Who Was Lisa McPherson?

Lisa McPherson was a Scientologist who died after 17 days in the custody of the Church of Scientology.

Lisa was born in 1959. She grew up in Dallas, Texas. Her childhood was punctuated by painful events. When she was very young, she was sexually abused by a neighbor. When she was 14, her beloved 16-year-old brother committed suicide. Lisa experimented with drugs.

Lisa joined Scientology in 1977, when she was 18 years old, after learning about Scientology from a co-worker. After many years as a "public" member (a Scientologist who is not on staff or a member of the elite Scientology Sea Org), Lisa joined the staff of the Scientology Celebrity Center in Dallas. In 1989, she decided to join the Sea Org, requiring her to sign a billion-year contract to work for Scientology lifetime after lifetime. Her Sea Org career was short-lived, though, and she ultimately returned to life as a "public," working for a Scientology-affiliated business (AMC Publishing) and taking courses and services at the Scientology center in Dallas.

In the early 1990s, Lisa's employer, AMC Publishing, relocated to Clearwater, Florida. Lisa moved with the company. In Clearwater, Scientology's US headquarters, Lisa and her co-workers could participate in more Scientology services and activities.

In May and June of 1995, Lisa suffered a psychotic break, according to Church of Scientology documents.

In September 1995, Lisa attested to the state of Clear, a major achievement for a Scientologist.

By October, though, she was once again having trouble producing at work, and by November, she was exhibiting unusual behavior.

On November 18, 1995, Lisa was involved in a minor traffic accident, after which she took off her clothes and began walking toward paramedics who were at the scene. When they took her to the hospital, fellow Scientologists signed her out and took her to the Fort Harrison Hotel, part of Scientology's complex in Clearwater.

On December 5, Lisa died.

The Washington Post ran an excellent article about Lisa: "The Life and Death of a Scientologist," by Richard Leiby.

Videos about Lisa McPherson, including Inside Edition and other news coverage, courtesy of Mark Bunker