The Death of a Scientologist's Son (2015)


Bardo Tulpa
The circumstances surrounding the death of 20-year-old Kyle Brennan in 2007 warrant discussion for anyone interested in the workings of Scientology and its strange relationship with the American judiciary.

Kyle died from a gunshot wound to the head on Friday, February 16, 2007. (The time of death was estimated to be 11:00 p.m.) He was staying with his Scientologist father, Tom Brennan when the incident occurred, in Clearwater, Florida.

Despite anomalies in the investigation, and what has been alleged the blocking of evidence, the cause of death was ruled as suicide.

Kyle Brennan with friend Katie Rudd (image credit:

To understand the circumstances around the case, some key issues need to be understood.

Firstly, Kyle suffered from depression and was taking Lexapro to alleviate the symptoms. The practice of taking psychiatric drugs goes against one of the core belief systems of Scientology.

His father had moved away from the family home several years previous and originally moved to West Tampa, where he joined the local Scientologist organization to undergo training.

Within a few months of joining the ‘Church’ he became acquainted with one of Scientology’s more infamous members, Denise Miscavige Gentile, the twin sister of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
In May 2006 Gentile became Brennan’s Scientology “auditor”. From there, it has been stated that Brennan’s commitment to the Organization was devout.

Left: Head of Scientology David Miscavige, Right: His twin sister, Denise Miscavige Gentile
The list of facts that raise doubts as to the circumstances of Kyle Brennan’s death is long.
Firstly, Kyle’s body was found on the floor of his father’s bedroom, not his. In Kyle’s bedroom, the bedding was stripped from the bed.

For an unexplained reason, his bags were packed even though, according to his father, he was due to be staying at the apartment for a number of weeks.

Tom Brennan’s .357 Magnum was found near Kyle’s body, however Forensic Specialist Jennifer McCabe did not find the bullet that killed Kyle.

Kyle’s fingerprints were nowhere to be found on over 14 separate pieces of evidence at the scene including the weapon and 10 rounds of ammunition.

Initially, Kyle’s laptop could not be located because it had been removed from the apartment before the police arrived.

Weeks later Tom Brennan returned Kyle’s laptop to the family. All the document data had been deleted. The family state that Kyle was a prolific writer and a conscientious student. He normally saved everything he wrote.

Finally, none of the prescribed drugs that Kyle used to control the symptoms of his depression were found at the apartment. (The deceased’s family later allege that Gentile and her husband had persuaded Kyle Brennan’s father to take away his Lexapro.)

There is also the conflicting statements that Tom Brennan gave the police and later anecdotally. He has amended his time line of events on a number of occasions.

On the day his son died, Brennan was working selling Scientology literature at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. He later told police that he arrived home, found Kyle dead, and called Denise Miscavige Gentile to ask her what to do.

The call to 911 went out a full 45 minutes after Brennan said he arrived home.
He first told Kyle’s family in Charlottesville that he got home at 10:30 after having dinner with some friends.

This version of events meant that Brennan was in his apartment at the time of his son’s death. He later changed his time of arrival to 11:20.

There is also the conflicting evidence of a statement given by Denise’s husband Jerry Gentile. In a report to the international headquarters in Los Angeles of Scientology’s intelligence agency, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) (given by Jerry Gentile just one day after Kyle Brennan’s death) he states that he and Denise both went to Tom’s apartment.

Later, while under oath, the couple would give an alternative description of events, stating that only Jerry went, arriving shortly after an Officer Yuen was at the scene.

Police practice surrounding the investigation has also come under scrutiny. Around 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon after the death (Saturday, February 17), Clearwater Police Department Detective Stephen Bohling began his investigation.

However, the police did not seal off Brennan’s apartment to wait for his inspection. In fact, police reports show that he never went to the apartment to investigate the scene personally.

A standard Gun Shot Residue (GSR) test was carried out by Forensic Investigator Jennifer McCabe. Kyle’s hands were swabbed to see if Kyle had pulled the trigger on the weapon that killed him.

Bohling later blocked processing of the GSR, and lied to Kyle’s family telling them that the GSR test had not been done.

Three determining pieces of evidence were now absent from the investigation. Without fingerprints, without the bullet, and without a confirmed GSR test it should have been impossible to determine whether Kyle’s death was a suicide or a homicide.

However, this did not stop Detective Bohling declaring Kyle’s suspicious death a suicide.
Bohling later explained his determination of suicide on the finding of Marti Scholl. She, however, said that she had declared Kyle’s death a suicide because she had been informed that there was a suicide note [by the police].

Detective Bohling, under oath, later stated that there was no suicide note.
Bohling’s treatment of Kyle’s family has also been criticised. No one from the police department called Kyle’s mother, Victoria Britton to inform her that Kyle had died, nor did they request her permission to perform an autopsy.

In February 2009, Victoria Britton—as the executor of the Estate of Kyle Brennan—filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court in Florida. The suit names as defendants Tom Brennan, Denise Miscavige Gentile and Jerry Gentile, the Church of Scientology, and Flag (the organization that runs Scientology in Clearwater).

In December 2011, US Federal Court Judge Stephen Merryday dismissed the case and granted the Scientology defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

As yet the family of Kyle Brennan are no closer to understanding exactly what happened on the night the 20 year-old died from a gunshot wound in the home of his Scientologist father.