The Clearwater Scientology invasion
In 1975, under the direction of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology began a top secret operation codenamed Project Normandy with the objective to “establish and control” a U.S. city and county. The target was Clearwater, Florida. The mayor of Clearwater at the time, went so far as to call it “the occupation of Clearwater”. Today the Scientology headquarters are firmly situated in downtown Clearwater, located just northwest of Tampa Bay, lying on the west coast of Florida. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Church owns some 67+ buildings over ten square miles including their mammoth headquarters (referred to as the “Flag Land Base”), motels, training centers, offices, and “religious retreats”. The value of their real-estate holdings in Clearwater is believed to be in excess of half-a-billion dollars and many believe the organization, led today by the controversial but charismatic leader David Miscavige, holds a strong financial, legal, and political presence embedded deeply in the city’s infrastructure.
The Clearwater invasion grew more alarming in 2007 when Kyle Brennan, son of a local scientologist, died under unusual circumstances. Twenty-year-old Kyle Brennan was found shot through the head on February 16, 2007. Officially ruled a suicide, there are many indications that evidence was tampered with, that the medical examiner improperly declared Brennan’s death a suicide, and that the police investigation was purposely steered to suppress Scientology’s role in Kyle Brennan’s death.
In early 2006, Kyle began seeing psychiatrist Dr. Stephen McNamara. He was diagnosed with mild depression and placed on the prescription anti-depressant Lexapro. Five months later, Kyle moved out of his mother’s (Victoria Brennan) home to live with his father (Tom Brennan) at 423 Cleveland Street Apartment #4 in Clearwater, Florida. Like many Clearwater residents, Tom Brennan was a practicing Scientologist, and given the organization’s strong views on psychiatry, disproved of his son’s psychiatric treatment plan. Psychiatry goes against one of the core beliefs of Scientologists who blame psychiatrists for the ruination of the human race. In fact, Scientology proclaims that no practicing Scientologist can maintain a relationship with any individual undergoing psychiatric treatment or consuming psychotropic drugs. Both psychiatry and the taking of psychotropic drugs are considered abhorrent to Scientologists.
When Tom confronted Kyle with concerns over his psychiatric treatment plan, Kyle flatly told his father what he felt about Scientology and the people who followed its whimsical practices. According to official testimony, Tom told his son that his rebellious actions would make him a SP, “Suppressive Person”, a Scientology classification that marks a person as an enemy of the organization. As required by Scientology policy, Tom reported the matter to Denise Miscavige, twin sister of the worldwide leader, David Miscavige. At the time, Tom was unlikely to have known (according to reports) that Kyle had already spoken several times to the FBI, reportedly to pass on details of his father’s and other scientologists’ actions. The stage was set for controversy.
Kyle’s mother receives an alarming phone call
On February 15, 2007 Tom Brennan called Victoria to discuss a “problem” regarding Kyle. He explained that he had been given written orders to remove his son from his apartment. Evidence later revealed the note read, “Get your son moved out and get him set up somewhere so that he can get handled.”
Tom explained to Victoria that Kyle must move out. Tom told Victoria that he had taken Kyle’s Lexapro prescription medicine and locked it in the trunk of his car. After a mildly heated conversation, Tom relented and told Victoria to “forget about what he had just said, Kyle could stay in his apartment for a few more days”. He then asked Victoria if she knew why Kyle had been “placing objects against his bedroom door” presumably to bar him from entering.
The mysterious death of Kyle Brennan
The following day (February 16, 2007), just after 11:00 PM, Kyle Brennan was shot. At 1:18 AM, Victoria received a phone call placed from her ex-husband’s cellphone. An unknown voice said, “Is this Victoria? I’m calling to tell you that your son Kyle is dead.”
Kyle was found in his father’s bedroom, head slumped in a laundry basket. Even though it is believed Kyle intended to stay at his father’s home a few more days, the bedding from his bed had been stripped and his bags packed. There was a small file folder on Kyle’s bed which police later said contained indications that Kyle had written a letter to the FBI in reference to some sort of police corruption. Tom Brennan’s .357 Magnum lay beside Kyle’s right hand, his left hand draped across his head. Although Tom told police he kept the gun stored in a green, zipped-up duffle bag, the bag was never found at the scene. Forensic Specialist Jennifer McCabe could find no bullet nor fragments of the bullet that passed through Kyle’s head. When Victoria asked police if a GSR (gunshot residue) swab had been taken from Kyle, she was told no such test had been done. Even stranger, no GSR tests were done on Kyle’s father, the first person on the scene and the one to find Kyle’s body. There was no suicide note but in Kyle’s front left pocket was a piece of paper with “11:00” written on it. Kyle’s fingerprints were not found on the weapon nor on any of the ammunition. On his stomach were penned the words, “look inside”. Kyle’s death was ruled a suicide.
Premeditated murder? Suicide? Cover-up?
