Motive Sought in Slaying of Youth, Woman
Only Clue Discovered Was Common Membership of Pair in Scientology Sect1
BY DIAL TORGERSON and JERRY COHEN Times Staff Writers
Police investigating the weird slayings of a youth and young woman pursued Monday what they termed the only common thread between the pair: their membership in the Church of Scientology.
The Scientology organization–a mystical, quasi-scientific group–verified that Doreen Gaul, 19, and James Sharp, 15, were members of the group.
“We are shocked and bereaved by this sudden and brutal crime,” a Scientology spokesman said.
The deaths brought to 13 the number of seemingly motiveless murders in Los Angeles since the first of the year. As in the Tate case and other still-unsolved killings, the murders of Miss Gaul and Sharp were crimes of shocking brutality.
Miss Gaul had been stripped except for a string of Indian beads. Both had been repeatedly stabbed and beaten about the face and head. Their eyes were slashed.
They had been murdered elsewhere and their bodies dumped in an alley a half-mile from a hippie-like cult commune which Miss Gaul had left Friday evening for a Scientology session with young Sharp.
Police were concentrating on two aspects of the mystery: where the couple had gone Saturday night and where the crime occurred.
“It’s difficult to see how a crime of this sort could be committed–one which would involve this much blood and this much noise–without someone noticing it,” said Capt. Frank L. Brittell.
He said it could have been the work of a gang–because of the excessive number of blows rained on the victims. Police talked to scores of people in the Alvarado-Westlake district where the victims lived. Many were fellow Scientologists.
“These two people could have both belonged to the Meat Cutters Union or the church down the street, ” said Brittell. “But the only thing they have in common in Scientology. This is the only thread we have so far.”
Scientology had its beginnings in the Dyanetics [sic] fad begun in 1950 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who now runs what he calls a worldwide church.
In Los Angeles, Scientology has four “church” and administrative buildings and a number of communal living quarters in old Victorian mansions on side streets in the neighborhoods near MacArthur Park.
“Auditors” who offer “parishioners” of Scientology a mystical version of psychological therapy have been ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop using a crude form of lie detector called the Scientology E-meter–a galvanometer with two tin cans attached.
It was learned that Miss Gaul had said that Sharp who came here from Missouri last June, was going to “audit” her Friday night. “Auditing” is a term applied to the process of achieving a “clear” state of soul.
The victims lived about a block apart. Sharp lived with an older Scientology worker in an old but well-kept three-story apartment building at 921 S. Bonnie Brae St. Miss Gaul had lived four days at a 14-room commune called Thetan Manor at 1032 S. Bonnie Brae. (Operating Thetan, in the language of Scientology, means reaching the advanced level of study in the cult.)
Sharp was the son of a prosperous salesman living in the upper middle class suburb of Crestwood, southwest of St. Louis. He left high school in June, with his father’s permission, to study Scientology here.
“He was a very, very intelligent boy,” the father told newsmen in St. Louis.
Miss Gaul, the eldest of four children, was graduated in the spring of 1968 from a parochial high school in Albany, N.Y. Friends said that until she became devoted to Scientology after graduation, the attractive young woman had been a devout Roman Catholic.
Her father told a newsman in Albany that she had apparently become disenchanted with Scientology in recent weeks.
“She was a good kid, but an emotional kid,” he said. “She was always looking for green grass and rainbows.”
Miss Gaul was wearing a skirt and blouse or sweater when she left Thetan Manor to go to Sharp’s house. Mike Thompson, a resident at the commune, remembered her looks: “She was outa sight,” he said Monday.
Shortly before midnight, a man taking a short cut through an alley between Arapahoe St. and Magnolia Ave., south of 11th St., found the bodies. They were so badly battered police at first believed them the victims of shotgun blasts.
Preliminary reports indicated Miss Gaul had not been raped.
Police said Scientology officials cooperated with them in their investigation. The Rev. Natalie Fisher, who describes herself as resident agent of Scientology’s American St. Hill Organization at 2723 W. Temple St., issued a statement saying in part:
“This organization has no facts or information regarding the circumstances of the crime, but we are doing everything in our power to assist law enforcement agencies to see that justice is done.”
Police said there was no apparent connection between the latest deaths and 11 others, including the five Tate murders, which have remained unsolved in Los Angeles County since January.
Other seemingly motiveless crimes included the deaths of a wealthy grocer and his wife in the Los Feliz district and the slaying of four young women in separate crimes.
Author: Jerry Cohen
Publication: Los Angeles Times
File/Ref. No.: 62-94080
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