I just got off the phone with Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is overseeing the detectives handling the investigation into the death of Alexander Jentzsch. He just gave me this statement about the police department’s understanding of the case so far:
“While I understand people’s concerns about the circumstances of this death, by all indications there was no foul play. And given that some medications were present at the scene, and the circumstances leading up to the death, we believe that after the toxicology results comes back, this will end up being either a natural death due to illness or an overdose. And if it is an overdose, it would probably be accidental and not purposeful.”
Vernon would not elaborate on the nature of the medications, but the Voice has learned from two sources that Methadone was one of them. Methadone is prescribed to people trying to free themselves from a heroin addiction. (Note: It’s also important to point out that methadone is prescribed for chronic pain, and the coroner had been told that Jentzsch was taking medication for a back problem.)
That should come as a shock to Scientologists both in and outside of the church that Alexander belonged to — and which he worked for as a Sea Org member for 16 years. In the church, an overdose death would be extremely embarrassing, particularly for the son of Heber Jentzsch, president of Scientology.
Alexander died at the home of his in-laws, Jeffrey and Maureen Evans of Sylmar, who told police that Alexander was complaining of a fever before he went to sleep on the night of July 1. The next day, Monday, July 2, Alexander slept all day as the Evenses went out. The next morning, on July 3, they found that Alexander was still in bed, and Vernon says they found it unusual that he was sleeping through a lot of noise in the house. So they checked on him, and found that he was unresponsive.
Karen de la Carriere, Alexander’s mother, had been told by L.A. Coroner assistant chief Ed Winter that the Evanses said they took a child to school before returning home and then calling 9-1-1, but Vernon says he is unaware of that detail. He and his detectives will be meeting with de la Carriere later today, he said.
Vernon says that the report about a fever suggests that this may be a natural death of some kind, but the presence of medications points to a possible overdose.
Two days after Alexander’s death on July 3, de la Carriere had still not been notified of her son’s death — Alexander’s wife, Andrea, and her parents, the Evanses, are Church of Scientology members, and are prevented from having any contact with de la Carriere because, in 2010, she was excommunicated from the church (“declared a suppressive person”). De la Carriere was “declared” for speaking out publicly regarding the treatment of her ex-husband Heber Jentzsch, Alexander’s father and the president of the church who was, reportedly, being held in a strange office-prison at Scientology International Base east of Los Angeles.
Because Karen was declared an “SP,” her son Alexander was forced by the church to “disconnect” from her, and she never saw or heard from him in the last two years of his life.
She learned about his death on Thursday, July 5, notified the Voice that afternoon, and we broke news of the death that evening. On Saturday the 7th, Karen was denied access to her son’s body before it was cremated, again because of her status as an “SP.”
The next week, a tabloid website reported that the Coroner’s office had asked the LAPD to investigate the death, and the police department reacted by preparing search warrants. But Vernon tells me those press reports were premature. He hasn’t been able to get in touch with Winter at the Coroner’s office, and at this point the LAPD does not consider this a criminal investigation.
Looks like what we wrote last Thursday is even more accurate today:
Fired, broke, cut off from his mother and father, Alex Jentzsch was in a tough spot on July 2. Had he turned to self-medicating himself with something stronger than prescription drugs and overdone it? For the young, it’s one of the more common ways to expire today.
If that’s what happened, and the son of the president of the Church of Scientology had died of a drug overdose while his father was incarcerated in a hellish church prison and his mother was untouchable as an excommunicant — and with the church at the center of a media firestorm over a celebrity divorce — Scientology had a real mess on its hands the morning of July 3 in that Sylmar home.
I just got off the phone with Karen de la Carriere, who had this to say: “This is a true testament to the success of the Church of Scientology. A child who was born and bred in Scientology, 27 years in the church — 24 of them in the Sea Org, being educated in the mindset of the church, so that he would disconnect from his own mother, who might have given him an intervention to turn his life around.”
She is looking forward to talking with the LAPD detectives today.
Our Alexander Jentzsch Coverage:
On Thursday, July 5 we broke the news of Alex’s death after receiving word from his mother, Karen de la Carriere.
On Saturday, July 7 we reported that Karen was being denied a final look at her son before he was cremated because she of her excommunicated status.
On Monday, July 9 we broke the news that Karen had sent out an e-mail about her son’s death to more than 10,000 Scientologists.
On Wednesday, July 11 we were first to report that Scientology had relented and was holding a memorial service for Alex, but his mother wasn’t invited.
On Tuesday, July 17, we reported that the LA Coroner’s office was unhappy with unusual answers given by Alex’s in-laws regarding his death, and was investigating.
On Thursday, July 19, we published an e-mail sent out to Scientologists which blamed Alex’s death on “reaction to a prescribed painkiller.”
On Friday, July 20, we talked with Heber Jentzsch’s older brother, David, 80, who said Scientology workers had prevented him from talking to Heber for more than three years. The next day, we reported that Heber had called David and chewed him out for talking to the media.
Scientology’s president and the death of his son: our complete coverage
What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids
Scientology’s new defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s dad
Scientology’s disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group
Scientology leader David Miscavige’s vanished wife: Where’s Shelly?
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.