Victoria of course, suspected foul play and at the very least, blamed Tom for Kyle’s death citing Tom’s decision to take Kyle’s medicine away from him. The subsequent investigation revealed other unusual findings. For instance, Kyle had a laptop in the apartment. Initially, police found no evidence of the computer at the scene. It was later discovered that Jerry Gentile, David Miscavige’s brother-in-law and Denise Miscavige’s husband, had removed the laptop from the scene. When the laptop was recovered, all of the document data had been deleted. Computer forensic investigators found that the items had been erased approximately two hours after Kyle’s death. Tom initially said that nobody had accessed the computer or deleted any files but when confronted with evidence, recanted and admitted that the laptop had been taken from the scene. The files were deleted using professional forensic software that made it impossible to recover the files. However, police were able to find the names of the files that had been deleted. Among those files were Kyle’s weekly schedule, a document titled “Battle Plan”, and a document titled “Suspicious Activity”.
Tom Brennan’s unusual behavior
Tom Brennan told authorities he was working, selling Scientology literature at the Florida State Fair in Tampa during the time Kyle was killed. He stopped by Denise and Jerry’s house on his way home. He says he arrived home at 10:30 PM and found Kyle’s body. Oddly, rather than calling the police, Tom called Denise Miscavige Gentile to ask her what to do. The call to 911 went out 45 minutes after Brennan says he arrived at home.
Conflicting statements make it unclear who else entered the home immediately after Kyle’s death. One statement by Jerry Gentile says he and Denise both went to Tom’s apartment. Later, under oath, the couple gave a differing statement saying only Jerry went to the apartment.
To some, Tom’s behavior was unusually calm after Kyle’s death. According to testimony from Kyle’s mother, Victoria:
“I spoke with Tom the afternoon after Kyle passed; and found his behavior extremely disturbing and inappropriate. When he first picked up his voice was really upbeat and jovial ,I told him “it’s me Scott” and he continued with “hey Scott what’s new man?” in the same upbeat manner.. He mistook me for a friend of his named Scott. Once he realized who I was, his tone became a forced, somber tone.”
More conflicting evidence
Victoria says that notes take by the police were destroyed, including notes of the first interview with Tom Brennan. It was found that the Medical Investigator ruled the death a suicide because she had been told a suicide note was found on the scene. No suicide note has ever been found.
Wrongful death lawsuit – dismissed
On February 16, 2009, Victoria Brennan filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, the Flag Service Organization, and three Scientology parishioners (Denise Miscavige Gentile, David Miscavige, Gerald Gentile). In December 2011, US Federal Court Judge Stephen Merryday dismissed the case and granted Scientology’s defendants’ motion for summary judgement. Today the official verdict in Kyle’s death remains “suicide” by his own hand.
Kyle Thomas Brennan obituary
Kyle attended Albemarle High School and was a graduate of the college preparatory program of the American School. Most recently, Kyle was studying at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
Kyle was a talented artist, a skill he inherited from his mother, Victoria.
He adored nature and animals and was devoted to protecting wildlife. A prankster with a quirky sense of humor, Kyle loved to play basketball and spend time with his older brothers. Kyle dreamed of pursuing a college degree in art or science.
Kyle is survived by his loving mother, Victoria Britton, and his stepfather, Rick Britton, of Charlottesville; his brothers, Sean Myles Brennan and Scott Michael Brennan, also of Charlottesville; his sister-in-law, Mia Brennan, and his niece, so dear to him, Savannah Leigh Brennan of Charlottesville; his maternal grandparents, William and Jacqueline Brooks of Wallingford, Connecticut, and Gary Lee and Bonnie Robinson of Mariaville, Maine; his paternal grandmother, Cynthia Ward Brennan of San Diego, California; his cousins, Jamie Williams and Ryan Pinkowski, of Whitehall, New York, Crystal and Sarah Robinson of Sanibel, Florida; his aunt, Debbie Robinson of Whitehall, New York; his uncle and aunt, Steve and Barbara Robinson of Meriden, Connecticut; his uncle, Gary Lee Robinson Jr. of Fort Myers, Florida; his aunt, Susan Grinstead of Sanibel, Florida; his aunt and uncle, Carrie and Jeff of San Diego, California; and his aunt, Cathy Brennan of San Diego, California; all of whom loved him dearly and will deeply miss him.
Friends and relatives are invited to pay their respects to Kyle Thomas Brennan, from 7 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 21, 2007, at Hill and Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A Catholic funeral service will be held on 11 a.m. Thursday, February 22, 2007, at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, on Alderman Road in Charlottesville, Virginia. Burial will follow at Monticello Memory Gardens on Monticello Mountain.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Kyle’s name to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, P.O. Box 1557, Waynesboro VA 22980, (540) 942-9453.
His beloved great-grandmother, Ruth Gray of Bridgeton, Maine, is now looking after him in heaven. Rest in peace our dear son.
Friends may sign guestbook at www.hillandwood.com.
Published in the Daily Progress on 2/21/2007.
