This episode deals with the case of Elli Perkins, who was stabbed to death by her 28-year-old son. The facts of the case are not at issue. The question is, where does the responsibility lie?
Elli was a committed Scientologist. L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, considered psychologists and psychiatrists to be member of an evil conspiracy who were responsible for (among other things) the Nazi Holocaust. To this day, Scientologists campaign against the psychiatric profession, and consider psychiatric medication to be dangerous and ineffective.
When Elli’s son Jeremy started to develop symptoms of schizophrenia, she insured that he did not receive psychiatric treatment – and especially not anti-psychotic medication. As a result, his mental condition deteriorated. She ‘treated’ him with doses of vitamins which are used in a Scientology practice called the purification rundown. When Jeremy stabbed his mother, it is doubtful whether he was responsible for his actions.
This audio recording of an part of psychiatrists interview with Jeremy Perkins, which was obtained by CBS news in 2009 (downoad as .wma) supports this. After his mother’s death, Jeremy exhibits the disorganised thinking and lack of emotion that is characteristic of Schizophrenia. Jeremy also describes delusions and visual hallucinations focussed on his mother (e.g. her face sometimes ‘became evil’). No fewer than eight doctors diagnosed him as suffering from Schizophrenia.
So who or what was responsible for the death of Elli Perkins? Could it be those doctrines and practices of the Church of Scientology that deprived him of appropriate treatment? View the programme in a video window after the break.
Cold Case Files: Scientology
The programme opens with friends of Elli Perkins describing her life and interests. She was a popular person, married, with two children and loved painting on glass. From there, they cut to the emergency call that summoned the police to the Perkins’ home and an account by the first officer on the scene. Jeremy had stabbed Elli to death. Jeremy was obviously not in his right mind.
At 1′ 53″ Jeremy is described by his lawyer “a gentle, kind and sweet person” who nevertheless stabbed his mother 77 times. At 2′ 22″. He states that 10 doctors examined Jeremy and all concluded that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia (which is demonstrated by extracts from recordings of those examinations). At 2′ 36″ it is stated that Elli never took Jeremy to a psychiatrist and his lawyer adds “it’s against the teaching of their faith”. At 2:43 and account of that faith – Scientology – begins, with extracts from a speech by David Miscavige, its current leader.
At 3′ 00″ Scientology’s opposition to psychiatry is illustrated by an extract from a TV interview with prominent member Tom Cruise and Church of Scientology member Jan Eastgate, head of the “Citizens Commission on Human Rights”, a Scientology front group that campaigns against the psychiatric profession.
At 4′ 30″ it is established that Jeremy confessed to the killing an there was ample physical evidence to show that he did. More extracts from interviews with psychiatrists (5′ 16″) establish that he was responsible for his actions. At 5’28” Dr Brian Joseph confirms this and describes this serious condition. Despite this, Jeremy received no treatment.
At 6′ 20″ it is show why, as Scientologists, they would not do this. At 6’48” the programme examines Elli’s involvement in Scientology involvement through interviews with friends. At 8′ 15″ they show hidden camera footage of a ‘stress test’ – one of Scientology’s basic recruitment techniques, and introduces the e-meter and, at 9’25” L Ron Hubbard.
At 9′ 50″Prof Stephen Kent takes the stage. He is a sociologist who has extensively studied Scientology and other high control groups. It is established that Dianetics was proposed by Hubbard as a mental therapy and that he saw himself in direct competition with psychiatry. The medical profession considered his ideas irresponsible nonsense, and said so (11′ 25″). Consequently, Hubbard went on the offensive. At 12′ 06″ prof Kent describes a 1996 document written by Hubbard, in which Scientology declares war on psychiatry.
At 12′ 22″ Jan Eastgate (the Scientology spokesperson) is interviewed again, to address these questions. She confirms that Scientology mounts organised campaigns against psychiatry. she believes that it is an evil conspiracy, and she confirms that Elli Perkins believed this too.
Elli made a living selling her glass art 13’32”). She needed the money so that the whole family could pay for their ongoing Scientology courses (14′ 28″). In 1979, Elli and her husband became ‘Clears’ and E;i was a practising auditor. For a while she worked at the LA ‘Celebrity Center'(at 15:30 Prof Kent explains the rationale behind Scientology’s obsession with recruiting ‘celebrities’).
The Xenu story follows… at 16′ 28″ Prof Kent discusses the special powers that are supposed to be obtained by Scientologists who reach the OT levels. At 17′ 11″ Laurence Wollershiem describes how he suffered a breakdown during OT3, and was denied psychiatric help (a claim backed up by a California court).
At 18’18” classmates of Jeremy in the late 80s describe his personality. He seems to have pleasant, but withdrawn and sometime socially awkward. He was now of the age when Schizophrenia commonly emerges.
At 19′ 00″ the programme turns to another example of Scientology’s treatment of the mentally ill – the death of Lisa McPherson after she was virtually imprisoned by Scientologists after suffering a breakdown. This action is explained by Prof Kent.
At 20′ 40″ friends describe Jeremy’s ambition to be a rock drummer and his apparent commitment to Scientology. At 21′ 30 his friend describes how, when he was 24 Jeremy revealed that he “heard voices.” His father ignored this, and sent Jeremy to California to join the Sea Org (which is described by Prof Kent). He was rejected after less than a year – probably due to his presenting more of the symptoms of his Schizophrenia.
