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Police report found no Scientology role in suicide

CLEARWATER — Police investigated the role Scientology played in the suicide of a troubled young man two years ago, but did not conclude church members forced him off his antidepressant medication or contributed to his death.

Last week, the mother of Kyle Brennan filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Scientology's Clearwater-based Flag Service Organization and three Scientologists, claiming they took away Brennan's medication. The suit names the boy's father, Thomas Brennan, as a defendant; along with Denise Gentile, who is the twin sister of the church's worldwide leader, David Miscavige; and her husband, Gerald.

Clearwater police on Tuesday released more than 200 pages of documents from the investigation of Brennan's death. The reports don't provide evidence of a key claim in the lawsuit: that Brennan was denied access to the antidepressant Lexapro.

Police instead learned that Brennan wasn't taking the medication regularly. The only Lexapro pills police found were in a 30-pill bottle issued to him almost three months earlier. Sixteen pills remained.

The mother's attorney, Ken Dandar, said Kyle was taking the medication as needed.

The young man's own psychiatrist told police the prescription would have to be carried out on a regular basis. He was not aware of any "major side effects" from suddenly withdrawing from the medication. The drug's Web site states that quickly coming off the drug can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

Scientologists do not approve of psychiatric medication because they believe it to be mind-altering.

The lawsuit claims that Thomas Brennan took away the medication from his son at the behest of Denise Gentile. It also alleges that one or more of the defendants provided Kyle access to a loaded .357 Magnum.

Thomas Brennan told police he didn't approve of psychiatric medication because it clashed with his religious beliefs. But he said Kyle agreed to go off the medication because he didn't like taking it either — a claim that Kyle's mother and her attorney reject.

Brennan said the handgun was kept in a bag in the bedroom night table. He said he never told his son about the weapon.

Kyle Brennan used the gun to shoot himself on Feb. 16, 2007. He left two suicide notes that claimed people had failed him.

Prior to his death, Kyle Brennan, who had depression, anxiety and early signs of schizophrenia, lived in Virginia with his mother. In late 2006, he took $8,000 from his bank account and left on a cross-country trip.

On Jan. 7, 2007, his mother received a call from an FBI agent in Des Moines, Iowa, who said Kyle Brennan had stopped by and claimed he was being followed and "they were after him," the agent said. He wasn't eating and appeared emaciated.

Kyle turned up in San Diego at his aunt's home, according to the report. He told her that "they were hunting him down." The aunt tried to get him to seek mental help, but he left. Kyle contacted his father, who agreed to bring him to Clearwater.

Thomas Brennan lived in an apartment at 423 Cleveland St. that a Scientology spokesman said is not owned by the church. But the building is in the midst of the church's campus of buildings in downtown Clearwater. It's a block from the church headquarters at the Fort Harrison Hotel and a half-block from other Scientology facilities such as the Coachman and Clearwater Bank buildings, which are used for religious training, church offices and a staff cafeteria.

Thomas Brennan worked as a handyman on Denise and Gerald Gentile's properties in the area and became a friend of Denise's. In 2005 and 2006, he also worked as a staff member for the Church of Scientology in Tampa, according to church spokesman Tommy Davis.

On Monday, Davis had said that none of the three defendants was employed by the church.

The lawsuit claims that Denise Gentile was acting in her function as a "chaplain" when she interfered with Kyle Brennan's prescriptions.

But Davis denies that Denise Gentile is a church employee.

Denise Gentile admitted to police that she spoke very briefly with Kyle's mother about getting the young man drug treatment, but she said that was in her capacity as a friend — not as a representative of the church.

Staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Police report found no Scientology role in suicide 02/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 9:04am]
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