Five years ago today, on July 3, 2012, a Scientologist was found dead. Whatever ideas come to your mind when I say the word Scientologist, I want you to clear them out of the way because those aren’t significant in deciding how to think about the death of this young man. He was not some nameless, faceless religious zealot. He was not some low IQ idiot who deserved what he got because he was stupid enough to join a destructive cult. In fact, objectively speaking, none of these extremist labels apply to him. Just the opposite actually. He never was asked whether or not he wanted to be a Scientologist. At the time of his death, he was a former Sea Org member, he was a son, he was a husband and he was my friend. His name was Alexander Jentzsch and this is his tragic story.
People come into this world and leave it every single day. Some of them are remembered but most are forgotten in the mists of time. This life and death was special. It was special to those who were lucky enough to know him and as we are going to talk about in this video, it was special to so many more people who never got a chance to meet him. I am making this video because I don’t want Alex to ever be forgotten. This is my memorial to him. It is a tragedy in three acts.
Act One – Growing Up in Scientology
Alex was born on November 26, 1984, the son of Karen and Heber Jentzsch. At the time, Heber was the President of the Church of Scientology International and Karen was his assistant. They were both members of the Sea Organization, a cloistered paramilitary group which makes up the core of the Church of Scientology, handling all the Church’s management functions as well as delivering Scientology’s confidential, upper level services otherwise known as the OT levels. As the President, Heber was mainly responsible for Scientology’s international pbulic relations and acted as the official Church spokesman.
The Sea Organization consists of the most fanatical Scientologists, people who dedicate themselves to a billion years of service to Scientology because they believe it is literally the most important thing in the universe. Because of this, Sea Org members who had children back in the 1970s and 80s would turn their children over to Sea Org nurseries to raise them, agreeing to only seeing their kids maybe an hour a day and often hardly even that. The people put in charge of these nurseries were not the trained or experienced in child care or education and often these kids were left in unsanitary, disgusting conditions with little money spared from Scientology’s millions to provide clothing, food, toys or even a safe space for the children to grow up.
Once this became known to the public at large, as these children grew up and escaped from the confines of a cult they never wanted to be part of, the Sea Org changed its rules so members who became pregnant were coerced to terminate their pregnancy. They were treated as second class citizens for daring to think about having a family. Physical and emotional abuse, segregation and peer pressure were brought to bear to convince the pregnant mothers to have abortions and if that didn’t work, they were kicked to the curb with $500 “severance pay” and an assignment of what’s called a “lower condition” which means that they were not in very good standing with the Church and had to spend weeks or even months doing amends for their betrayal.
This too eventually became common knowledge as former Sea Org members came to realize that this kind of psychological and physical torment was not normal or acceptable in a civilized society and they spoke out about what happened. Only very recently has this finally brought about a change of conditions within the Church so pregnant Sea Org members are turned out without attempts made to forcefully persuade them to terminate their pregnancies. The only reason the Church of Scientology changed the way it treated its members was not because anyone in the Church realized that this was gross and abusive, but because it was creating ill repute for the Church publicly. The attitudes and prejudices have not changed one bit and the executives in charge of Scientology still believe their abusive behavior is fully justified.
As the son of the President of the Church of Scientology, Alex was treated better than most other Sea Org children and had opportunities to be part of public PR functions and meet Scientology celebrites and VIPs such as Chick Corea, Bob Duggan and John Travolta. When Heber Jentzsch was arrested in Spain in 1988 along with 69 other Scientologists, it became an international incident, protested by the Church of Scientology through any means they could think of to try to get Heber out of jail, including using Alex on television to garner sympathy for Heber. Keep in mind that Heber hardly ever even saw his son. After three weeks of incarceration, Heber was granted bail of a million dollars and fled the country immediately, never to return. It wasn’t until 2002 that the charges were finally dropped and the bond money returned but by then Heber Jentzsch had much bigger problems.