Buildings owned by Scientology in the Clearwater area
1. The Oak Cove Scientology Center. Lower level services including ‘auditing’ and ‘case cracking’. Real estate value: $4,483,100
2. The Fort Harrison Housing for visiting Scientology members with 220 rooms and suites, the Crystal Ballroom, Flag Auditorium and Convention Center. Bought under an assumed name in the 70’s. Real estate value: $13,137,700
3. The Sandcastle Home of the Flag Advanced Org. Real estate value: $5,896,600
4. The Osceola Inn Accommodation for visiting Scientologists with 76 rooms and suites. Real estate value: $6,000,000
5. The Coachman Five stories of Standard Tech course rooms and the largest Scientology library in the world. Real estate value: $3,700,000
6. Super Powers Building Scientology HQ and the home of advanced Church courses. Real estate value: Over $30,000,000
7. Former Clearwater Bank Building New Church administration offices and staff dining. Real estate value: $2,038,400
8. Station Square Exclusive 146-unit condominium with pool. Real estate value: $20,000,000
9. Parking area Three-level parking and bus garage for Scientology coaches. Real estate value: $3,500,000
10. Clearwater Academy Exclusive school for Sea Org members’ children. Real estate value: $5,000,000
11. Further Church Real Estate One of more than 50 buildings own by the Scientology Church in Clearwater. Real estate value: $50,000,000 plus
Kyle Brennan Timeline
The following timeline was posted on Reddit forums by a researcher.
August 2006: Tom Brennan invites Kyle to visit Clearwater.
Sept 5, 2006: Brennan explodes in an argument with Kyle about psychiatry.
Sep – Nov 2006: Kyle realizes Scientology has degraded his father and decides to save him by undertaking an initiative to the FBI to get them to investigate Brennan for crimes of embezzlement and the Ivy Gardens arson.
Early January 2007: Kyle begins calling FBI offices.
Mid-January: Kyle visits his aunts, Brennan’s sisters, in San Diego. Aunt Carrie and Tom get into a fight psychiatry. Denise Miscavige writes four KRs (Knowledge Reports) in five days to Ethics Officer Matteo Rosetti.
Late January: At the suggestion of his uncle Gary Robinson, Victoria’s brother, in Fort Myers, Florida, Kyle vacations in Maui.
February 5: Kyle is assaulted on Maui by a thief trying to steal his backpack. He decides to return home and visit his father in Clearwater on his way back.
February 6: Kyle reportedly calls the Clearwater police to tell them he is coming to Clearwater in case anything should happen to him. Denise Miscavige sends a KR to Rosetti.
February 7: Kyle arrives in Clearwater that night. Denise Miscavige sends a KR to Rosetti.
Thursday, February 8: Brennan attempts to handle Kyle with vitamins. Kyle refuses.
Monday, February 12: Denise Miscavige sends a KR to Rosetti.
Tuesday, February 13: Brennan discovers for the first time Kyle is calling the FBI. Kyle refuses to tell him why. Miscavige sends a KR to Rosetti, the last of eight KRs she has written in the previous month.
Wednesday, February 14: Brennan reportedly calls Victoria and is hysterical. He asks her why Kyle is calling the FBI.
Thursday, February 15: Brennan seizes Kyle’s Lexapro and locks it in the trunk of his car. That afternoon he leaves an angry message on Kyle’s cell phone telling him to take the vitamins he bought the week before. Kyle walks 4 miles to and from a bank to make a counter deposit to keep his account open in Charlottesville.
Friday, February 16: Brennan comes home at 10:30 pm after visiting friends. Brennan calls Denise Miscavige and then 911. According to testimony from Brennan and Denise Miscavige’s husband Jerry Gentile, Miscavige, Brennan, and Gentile are all at the apartment at 11:30 pm – 45 minutes before emergency help is called for Kyle.
Saturday, February 17: Police investigate Kyle’s death shortly after midnight under the direction of rookie officer Jonathan Yuen. Kyle’s laptop is not found and is accessed for the first time around 2:00 am. It is accessed four more times the following week, and returned to Kyle’s family with all documents deleted. That afternoon Kyle’s oldest brother Scott calls Tom to find out what happened. He reportedly says at least twice, “Tell people that the Church of Scientology had nothing to do with Kyle’s death.”
Thursday, February 22: Kyle’s funeral Mass is held at the Catholic Church of St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville.
Around February 25 Kyle’s belongings are returned. $5K in gold coins are missing and everything has been deleted from his laptop and Ipod.
February 2007 – December 2008: Detective Stephen Bohling carries out his investigation.
February 2009: Victoria as administrator of Kyle’s Estate files a wrongful death suit naming as defendants Denise Miscavige and her husband, Tom Brennan, and Flag Service Organization in Clearwater. US Federal Court judge Stephen Merryday hears the case.
December 2011: Judge Stephen Merryday dismisses the suit.
February 2012: Lawyer Luke Lirot files an appeal and authorizes the public dissemination of depositions in the case which heretofore have not been available to the public.
September 2012: A Federal appeals court in Jackonsville, FL, hears oral arguments, and denies the appeal without comment within two business days.