Scientologists Told that Alexander Jentzsch Died of Reaction to "Prescribed Painkiller"
As the Los Angeles Coroner's office continues to investigate the July 3 death of Alexander Jentzsch -- the 27-year-old son of Heber Jentzsch, the Church of Scientology's president -- Alexander's mother, Karen de la Carriere, continues to hear from people in and outside of the church about the days leading up to his death.
Heber and Alexander Jentzsch
This evening, she was forwarded an e-mail that had been sent to church members describing a memorial service held last Thursday at Scientology's Hollywood Celebrity Centre on Franklin Avenue. The e-mail is signed by Stan Gerson, a well-known Scientologist who had been Alexander's godfather. (We left a phone message with Gerson, who is a Sherman Oaks commercial real estate broker and also performs as a stage magician.)
According to the e-mail, Alexander's father, Heber Jentzsch, did give the eulogy at the service. Alexander's mother, de la Carriere, was not invited to the memorial, which the e-mail describes as an idyllic affair -- and seems intended to counter growing media interest in the unusual circumstances around Alexander's death.
Heber Jentzsch's presence at the memorial marks the first time that the church executive has reportedly been seen at a church event since about 2004. Multiple former Scientology officials say that Jentzsch has spent most or all of the intervening time as a prisoner in the church's notorious office-prison known as "The Hole," at Scientology's international base near Hemet, California.
De la Carriere, meanwhile, was barred from the event because she was excommunicated by Scientology in 2010 for daring to speak out publicly about the treatment of her ex-husband. She had been a 40-year member of the church and had studied directly with L. Ron Hubbard. But when she complained on a website about Heber's incarceration and that her son was growing up without a father, she was "declared a suppressive person" and Alexander, she says, was forced to "disconnect" from her.
Alexander cut off all contact with her, and de la Carriere did not see her son for the last two years of his life. His Scientologist wife prevented de la Carriere from seeing her son's body before it was cremated, and she was also told that the church planned no memorial.
After considerable media attention, however, the church relented and quickly planned a memorial at the Celebrity Centre.
On Tuesday, this description of the event was e-mailed to church members, and a copy found its way to Karen tonight...
16 July 2012
I am writing you this letter for two reasons: One is to give some sad news and the other is to make sure you get true information from a reliable source.
A few days ago there was a service at Celebrity Center to say goodbye to Alex Jentzsch, the son of Heber. I was Alex's Godfather and very close to him. Alex was 27 years old and had a reaction to a prescribed painkiller for a back problem he had. He went to sleep in Los Angeles at his Mother-in-law's home on July 3rd and did not wake up. He was here in Los Angeles on a business cycle setting up his comm lines, etc. with the help of my son, Joshua, and other friends. He was excited about the prospects and his wife Andrea was to follow shortly from Texas. Joshua had taken him on a fishing trip a few weeks prior and they had a great time.
Last Thursday we attended the most magnificent service in the Pavilion at Celebrity Center International. I was the master of ceremonies, Rev. Heber Jentzsch delivered the eulogy and Capt. Dave Petit did the service itself. I can tell you it was highly emotional, beautiful, Theta and a fabulous send off to such a remarkable being.
The event was not heavily publicized, but the people who were close to him and the family were there; about 160 people in all.
Pamela Lancaster Johnson sang Sarah McLachlan's 'Angels' - but with words more appropriate for Alex and the second was a duet, 'My Prayer' with Pamela Lancaster Johnson and Carter Ramson with Eric Zimmerman playing the piano. It was magnificent.
Two of Alex's best friends, Kenny Davies and Tim Burke talked about Alex in a way that described his life perfectly. When Kenny read LRH's characteristics of a genius, all there were in 100% agreement. It summarized Alex to a T.
Most of you know I had taught Alex magic from the time he was 10 years old, so I delivered a one of Alex's magical effects to the guests. I made sure it lifted the tone as that is what Alex would have wanted.
Heber delivered an incredible eulogy for his son, and told us amazing stories of this boy who, from birth, was not the average child, but a genius. Alex had a memory almost unheard of and could recite policies and references verbatim, including 'Message to Garcia' and other long texts. He would recount movie stories months after seeing the movie, duplicating the words and actions of the actors with ease. His competence in the Sea Organization was renowned and he was known all over the America for his ability to get a product no matter how tough. Heber and Alex were both extremely proud of each other and understood how busy each were in helping mankind, and yet, both would play the game of tracking each other down, no matter the distance or location, just to say a simple "Happy Birthday", each year.
At the end of the eulogy Heber told us that he and Alex used to always sing together and a few weeks prior Alex had gone to a small recording studio at Universal Studios and recorded a few songs. One of them was "A Candle in the Wind". This very same recording was played at the service and hearing Alex sing with his young tenor voice sweeping across the room was amazing and the appropriate ending to the ceremony.
Afterwards close family and friends met and listened to some of Heber's and a few friends' stories. They were great.
So that is my story. I wanted you to have the facts directly.
I will miss my Godson but am happy I got to spend as much time with him over the past years as I did.
Ps. If you wish to let your friends know the above information, you are welcome to share it at your discretion.
That final line seems a dead giveaway that Gerson's e-mail was intended to carry the Church's version of events to the outside world.
A photo from the memorial was attached to the message. It shows Heber Jentzsch (center) standing with Gerson and Gerson's wife Phillipa...
Despite the church's happy version of events, we're gradually learning a little more about the final weeks of Alexander Jentzsch's life, which only add to the mystery surrounding his death.