In 1988, Heber and Karen divorced. This had been arranged and pushed for months by David Miscavige personally behind the scenes, something Karen was not aware of until after it had all gone down. As Church spokesman, Heber travelled often and Karen had been separated from Heber and was interrogated for months in what is called sec checking in an effort to get her to confess crimes against Heber and her marriage which Miscavige could use to convince Heber she was no good for him. Karen had no such crimes but the external pressure on them both from the head of the Church was too great for their relationship to survive. Alex was four years old when this happened and in 1990 Karen left the Sea Org with Alex in her custody. She remained a Scientologist in good standing and worked hard to maintain that.
When Alex was 11 or 12 years old, he was recruited to join the Sea Organization. It being the group his father was still part of and hardly ever getting a chance to see him, Alex joined with the hope that he could communicate more often with Heber. Instead, Alex was shipped to Scientology’s largest church facility in Clearwater, Florida, called the Flag Service Organization, where he did estates work, mainly cleaning. His parents remained in California. Here Karen describes Alex’s relationship with Heber and the general attitude of the Sea Organization towards children, an attitude which still exists today.
As a 12 year old boy with little formal education and under the care of random adults at Flag, Alex had no real exposure to the outside world or the dangers of sexual predators. And unfortunately, despite their ridiculous claims of being the most ethical group on the planet, over the years the Church of Scientology has had more than its fair share of adult members who have sexually abused minors. Alex was one such victim. Here’s how Karen related this to me:
Alex remained in the Sea Org and never spoke about this incident to his mother or anyone else. The one and only priority of the Office of Special Affairs is to ensure that word of such incidents as this never makes it out to the public. The way this is done is to separate the offenders and make it clear to them that they are the ones to blame for what happened. There are many policies and writings from L. Ron Hubbard which are used to convince Scientologists that no matter what happens to them, they are always personally responsible for thier condition. In Scientology terminology, Alex was responsible for this because he had “pulled it in” meaning he had committed his own moral transgressions which had enabled these circumstances to occur and it was therefore his fault he was sexually assaulted as a minor. OSA staff have no regard whatsoever for the laws of the land or for civil or due process unless those laws can be used to the Church’s advantage. In this case, they were faced with a PR nightmare. If it came out that one of their own members had raped a minor, there would be no end to the public bad repute, so they chose to cover it up. The view of OSA and the Church of Scientology as a whole is that whatever is good for the Church is far more important than what may be good for its individual members. Never mind that harboring someone who would rape a child can hardly be considered something that is good for the Church, but in the twisted logic of the OSA staff running such things, so long as the Church of Scientology’s good name is kept untarnished, they are fulfilling their duties. With Alex under the Church’s control and in Los Angeles under close watch on a Sea Org base, they felt they had effectively dealt with this incident. You can only imagine what kind of damage this must have had on a young Alex Jentzsch and how this impacted him for the rest of his life.
Act Two – A Broken Family
Alex was assigned to work in the same organization I did at the time, the Continental Liason Office or CLO West US. This was the management body for Scientology in the Western United States and had many other functions including estates work for the entire Big Blue facility, running the numerous Scientology events which occur seven times each year, etc. To the best of my recollection, by the late 1990s, Alex wound up running the boiler room which contacted local Scientologists by phone and email to get them confirmed to come to these events and he did this for years. As part of this function, during periods when this call-in was not happening, Alex was often utilized to go around to Churches of Scientology in the West US to rally people in those places for local fundraising events. He was good at his job and did this for years. He met another Sea Org member named Andrea Kavon, who worked at the Scientology Celebrty Centre, and they married. It appeared that Alex had found some degree of happiness within the confined and restrictive world of the Sea Org.
