In this case, however, just a few days after returning home to Germany, Reichert was found dead in her car in an apparent suicide at a friend's horse ranch:
On the final day of her visit Biggi was found dead in the garage in her car. Sleeping pills were spread about the front seat. The car was fitted with a hose directing the exhaust into the seating compartment. Autopsy determined she died of carbon monoxide poisoning; and that though she had consumed sleeping pills the dosage was not enough to have caused her death. A will of sorts was left behind in Biggi's hand distributing what few possessions she still owned.
Things got stranger, however, when an autopsy was done, and a dozen third-degree burns were found on Reichert's scalp.
While each burn was about the size of a cigarette ember, they were determined forensically to not be cigarette burns. Her hair did not appear to be burned; leading to the conclusion the burns were carefully administered. The burns were determined to most likely have occurred while Biggi was in Florida.
Rathbun writes that Scientology has been uncooperative. (He should know: he has admitted to helping destroy documents in the McPherson matter when he was still working as Scientology leader David Miscavige's fixer.) But he also notes that the U.S. government has not been helpful, which he presumably would have heard from Caberta.
Rathbun is hoping that his blog will reach someone who would have known what happened to Reichert in Clearwater five years ago before she took her own life.
Rathbun alerted me to the story with a text this morning, but I'm still trying to get him on the phone to learn additional details.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
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