To Protect and Serve; the Clearwater Police Department
“As Scientology grew in the Clearwater area, it often hired local off-duty officers to act as a private police force. Did this built-in conflict of interest affect the police investigation of Kyle’s death? Who are they protecting? Who are they serving?”
When a child dies unexpectedly and violently, the impact on the family is one of complete devastation. Anguish and despair become your close companions. It’s a heartbreak like no other.
After losing my son Kyle, I felt—along with my overwhelming grief—a powerful urgency to make sense of the senseless, to understand what had happened and how the tragedy in Clearwater, Florida, had unfolded. That urgency—that need—has not subsided. Numerous questions still need to be answered.
In the weeks and months after Kyle’s passing, something completely unexpected made the pain immeasurably worse—the incomprehensible treatment I received at the hands of Detective Stephen Bohling of the Clearwater Police Department (the CWPD). Losing a twenty-year-old son is horrific enough. Bohling’s unconscionable handling of the investigation into Kyle’s death, however—his deceitful, immoral, and illegal behavior —not only sullied Kyle’s image but also devastated Kyle’s family and ultimately obstructed justice in the wrongful death lawsuit that ensued.
According to the CWPD, Kyle’s death was reported to the department at 12:10 a.m. on Saturday, February 17, 2007. Detective Bohling took over the investigation sixteen hours later. It’s important to note that Bohling never visited the crime scene to garner further evidence. Instead, he relied on the meager evidence from the responding officer, Jonathan Yuen. Yuen was working the midnight shift when he responded to the 12:10 a.m. 911 call from Kyle’s father, Tom Brennan. Officer Yuen later admitted that he only spent a maximum of 20 minutes interviewing Brennan—a very short time considering that he was collecting information regarding a suspicious death. He later stated that—contrary to proper police procedure—he destroyed the notes he had taken that night.
As can be imagined, the subsequent Clearwater Police Report (or CWPR) written by Detective Bohling is filled with misinformation, half-truths, and outright fabrications. Some of these fabrications are completely fictionalized conversations—conversations that never occurred. And a significant number of these lies are miss-paraphrased statements. By misrepresenting statements made by individuals questioned during his shoddy investigation—by assigning fabrications to others—Bohling twisted the truth into a mass of lies that obstructed justice and protected a number of parties who should have been questioned further.
The unscrupulous detective took this illegal behavior to an unprecedented level when he paraphrased me, Kyle’s mother, into saying things about my son that I never said. These deceptions executed at the hands of a police detective—a public defender who’s supposed to be seeking the truth—piled additional grief and suffering onto Kyle’s family. The aftermath is deeply disturbing.
As an example, on page 15 of the Clearwater Police Report (or CWPR), Bohling took liberties when describing the telephone conversation I had had with an FBI agent. (In January of 2007, while Kyle was traveling the country, FBI Special Agent Jeff Atwood called to tell me that Kyle had visited his Des Moines, Iowa, office that day. According to Atwood, Kyle came in to report a crime that could not be substantiated. Agent Atwood expressed concern for Kyle, saying that he looked good, was well-mannered and well-spoken, and that he could tell Kyle came from a good home. When he saw that my son was traveling with valuable items—expensive electronics and gold and silver coins—as well as a large sum of cash, Atwood became concerned for his welfare. When Kyle said he would stay at a shelter to save money, the detective recommended a hotel because it would be safer. Atwood told me that Kyle seemed to be suffering from mild paranoia, but it was good in this case as it would keep Kyle away from those who might harm him. Agent Atwood said he got my phone number by asking Kyle who he should call if something happened to him.)
The falsified CWPR information appears in the form of a March 5, 2007, telephone conversation between Bohling and Detective Carl Brown of the Albemarle County (Virginia) Police Department and an e-mail supposed sent from Brown to Bohling. (Detective Brown first made contact with Kyle’s family soon after the missing person’s report was filed. He later helped locate Kyle when he was in Maui, Hawaii.) Here Bohling claimed that Agent Atwood had advised me that Kyle said: “he was being followed by people who were after him.” According to Bohling, Atwood said that Kyle “appeared as if he had not been eating, was emaciated, and appeared to be having delusions.” (These are statements Bohling claimed I made to Officer Brown regarding my discussion with Atwood and that Brown passed along to Bohling.) Perhaps not surprisingly, Detective Bohling never asked me for information or details pertaining to my conversation with Atwood.
Here’s the truth: I never stated that Agent Atwood told me Kyle entered his office saying that “he was being followed by people who were after him.” Agent Atwood never said Kyle looked like he had not been eating and appeared to be having delusions. All of this information referring to my conversation with Atwood is false. Why would a police detective falsify information like this?