However, there was another problem. His mother, now known as Karen DelaCarriere, was working close by and was running an art dealership. And through the mid-to-late 2000s, as word got out from former high-level Scientologists of the abuses that were occuring at Scientology’s highest levels, Karen was becoming more and more disaffected with the Church of Scientology. David Miscavige, the leader of Scientology and the leading officer of the Sea Org, was keeping senior church officials and executives locked up in a double-wide trailer at the International Scientology headquarters in San Jacinto, California. These trailers had iron bars over the windows and a guard at the door and was known as The Hole. The unfortunate Sea Org members stuck in The Hole were being victim blamed just as hard as Alex had been years before, being told over and over that it was their fault and they deserved every bad thing that happened to them, including beatings, sleep and food deprivation, enforced group confessions and for anyone who dared to want to leave the Sea Org, heavy manual labor for months on end in the hot desert sun in a place ironically called Happy Valley. Heber Jentzsch was one of the people incarcerated in The Hole and word started getting out in news media about this. Karen talks here about how Alex contacted her about this:
While the situation with Karen’s disaffection was brewing, Alex had another situation. His wife got pregnant. In fact, his wife got pregnant twice. As I mentioned earlier, the Sea Org’s policy about dealing with SO members who become pregnant changed over the years and these two pregnancies occurred right in the middle of that change in the mid-to-late 2000s. Karen describes what happened with Alex and Andrea.
As I’ve talked about elsewhere, when I first found out as a former Sea Org member what was really going on at the highest levels of Scientology with The Hole and David Miscavige’s abuses, this opened my eyes to a great many other things I’d witnessed or experienced over the years which hadn’t really made a lot of sense but which I’d justified because of my fervent belief in the inherent goodness of Scientology and the Church as a whole. In the late 2000s, Karen was experiencing this herself and began posting anonymously online about Scientology, the Sea Org and her own experiences about it.
With Alex and Andrea determined to keep their baby this time, they were following the usual routine of leaving the Sea Org and Alex was initially planning on moving in with his mother. At first, Sea Org Security was okay with this, until OSA found out about it.
With Alex setup in an apartment furnished by OSA, they then went in harder on him to get him out from under any potential influence of his mother. As the son of Heber Jentzsch, Alex could cause irreparable PR damage if he were to speak out about what had happened to him when he was 12, something Karen still knew nothing about at this point, as well as what he had seen and experienced during his years in the Sea Org. It was a top priority for OSA that Alex either dealt with his mother’s disaffection or that he disconnect from her entirely.
Not having convinced Karen to change her ways, OSA decided that the only way for them to keep Alex away from her was to arrange for him to leave the state. Karen had not yet been declared a suppressive person, meaning the Church had not officially labeled her as personal non grata, but they’d definitely got the message across to Alex that he was not to talk to her lest he himself be declared a suppressive and booted out of the Church.
Why would Alex go along with not communicating with his mother? Because at the time, such a thing meant he would himself be declared suppressive. The Church of Scientology was the only thing Alex knew, having been involved with it since the day he was born. It would mean he’d probably lose his wife and her whole family, since they were all deeply involved with the Church. And if Alex were declared, he would never see his father again. Yet what was his relationship with his father at this point? Karen relates here an incident that occurred before Alex moved to Texas when they got together and explains a bit more about Heber’s own tragic past.
Karen was officially declared a suppressive person in 2010 and Alex could now have no contact with her under any circumstances. And here Karen relates the last time that Alex flew back to LA to see his dad.
Act Three – A Senseless Loss
After moving to Texas and settling in, Alex and Andrea lost their unborn child in a spontaneous natural miscarraige. Soon it became clear that Alex’s sheltered and cloistered life had ill prepared him or Andrea for living in the real world. Karen gives the bullet points here.
Marriages amongst young people in the Sea Org often don’t last very long and more often than not, I’ve seen Sea Org couples divorce after they leave the SO and hit the harsh realities of life in the real world. There is too much stress, too much angst built up and emotionally these couples aren’t prepared to deal with it, they become overwhelmed and their relationship blows apart. Alex’s big partnership job turned out to be a farce.
At some point, Alex got into a car accident in Dallas and was put on Oxycontin, a heavy duty pain killer for back pain. It appears from the limited information we have that he had substance abuse issues and at the time of his death, methadone was in his system which is often used to treat oxycontin withdrawls. Gabapentin was also found in his system, which is a medication prescribed for seizure disorders and nerve pain.
