NBC Nightly News, 12 December 1997
Description of video is in [brackets]. VO = VOICEOVER
TOM BROKAW: Once again tonight, the Church of Scientology is embroiled in
controversy. This time, it involves the mysterious death of one of its
members, a young woman whom some say was desperately trying to leave that
church. More now from NBC's Kerry Sanders.
[caption saying "MATTER OF FAITH?", photos of Lisa]
VOICEOVER: For 18 years, Lisa McPherson was a member of the Church of
Scientology. But in late 1995 her family and friends say she became
disillusioned. They say she wanted out of the church that some critics
call a cult. That's when church members say the Texas native began to act
[footage of traffic in Clearwater; CoS buildings ]
VO: She was picked up by paramedics after a traffic accident walking naked
on the streets of Clearwater, FL. Clearwater is world headquarters of the
Church of Scientology, which moved here in 1975 and today owns much of the
[Fort Harrison Hotel; Dell Liebreich, Lisa McPherson's aunt,]
VO: McPherson was taken to this converted hotel. In accordance with
Scientology teachings, she was isolated in a room. Her family says her
isolation was more like imprisonment.
[Lisa's autopsy photos]
VO: The pictures of her arms show bruises and cuts. The church says those
are cockroach bites; her family says they were caused by the ropes used to
tie her down.*
[Ken Dandar in his office]
VO: Her lawyer says church members wouldn't give her water and wouldn't
take her to a hospital for help.
KEN DANDAR, MCPHERSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: So when you see someone who needs
help and you just sit back and you fold your hands and you just not do
anything, then you cross the line of negligence, and now you're into an
VO: The church says its members did nothing wrong.
[Sandy Weinberg in his office]
SANDY WEINBERG, CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY ATTORNEY: There is absolutely not a
scintilla of evidence in this case from one person who has said that she
was tied up or restrained. In fact, the evidence is just the opposite.
VO: Dell Liebreich is Lisa McPherson's aunt. She is now suing the church,
claiming the death of her niece was part of a conspiracy.
DELL LIEBREICH: To me, it's just a cult; it's a brainwashing,
KERRY SANDERS, ON CAMERA: Despite its overwhelming presence in this city,
the church has never successfully integrated itself in the community.
Tonight some critics say the death of Lisa McPherson could be the undoing
of this unwelcome religion. Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Clearwater, FL.
*--Last sentence typed verbatim.
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