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Subject: Baby-watching in Los Angeles
Date: 9 Oct 1995 22:58:46 +0100
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Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1990 Page B15
Captivity Case May Be Tied to Faith
By John H. Lee and John Johnson
Times Staff Writers
Pomona police said Friday they are investigating whether beliefs espoused
by the Church of Scientology led a family to confine a mentally disabled
woman in a cell-like bedroom at a Phillips Ranch house.
While stressing that neither the church nor its beliefs are under
investigation, police said they want to know if Scientology practices
could explain why the woman was kept in confinement.
Police and Los Angeles County mental health workers discovered Marianne
Coenan, 31, locked in a sparsely furnished room with a boarded-up window
after they entered the residence on Jan. 5.
The woman was incoherent and had bruises and scratches on her legs, wrists
and neck, police said. She was kept behind a door into which a small,
square opening was cut and steel bars had been inserted, police said.
Her husband, Edwin Coenan, 41, was arrested the same day and booked on
suspicion of false imprisonment and endangering a dependent adult. He has
been released on $5,000 bail, and no charges have been filed.
The woman's father and stepmother, Floyd and Audrey Twede, as well as the
victim's half-brother, Steven, are also under investigation, police said.
The Twedes rented the house on Rolling Hills Drive where the woman was
Police said they saw Scientology printed material in the house and plan to
review documents written by Scientology's late founder L. Ron Hubbard that
describe how to treat mental breakdowns. In the documents, Hubbard
recommended isolation as a treatment and also warned his followers to
avoid conventional psychiatric care.
"During talks with attorneys representing the [husband and the Twedes], it
has always been a given fact that they are Scientologists," Pomona Police
Detective Carolyn Lundstrum said.
"The family also made statements to the effect that they didn't believe in
some forms of medicine and psychiatric help," Sgt. Elias Valdez said. "We
are trying to determine what connection the beliefs had with the false
Investigators said other relatives and friends of the woman said she had
been kept in the room for at least eight weeks after suffering a mental
breakdown in October.
"Attorneys for the husband and parents have said that Marianne became so
violent, she was hurting herself," Lundstrum said. "So they created a
space where she could not harm herself. They said they did it for her own
The woman's confinement came to the attention of authorities after Cathy
Speer of Hillsboro, Ore., said her sister failed to arrive in Oregon for
the Christmas holidays, Lundstrum said. Speer asked police to go to the
Phillips Ranch home to check on her, the detective added.
After Edwin Coenan's arrest, a relative called the Church of Scientology
and was referred to Timothy Bowles, whose Los Angeles law firm represents
the church on various matters. Bowles told The Times that he had been
briefly involved in the case, but is not defending Coenan.
Church spokeswoman Shirley Young confirmed Friday that the Coenans and
Twedes are Scientologists but added that the care of Marianne Coenan "was
not a church matter ... nor did the church take any stand with
relationship to her treatment."
Specifically, police said they will review a "technical bulletin" authored
in 1974 by Hubbard, in which he describes the "Introspection Rundown" --
a process for treating people with mental breakdowns.
He wrote that people suffering severe mental anguish, or a "psychotic
break," should be isolated and "destimulated" to protect them and others
from possible harm. During the process, Hubbard added, the "muzzled rule
is in force," meaning that no one should speak to the troubled person or
talk within earshot.
The document also articulates Hubbard's understanding of psychosis and his
disdain for psychiatry.
Asked if the family was using a church-approved treatment for psychosis,
church spokeswoman Young said Coenan's isolation was "a medical matter"
and added that "the church takes no official stand on it."
However, church officials, relatives and police said Coenan had been under
medical supervision during the two months of confinement.
Young, asked whether the family was applying the "Introspection Rundown,"
said, "I'm just becoming abreast of the situation. So far as what they
did, this is a sad and unfortunate case."
Detective Lundstrum, meanwhile, said the bulletin "may help explain what
the people were doing, but the information has absolutely no legal bearing
on the case."
Detectives visited Marianne Coenan several times this week at a private
psychiatric hospital in Pomona, Lundstrum said. Coenan appeared to be in
fair physical condition, and "she had some lucid moments, but she still
has not been able to concentrate," the detective said.
"I haven't talked to her yet about the case," Lundstrum said. "She is not
ready to be questioned. She says things to herself, most of which I
Relatives told police that her condition deteriorated over the past year,
during which time she had been taken to several doctors.
One of those physicians was James R. Privitera, a Covina nutritionist and
allergist. Coenan was brought to his office two months ago, and he
recommended a CAT scan, which is a medical imaging procedure, Privitera
The doctor declined to discuss the case in detail, citing the need to
protect the patient's privacy. Privitera said he told the police
investigators he would discuss the case with them if they obtained a court
Privitera was placed on medical probation in 1980 after prescribing the
controversial drug laetrile to cancer patients. In 1987, the state moved
to revoke his probation and end his practice. Privitera has denied the
allegations, and the case against him is pending.
Privitera said he has no connection to Scientology and the church has
never steered patients to his practice.
Detectives said charges against Edwin Coenan must be formally filed by
Thursday. At that time, charges against any other suspects will be filed,
if there are any, Lundstrum said.