At 23′ 00″it is revealed court ordered psychiatric evaluations of Jeremy performed after his Mother’s death in 2003 state that he showed symptoms of Schizophrenia as early as 2001. The family maintain that his behaviour was due to an injury suffered in 2002. Jeremy’s psychiatrist and lawyer do not find this credible.
Jeremy’s father fired him from his job with the family contracting firm, and he was banned from taking Scientology courses. It was obvious that something was wrong, and that Scientology was not working. Their response was not to try to help, but to exclude him in case he might embarrass them.
Jeremy was now suffering from full-blown hallucinations (24′ 59). Against medical advice, Elli did not take him to a psychiatrist. Jeremy was arrested for trespassing, after “[…] walking all night” and becoming violent when approached by police. A psychiatric evaluation confirmed that he was suffering from Schizophrenia. He was remanded to local hospital. At 25′ 54″ the DA who later prosecuted the murder case appears to state that Jeremy was only discharged because his mother assure doctors she would insure he received treatment and that she did not keep this promise.
At 26′ 52″ Jan Eastgate returns with another rant against psychiatry, and the links and a minor academic who claimed mental illness does not exist is interviewed.
It is established that despite claims by both of Jeremy’s parents to the contrary, he never received psychiatric treatment or appropriate medication.
The final part of the programme opens at 29′ 33″with extracts from the the film “Battlefield Earth”, which was based on a book by L Ron Hubbard, which features John Travolta playing an evil alien invader – a “Psychlo”. This kind of scenario now featured in Jeremy’s worsening hallucinations. The Perkins’ responsive (30′ 14″) was to consult an osteopath who was also a Scientologist.
The osteopath proposed a ‘vitamin’ therapy which sound a lot like elements of Scientology’s ‘purification rundown‘ (30’ 34″). Jeremy’s psychiatrist described this treatment as “nonsense” and defends the efficacy of anti-psychotic medication. The osteopath “declined to be interviewed”.
In passing, I have to ask, what it ‘toxic detoxification’? It sounds like a detox that uses poisons – even the ‘doctor’s’ billboard does not make sense.
At 32′ 07″ Jan Eastgate is asked if she thinks vitamins can cure mental illness. This is part of Scientology belief. The purification rundown involves the administration of mega-doses of vitamin, and she would know this having undergone it herself. She dissembles.
Jeremy’s condition continued to deteriorate (32′ 24″) and his mother’s insistence on administering the vitamins only played into his paranoia, making him increasingly suspicious of her. This is borne out by more extracts from his interviews. At 33′ 10″ it is shown that Jeremy was becoming violent, and Elli called in a self-taught ‘natural healer’ who is interviewed. Elli told him that Jeremy was becoming increasingly uncooperative and unmanageable and that she would never give her son anti-psychotic medication. In subsequent interviews, this ‘natural healer’ saw clear evidence of Jeremy’s now-serious delusions and did nothing.
Jeremy’s condition deteriorated further, and the best Scientologists could offer was to give him busywork to do, until he could return to the ‘natural healer’ for residential ‘treatment’. When Jeremy was told to pack 35′ 17″) he became agitated. His psychiatrist explains that, in his conditions he found unfamiliar environments very threatening, and that the prospect of moving would aggravate his symptoms. His mother was already the focus of resentment and delusions for insisting he took the vitamins. Now she became ‘evil’. After she insisted take a shower, Jeremy returned and stabbed her while she was on the telephone.
At 36′ 05″ Jeremy’s statement/confession is read out. It includes the statement,
I believe I have lived different lives for the past 1,000 years and wish I was in another life now.
Past lives and a kind of reincarnation are, of course, both fundamental tenets of Scientology doctrine.
The Church of Scientology is reported to have panicked (37′ 00″). High ranking officials were flown in to ‘handle’ the PR situation and distance the Church from the situation. At 37′ 15″ it is stated that the Church was not only worried bad publicity for it’s ban on psychiatry (and the consequences for Jeremy and Elli) but also for the effect on members. Elli was a OT, and this kind of thing was not supposed to happen to such powerful beings.
At 38′ 23″ David Miscavige is seen opening a new, improved Scientology ‘church’ (a so-called Ideal ‘Org’) in Buffalo, where the Perkins’ lived. Jeremy spent this occasion in a high security prison. He was now on anti-psychotic medication, and his condition had markedly improved. In his doctor’s opinion, if Jeremy had been given this medication at an appropriate time “I don’t believe this would have happened”. This is, of course, rubbished by Eastgate. However, Jeremy agrees with… his psychiatrist.
Jeremy was found to be not responsible for his actions and was confined to a secure psychiatric hospital. He has been a model patient. At 40’27”, in another interview Jeremy states that he felt he has been pushed into Scientology by his parents, who ‘handled’ any problem with Scientology.
The Church of Scientology learned nothing. Not long after, Tom Cruise described psychiatry as a ‘pseudo-science’ in a national TV interview (41′ 07″). Eastgate is also unrepentant.
The programme closes by emphasising that this tragic situation was totally unnecessary.