With his new life in tatters, separated from his wife and without work, on June 29, 2012, Alex drove from Texas to Los Angeles to start a new job. He arrived at his in-laws home since he was still forbidden to talk to his mother. He developed a head cold on the trip back and took over-the-counter medications. This developed into pneumonia, something neither Alex nor his in-laws recognized for what it was.
Alex was having trouble breathing and was running a 103 fever. How does Scientology deal with that? Here’s what happened.
I contacted Edward Winter at the LA Coroner’s office about this case. Here’s what he had to say.
Ed sent me the toxicology report after we spoke and it clearly states that Alex had a mixture of medications in his system at the time of his death. At the scene, as well, officers recovered Meloxicam which is used to treat athritis and inflammation, Gabapentin, Hydrocodon-Acetaminophen which is a pain killer that can cause respiratory distress when combined with other substances, Methadone, Prilosec for acid reflux which is something Alex suffered from, Su-Phedrine for a stuffy nose and Vicks Nyquil.
In researching this, I spoke with Ed and other medical professionals and each confirmed that had Alex simply gone to an emergency room for his high fever and other symptoms, he would almost certainly have been diagnosed immediately with penumonia and treated properly with antibiotics, the one thing he was not taking to deal with his illness. There was no reason Alex had to die. It was simply ignorance, combined with the pseudoscientific garbage of Scientologists thinking their useless touch assists are more effective than medical science, which killed this young man.
Now to make this whole thing even worse was the cold-blooded and completely heartless actions taken by the Church of Scientology following Alex’s death. The Church knew exactly where and how to contact Karen and you would think that if there was even an ounce of compassion in the heart of anyone there, they would reach out to her to let her know her only son had died. But that’s not what happened.
Karen was not alone in this. Her husband, Jeffrey Augustine, decided that despite the Church’s heartless attempts to keep this news from Karen, at least they could pay their last respects to him at the funeral home. Here’s what happened.
The story of Alex’s death reached the media but not because of any overt action on Karen’s part. She had not yet started her YouTube channel, Surviving Scientology, or been speaking out in any broad public forum. But this was around the same time that Katie Holmes had walked out on Tom Cruise and their marriage and Scientology was a hot-topic item in the media. So the story of the son of the President of the Church dying under unusual and suspicious circumstances was too good to pass up.
Despite this, the Church was not going to hold a memorial service for Alex. Here’s what Karen and Jeff did and how this all turned out.
In the short time we have in this world, we live and laugh and love and cry and do the best we can to make something of ourselves. All of us have had our ups and our downs and hopefully, when we look back on where we have been and what we have done, we can be content or even happy with what we’ve accomplished. But not all of us are born equal. Our circumstances, our genetics, our family’s economic and social position and countless other factors can stack the deck against us before we even get started. Alex Jentzsch faced a life of just such challenges.
He didn’t ask to be born into a cult. It was not his choice at all and near the end, he had finally gained enough life experience and wits to question whether Scientology was really everything it claimed. In that way, he was actually quite smart. It took me almost 10 years longer than him before my eyes started to open.
Alex was a friend of mine when we were both in the Sea Org. We were not close up and personal friends, but few in the Sea Org actually can afford to be. We had plenty of common interests to chat about and enjoyed talking about books and movies and geeky things. I never had cause to think anything negative about him. Alex always brought positivity, pride and even joy to his work, and believe me that was not always easy to do given the pressures we were under.
In looking back at the circumstances of Alex’s life, there really is no other word to describe it but a tragedy. I have missed him and will continue to do so. I truly hope that he is in a better place now, but who can really know? What I can say for sure is that we should remember Alex for so many reasons and never forget that it is Scientology which cut his life short. There was so much potential lost in his useless and stupid death, but if in learning about his life, we can somehow prevent the same thing from happening to anyone else ever again, then his death will not have been in vain. Alex should always be remembered as one of the good guys. Regardless of whether there is some spiritual existence or not beyond this one, if we keep the memory of Alex alive then he will never really be gone.
Thank you for watching.