CLEARWATER, Fla., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Clearwater, Fla.,
have joined a police investigation into how a 36-year-old
Scientologist died while in the care of church members.
Lisa McPherson's relatives say the woman, a church member for 18
years, had expressed a desire to leave the church shortly before her
McPherson was pronounced dead Dec. 5, 1995 at a New Port Richey,
Fla. , hospital where she had been driven from a hotel near St.
Petersburg that is used as a Scientology retreat.
Church officials told doctors McPherson spent more than two weeks
at the retreat recuperating from unexplained anxiety when she
"suddenly took ill."
They said she distrusted doctors and refused medical treatment
until the church agreed to take her to a Scientology doctor in New
Port Richey, 20 miles away.
The church maintains McPherson died from a severe staph infection,
but an autopsy concluded she died from blood clotting and severe
A medical examiner's report says the autopsy showed evidence of
injury on the woman's body, including bruises, abrasions, lesions and
marks resembling insect or animal bites.
McPherson's family reportedly believes she was detained by
Scientologists who did not want her to leave the church.
Prosecutors decline to explain why they have been called in on the
case, but note they help police with investigations "on occasion."
A Scientology spokesman says the church welcomes the inclusion of
prosecutors in the probe and will "not be afraid of anything that
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