McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

August 27, 2012

Yet another Narconon lawsuit under way

McALESTER — The parents of Hillary Holten, a woman who died on April 11, 2012, at Narconon Arrowhead in Canadian, have filed a lawsuit in Pittsburg County District Court against the Oklahoma-based drug-rehabilitation facility.

The lawsuit alleges that Narconon’s negligence resulted in Holten’s death.

Holten is one of three Narconon patients who have died while in the facility’s care in the past 12 months.

Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso, died at Narconon on July 19, and Gabriel Graves, 32, died at the facility in October.

And back in 2009, Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, died while admitted as a Narconon patient.

These string of deaths at Narconon, and the organization’s methods of treating drug and alcohol addiction, have gained national attention.

The deaths have also gained the attention of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns told the News-Capital on Monday that his office has completed its recent investigation.

“Our investigation is complete,” Kerns said. “And the final report was turned over to the DA on Friday and the DA’s office will determine if any charges are to be filed — criminally or in terms of negligence.”

Also on Monday, the News-Capital spoke with District 18 First Assistant District Attorney Richard Hull. “I am waiting for the medical examiner’s report and the toxicology lab report before I make any determination on whether or not charges are to be filed,” Hull said.

The civil lawsuit was filed Aug. 23 on behalf of Hillary Holten by the attorney for her parents, Matthew and Suzan Holten. The lawsuit alleges that Narconon did not provide adequate medical care for Hillary Holten while she was a patient at the facility and that she died as a result of Narconon’s negligence.

On March 31, Hillary Holten “was admitted to the Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton, Texas, for numerous health related issues,” the lawsuit states. During her stay at Baylor, Hillary Holten tested positive for drugs, according to the lawsuit.

Matthew and Suzan Holten “began searching for a rehabilitation center in the hopes that she could obtain treatment for drug issues,” the lawsuit states.

In their search for a drug rehabilitation center, Hillary Holten’s parents came in contact with Narconon Arrowhead. The Holtens informed representatives from Narconon that their daughter “had a history of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, a condition which required the daily administration of Dexamethasone and in extreme circumstances, an injection of liquid cortisone,” the lawsuit states.

Representatives from Narconon allegedly informed the Holtens that the facility had “adequate staff, including RN’s and a Medical Director, who could properly manage Hillary’s serious medical condition,” the lawsuit continues.

On April 9, Hillary Holten was transported from the Baylor Medical Center to Narconon Arrowhead in Canadian. “After her arrival, Plaintiffs (the Holtens) received an email from Defendants (Narconon) promising they would ‘take good care’ of Hillary, and that she was ‘very blessed’ to have” them as parents, the lawsuit alleges.

On April 11, just two days after being admitted into Narconon for drug treatment, Hillary Holten died, the lawsuit states.

On Monday, the News-Capital contacted Gary Smith, CEO of Narconon Arrowhead, for comment regarding the lawsuit. “I can’t comment on that,” Smith said. “There are federal rights to privacy laws which prohibit us from discussing anything about former clients.”

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.

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