Families of Rescued Patients are Sharply Divided on Scientologist-
This is an interesting report by a reporter that spoke to family members of both of the people who were rescued from a notorious Tennessee mental health facility operated by Scientologists that was raided in February and was subsequently shut down by court order, with three of the Scientologist operators being charged criminally.
The brother of the young man who managed to call 911 and attract sheriff’s deputies explained to us how that happened, and he tells us he’s relieved that his brother was rescued and is receiving proper treatment. The brother of the woman who was also rescued, a Scientologist, denounced the sheriff’s department of Cannon County, and he defended Marc Vallieres, the Scientologist who was charged with two felonies for keeping the patients in cabins that were locked from the outside.
“I would say Marc is a saint,” the man tells us. And he has a lot more to say about the situation.
Vallieres and his Woodbury, Tennessee facility, Life Center for a New Tomorrow, came to our attention several years ago when it became clear that the rural location was being used for carrying out Scientology’s infamous “Introspection Rundown” procedure on the mentally ill. The procedure was invented by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s after he said he had discovered that the way to treat the severely mentally ill was to isolate them in silence until their conditions improved.
Actual mental health experts don’t take Hubbard’s ideas seriously, and the Introspection Rundown — also known more informally as “the baby watch” by Scientologists — has proved dangerous and even deadly. In 1995, a Church of Scientology member named Lisa McPherson had a nervous breakdown and was subjected to the baby watch in a room at the Fort Harrison Hotel, the centerpiece of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida. Seventeen days later, she was dead by dehydration after caretakers had kept her isolated and would not talk to her, and she refused food and drink. McPherson’s death turned out to be one of Scientology’s most famous scandals, although the church managed to dodge criminal charges leveled by the state. In 2004, the church also settled a wrongful death lawsuit with McPherson’s aunt.
Several years ago, we realized that Scientology had learned from that debacle by moving its Introspection Rundown treatments to a small cluster of cabins in rural Tennessee, out of the view of a prying press. We wrote previously about two troubling cases there, one involving a severely schizophrenic young woman who ended up being moved to a basement in Arkansas, and another about a woman named Barbara Cordova Oliver who had been a fixture at Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre.
We have spoken to Life Center’s owner/manager Marc Vallieres only one time by telephone. We called him to ask about the condition of Barbara Oliver, and he told us to call the Celebrity Centre, which we took to be telling evidence that he was operating Life Center as an adjunct to the church itself. (Recent press reports that the Tennessee facility was “owned and operated by the Church of Scientology,” however, are incorrect.)
We hadn’t heard anything about Vallieres or his Life Center for a New Tomorrow in some time, and then news came this week from the Cannon Courier, a small paper in Tennessee, that Vallieres was facing two felony counts of facilitation of kidnapping, and two of his associates, Dennis Flamand and Hans Snyder Lytle, were also charged with false imprisonment. Flamand and Lytle were able to plead to misdemeanors and were sentenced to a year’s probation, and we were told by the circuit court clerk that Vallieres was allowed to enter a diversion program and was sentenced to two years of state probation. We left a message for Vallieres, and we also emailed an attorney who is representing two of the men, but we haven’t received a response.
According to the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department, on February 7 a 911 call was placed by a young man at the facility, and when they arrived on the scene, they found the young man locked in a cabin looking out at them through a plexiglass window. They went inside after Flamand removed a padlock on the outside of the door. Inside they found the young man in a cabin that had only a few sheets — they found “no obvious amenities for life.” They rescued the young man and took him to an emergency room. Later, they went back to the facility and the caretakers appeared to be packing up to leave. They were arrested instead, and the deputies rescued another patient who was being held in a locked cabin, a 48-
The sheriff’s report is redacted, but sloppily, so we were able to put together the first and last names of both of the victims, and used that to track down each of their older brothers, who were both in California. Because the victims are mentally ill, we have decided not to use any of their names.
The young man who was rescued — a 24-
“Yeah, he’s my younger brother. He’s OK. But from what my mom says, it was very bad treatment, an uninhabitable condition,” Jim says. “My brother is really not able to care for himself. He’s mentally ill. He’s schizophrenic.”
