McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

July 22, 2013

Narconon- one year anniversary in string of deaths- investigation continues

McALESTER — Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Stacy Murphy, one of three people found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in less than a year.  

In the early morning hours of July 20, 2012, Murphy, who was 20, was found dead in a detox room at Narconon Arrowhead.

Murphy’s was the third reported death at the facility within a year and opened the door for a multi-agency investigation into her death and that of three others.

Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian that uses the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

In 2012, two months before Murphy was found dead, Hillary Holten, 21, was found dead in her bed, and Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead in his bed at the facility in October 2011.

In 2009, Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, died at a local hospital while she was in  Narconon Arrowhead’s rehab program.

The deaths are still under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office and the District 18 District Attorney’s office, according to officials. Narconon has declined to comment on specific aspects of the deaths beyond expressing sympathy for families of those who died.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said Thursday he is still following up on leads and District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward said his investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed in the case at this time.

Since the deaths, numerous lawsuits have been filed against Narconon Arrowhead with allegations of credit card fraud, wrongful death and employees trading drugs for sex with patients.

Tulsa Attorney Gary Richardson represents the family of Stacy Murphy along with several families of those suing Narconon Arrowhead.

On Thursday he said he’s been gathering information that law enforcement missed in their investigation.

“We have taken two significant depositions in the Murphy lawsuit,”  Richardson said.

The deaths and investigation into the facility caused legislators to cross party lines to pass a law, Senate Bill 295, also known as “Stacy’s Law.” Co-authored by Sen. Tom Ivester, D- Sayer, and Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, Stacy’s Law was signed in May by Gov. Mary Fallin just five days after it was passed  unopposed in the Senate. Ivester said the law will force drug rehab centers such as Narconon Arrowhead to be certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Heath and Substance Abuse, giving the state oversight over such facilities.

Former Scientologist and Narconon Arrowhead President Lucas Catton weighed in on the new law when he said Narconon Arrowhead needed oversight by the state and the law tightening restrictions and forcing drug rehabilitation centers to be more up front about their ties to religious organizations is good news for people entering the Narconon program.

Catton recently wrote a tell-all book about his experience as a former Scientologist and president of Narconon Arrowhead.

Also in light of the investigations, Narconon executives earlier this year  lost a counseling certification when the National Association of Forensic Counselors permanently revoked the Certified Chemical Dependency Counseling certifications of Narconon CEO Gary Smith and several Narconon Arrowhead employees.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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