Bohling’s police report becomes even more twisted when one reads the emails attributed to Detective Brown at the bottom of page 15. (And it should be noted here—as was discovered by attorney Ken Dandar during Bohling’s deposition—that the very appearance of these e-mails is highly suspicious. For, rather than digitally copying these supposed emails into his report, Detective Bohling printed them onto paper, then physically cut the paper and pasted them into his narrative. Was Bohling as computer illiterate as Tom Brennan, or were these emails fabricated out of whole cloth?)
According to Bohling, these emails stated I had met with Detective Brown on a specific date and that at that meeting, I stated to Brown that Kyle had been diagnosed with “depression and periods of delusion and paranoia.” I supposedly also said that I was told by police—after reporting Kyle’s departure from home—that “there would have to be more information regarding Kyle’s condition to enter him into NCIC as endangered.” (“NCIC” is the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, a reporting database that can also be used to help find missing persons.)
Here’s the truth: I never met with Detective Brown during the time period noted in Bohling’s falsified email. The first time I met with the Albemarle County detective to discuss my son’s death was two years after he had passed. Kyle’s psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen McNamara, never diagnosed him as delusional and paranoid. Detective Bohling—or possibly Hillsborough County, Florida, Medical Investigator Marti Scholl—fabricated this diagnosis. This statement is a lie.
The statement referring to why I could not file a missing person’s report immediately after Kyle left home is also a lie. (On the day Kyle left home, I called the Albemarle Police Department to file a missing person’s report. I had been worried about Kyle since his return from a tumultuous visit with his father, Scientologist Tom Brennan, in September of that year.)
Here’s the reason a missing person’s report could not be filed: Kyle was an adult who left home on his own fruition. According to law, you cannot file a missing person’s report unless foul play is suspected or the missing individual is declared—by a physician or by a court of law—to be a danger to themselves or to others.
I told the Albemarle County officer that I was worried about Kyle that he’d lived a sheltered life and had thousands of dollars in cash, gold, and silver in his possession. I did not know where Kyle was, so I pleaded with the officer: Could they please help me find him? The officer sympathized but said that he could not write a report because of the law. When I told him that Kyle was taking medication, he told me to look to see if Kyle had taken it with him—he had. When he asked how much he had taken, I stated more than one prescription worth.
The laws regarding missing person reports, therefore, are what initially prevented me from filing one, not the lack of information. I knew this, Detective Brown knew this, and what’s more important, Brown would have never lied like this to Bohling. Bohling’s statement regarding the NCIC, therefore, is a lie.
Why would Bohling misrepresent the truth in his report? Could it be that the profile of Kyle fictionalized by Detective Bohling—a profile of a troubled young man suffering from delusions and paranoia—better fit the image of someone likely to commit suicide, someone whose tragic death was entirely his own fault?
It is absolutely certain that the truth would not have benefitted the defendants in the wrongful-death lawsuit—Scientologists Tom Brennan and Gerald and Denise Miscavige Gentile. On February 17, 2009—two years after Kyle’s death—the Clearwater Police Department released the report regarding Bohling’s investigation, one day after the wrongful-death lawsuit was filed and the news had made the front page of the St. Petersburg Times. When the defendants answered the wrongful death complaint, their lawyer, Lee Fugate, attached Bohling’s police report to their response.
Written by Victoria Britton©, All Rights Reserved. Duplication or reproduction without permission of the author is prohibited.
Attorney Lee Fugate, Clearwater, and Corruption
Excerpt from the Deposition of Dr. Stephen McNamara
Clearwater Police Report, Pasted email
Deposition of Detective Bohling
Excerpt from the Clearwater Police Report
While deposed in 2010, I was surprised when the attorneys representing the Church of Scientology handed me a photograph across the table. It was an image of a Walmart prescription bottle placed in evidence the night Kyle died. The bottle and its contents, prescribed psychotropic medication, were essential to the case Ken Dandar had filed on the estate’s behalf. But now, I was bewildered. Early that same day, before going to work, I’d filled Kyle’s prescription at a nearby CVS. I hadn’t purchased this additional prescription bottle for two straightforward reasons—I was at work when it was acquired and never shopped at Walmart. Kyle, looking to save a few dollars, had taken his prescription to the discount store.
In showing me the image, the defendants’ attorneys unknowingly blew a hole in one of their main arguments. It now placed an extra bottle of meds in Kyle’s hands, contradicting their argument that he didn’t like his medication. He wouldn’t have purchased extra if he didn’t feel he needed it.
Copyright (c) 2023 Victoria Britton.