We asked him if he or Nathan had any previous involvement in Scientology. He said that no one in the family was involved in Scientology, but his brother Nathan had said it was something he wanted to try. “He went to Tennessee before. This was his second time around. The first time he didn’t seem to have a problem with it,” Jim says.
Jim was skeptical, however, and he says the family was paying Vallieres $10,000 a month. “It’s a travesty,” he says. “They put them in small cabins and padlocked the doors. We didn’t know that. He had been there before and he never said anything about that.”
Jim was alarmed because Scientology treats mental illness without medication. “Without medication he’d go into full-
In other words, when his brother was off his meds, he’d use his phone to make delusional phone calls. But this time, he called 911 and said he was being held against his will. Deputies showed up, and that actually turned out to be the case.
So he already had a phone the whole time? “He was able to use the phone always,” Jim says.
After his rescue, Nathan was brought home to California. “We have him in a program here, and he’s getting medication now. But it’s not easy to take care of someone who has a tough case of bipolar and schizophrenia.”
We heard a very different story when we talked to the older brother of the woman who was rescued in Tennessee. She too was brought home to California, and she’s now being housed at a mental hospital. And her brother — we’ll call him Ed — is very unhappy about it.
Ed is a Scientologist who works at a drug rehab center which used to be part of Scientology’s Narconon network. The clinic cut ties with Narconon and Ed assures us that the clinic no longer uses Scientology methods.
But Ed himself is still a church member, and he’s angry about Marc Vallieres being criminally charged and his Life Center for a New Tomorrow being shut down.
“My sister was OK when she was there, and now she’s in a mental hospital in San Jose. She hasn’t had a shower in two weeks. Her condition is horrible,” Ed tells us.
“Whatever Marc is doing is a godsend. I’m on the other side of this issue,” he says. “My sister’s in a hospital where they don’t let her go through the food line, they don’t let her have any utensils. She has a rash on her face. She’s gained 40 pounds since she was with Marc. Marc is a lifesaver. I wish he was still open so I can put her there again.”
We asked him what kind of treatment his sister was receiving at Vallieres’ facility — was he aware that the baby watch had been used there? Ed says that Vallieres was doing “CCH 1” with her because she was “Type 3” — Scientology’s jargon for psychotic — “so she was in a quiet environment,” Ed says.
We learned about CCH 1, one of the “control, communication, havingness” exercises that are common to Scientology, from former church official Claire Headley in our “Up the Bridge” series: “In CCH 1 the two people sit opposite each other and one says ‘give me that hand,’ to the other, over and over.”
And the point of the exercise, and of keeping her in a quiet environment?
“They’re trying to eliminate the multiple thetans that were making her life hard to live,” Ed says.
(When Scientologists reach the “OT 3” auditing level, after several years of indoctrination and several hundred thousand dollars in costs, they learn that we are not individual beings, but that each of us is infested with hundreds or thousands of unseen souls — “body thetans” — which came to Earth some 75 million years ago in a galactic genocide.)
“I’ve been there multiple times. She was clean and she had clean clothes on. Sure, Marc’s place isn’t the best. But people there, they are hard on the place. They break windows and beat on the walls. Yes, she’s at a hospital now. But is her life good? No. Is she vibrant? No. At least in Tennessee she could go outside, breathe fresh air and have good nutritious meals,” Ed says. “I would say Marc is a saint.”
We asked him if he knew what Vallieres was going to do after his facility was closed down.
“I don’t think the place was shut down, but he decided to leave the state,” Ed says, but he declined to tell us where Vallieres was going.
We reminded Ed that his sister was found by sheriff’s deputies in a squalid cabin that had been padlocked from the outside.
“Sure, that’s what the sheriff says. Maybe they were locked inside for a few minutes to keep them from running around. The sheriff has nothing to say. They torture people daily,” he responds.
We asked him if his sister had been diagnosed as either bipolar or schizophrenic, and he said that she’d been diagnosed with both. But he’s angry that she is being held in a hospital and he can’t get her out.
“The side effects of the medications they put her on? It’s horrible. She’s a ward of the county and we can’t get her out of there. We need more places like Marc’s,” he says.