Lawsuit Filed Over Scientology-Linked Center Death

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Signage at a Church of Scientology building  (Photo credit: GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Signage at a Church of Scientology building (Photo credit: GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The mother of a Claremore man found dead last year at an eastern Oklahoma drug rehab center with ties to the Church of Scientology filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday against the facility, alleging staff was improperly trained and failed to provide proper medical care.

Attorneys for Shirley Gilliam filed the lawsuit in Pittsburg County against Narconon of Oklahoma, which operates the Narconon Arrowhead facility in Canadian. Also named in the suit are the corporation’s California-based parent companies and the facility’s medical director.

Gilliam’s son — 32-year-old Gabriel Graves — died in his room at the facility in October 2011. Since then two more patients have died while receiving treatment there — 21-year-old Hillary Holten died in April and 20-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy was found dead in her room in July. The Pittsburg County sheriff’s office and district attorney are investigating all three deaths and awaiting the final autopsy and toxicology reports for Murphy, said First Assistant District Attorney Richard Hull.

Gary Richardson, Gilliam’s attorney, said there were several similarities between the deaths of Graves and Murphy.

“Both of these young adults were addicted to drugs and were introduced to Narconon when they sought treatment,” Richardson said in a statement. “They and their parents were provided misleading information on the Narconon website and by Narconon representatives, which led them to believe that Narconon Arrowhead would be a safe and effective treatment facility. The misrepresentations provided extended to the active concealment of the Narconon program’s true relationship with ABLE (the Association of Better Living and Education International) and the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.”

Richardson alleges in the suit that ABLE is an umbrella group that oversees the drug rehabilitation activities of the Church of Scientology.

Gilliam is seeking more than $75,000 for each of three causes of action — wrongful death, negligence, and violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act. She also is seeking punitive damages.

Telephone and email messages left with Narconon Arrowhead officials were not immediately returned.

Located on a 256-acre former resort lodge located along Lake Eufaula, the property was purchased in 2000 by the Association for Better Living and Education from the Choctaw Nation. The group opened Narconon Arrowhead the following year.

Narconon uses saunas, vitamins, mild exercise and a special diet in its three-month treatment, which is based on techniques developed by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, according to the center’s website.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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