As Karen indicated in a mass e-mail she sent to more than 10,000 church members, her son joined the Sea Org at only 8 years of age. He was brought up in the church, and to many Scientologists the Jentzsch family was considered church royalty.
Heber was named president of the Church of Scientology International in 1982 and was often the face of the church for public events through the 1990s. By 2004, however, he had fallen so far from Scientology leader David Miscavige's favor, he disappeared from view. For most or all of the past eight years, say former church officials like Mike Rinder and John Brousseau, Heber Jentzsch has been held in Scientology's infamous office-prison.
Between the rigors of the Sea Org and then Heber's disappearance, Alexander was becoming "the boy without a father," Karen wrote in 2010 as she went public with her dissatisfaction. She was excommunicated, and her son was forced to cut off ties with her.
That same year, she writes, Alexander and his wife, Andrea, left the Sea Org and moved to Dallas, where Alexander got a job working for a home loans company.
Although Alexander had cut her out of his life, Karen still managed to get some information about him -- through Facebook, for example.
She says she noticed about a month ago that her son was having trouble with his marriage. Not only had she heard some things, but she noticed that Alexander's Facebook page showed no trace of his wife, and he deleted his relationship status, which had read "married."
"They took down the site within 48 hours after he died. But he definitely changed his relationship status. I noticed it when he did it," Karen tells me.
Around that same time, Alex also lost his job. He made his way back to Los Angeles, and began staying with his estranged wife's parents, Jeffrey and Maureen Evans, who live in Sylmar, a part of the San Fernando Valley in the city of Los Angeles. (Attempts to call the Evanses did not go through.) An overhead view of their house...
More than once, it has been pointed out to me that it was odd that Alexander moved in with his in-laws if his marriage was on the rocks.
But with his mother excommunicated and his father confined to the secretive desert base, Alexander may have had nowhere else to turn but the house in Sylmar -- which makes Karen boil.
"He was broke, he was asking for money, I've heard. And they wouldn't let him contact me," she says.
On June 19 -- just 14 days before he was found dead -- Alexander attended a family event. Someone who attended it contacted Karen to tell her that her son looked healthy and drank little, if anything. "They said he might have taken part in a toast, but that's all," Karen says.
Around that same time, another family friend took Alexander out for an expensive dinner, and reported to Karen that her son not only didn't drink, but turned down an offer of a glass of wine. Karen was told that at that dinner, Alexander made a request for financial help.
As we reported earlier, Karen says she was told by L.A. Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter that when he questioned the Evanses, they told him that on Monday, July 2, in the morning and at night, they noticed that Alexander was lying in his bed at their home. The next morning, on July 3, the young man was still lying in bed and proved to be unresponsive. But Winter told Karen that a child was taken from the Evans home to school before 9-1-1 was finally called about Alexander's condition.
Winter also indicated that medication containers near Alexander's body were collected, and the coroner's office is now awaiting a toxicology report, which should take a few more weeks.
Karen says she was stunned to hear from Winter that the Evanses told him that Alexander had "a history of over-self-medicating," and when they were asked why he might be doing that, Winter was told Alexander had back pain resulting from an auto accident.
But Karen says the car accident was not recent; it happened years ago, and although Alexander totaled his Acura automobile, she had quickly bought him another one, and he didn't complain of any injuries at all.
"He visited with me daily for months after that car crash, and he never once mentioned a back injury," she says.
On the other hand, she heard from more than one of Alexander's friends that in the days before his death, he had experienced some difficulty breathing. She was told that his Scientologist friends handled the episode with a "touch assist" -- a sort of therapeutic faith-healing technique.
Karen says Winter told her he was concerned about the responses he was getting from Alexander's in-laws.
The church's explanation -- at least as presented in Gerson's e-mail -- sounds like more of a guess than a real diagnosis: reaction to a prescribed painkiller.
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.
Which is why, former high-ranking Scientology official Mike Rinder says, it was important to put out a happy description of Alexander's church memorial. (And Rinder knows something about church PR -- for many years he was the executive director of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs, was the church's chief spokesman, and also helped oversee the church's legal affairs.)
"That e-mail is one of the most astonishing things I've ever seen," Rinder says. "They are so shortsighted that they will put something out like that which will get exposed as so full of lies.
"Their idea of how to deal with their crisis situation is to do the exact wrong thing every time and create a whole new situation. I mean, the wonderful family life, that his wife was following him shortly, Alexander's incredible business opportunities. Why they are even saying that, it just makes you wonder about everything that comes out. Because it's all blatant lies," he says.
"He was staying with his in-laws because he didn't have any money and couldn't contact his mother or his father. And then they're putting out this bullshit that everything was fine and that he died of a 'prescribed' painkiller. The guy was lying dead in bed for 24 hours, and they dropped the kid off to school and then dialed 911," Rinder complains.
"Human decency takes a back seat to the concerns of the corporate church. That's what's sick about this," he says.
The more Karen hears, she adds, the more she is sure she could have made a big difference in her son's life -- if the church had only allowed it.
"I would have sent him money right away. He was broke, he was asking for money, and they wouldn't let him contact me. They told him the disconnection was my fault," she says.
"How could these people tell the coroner that he had a history of drug use? You mean, they knew he had a problem and didn't let him talk to me, while his father was incarcerated in The Hole?"
De la Carriere continues to work with the coroner as he presses the church for information. She says he has assured her multiple times that he will not be intimidated or distracted.
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 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.
UPDATE: Last night, KABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles rounded up some of the basics in the investigation.
ALSO: Richard French of WRNN-TV here in New York has on a journalist and asks great questions about Scientology...
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?
Please check out our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
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 email@example.com, 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.