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I talked earlier today to Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner of Los Angeles County, who tells me that he’s ruling Alexander Jentzsch’s death an accident.
The 27-year-old son of Scientology president Heber Jentzsch was found dead on the morning of July 3 at the home of his in-laws. Winter has now determined that Alexander was suffering from pneumonia while he was on a prescription of methadone. His injury was “drug intake,” Winter says, and “final mode” of death an accident.
“What you’re telling me sounds like an accidental drug overdose while he was very sick,” I said to Winter.
“That’s what I’m telling you,” he answered.
Karen de la Carriere, Alexander’s mother, tells me that Winter is not done investigating.
“They don’t even have all the reports back yet. And they’re looking at that methadone prescription,” she tells me.
She points out that a healthy 27-year-old is not likely to die from pneumonia. And if he was following his methadone prescription — and so far there’s no indication that he didn’t — that also should not have been lethal.
It’s the combination that killed Alexander Jentzsch.
The son of the president of the Church of Scientology International, cut off by the church from both of his parents, was taking methadone while he had serious pneumonia rather than antibiotics. And that doesn’t look good.
Alexander Jentzsch had been raised as Scientology royalty as a child, and he joined the Sea Org at only eight years of age. His father, Heber, had been made president of CSI in 1982 and through the 1990s was the public face of the church. But by 2004, he had fallen from favor and became a resident of Scientology’s notorious concentration camp for executives, “The Hole.”
In 2010, Karen de la Carriere — a longtime Scientologist who had trained with L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s — went public with the way her ex-husband was being treated, and that her son was growing up without his influence. For that, she was “declared a suppressive person” by the church — excommunicated, in other words — and then Alexander was forced to “disconnect” from her. In the last two years of his life, Alexander was cut off from both of his parents.
He moved to Dallas, but then reportedly lost his job. Just before he returned to Los Angeles, on June 26, he received the methadone prescription. (While the drug is prescribed to help heroin addicts with withdrawal, it is also prescribed for acute pain, and Winter was told by Alexander’s in-laws that he had serious back problems.)
At some point, he also came down with a serious case of pneumonia. Was he getting proper medical care for it? That’s something de la Carriere tells me Winter is determined to find out.
“In three days I’m meeting with the autopsy doctor and at the coroners for a briefing,” Karen tells me. She’s determined to learn more.
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And a post that pulls together the best of our Scientology reporting
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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 catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, 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.