Charges Dropped in Scientologist's Death

Florida prosecutors have dropped felony charges against the Church of Scientology in connection with the widely publicized death of a church member in Clearwater, Fla.

State prosecutor Bernie McCabe said his office could not prove its case in the 1995 death of church member Lisa McPherson, 36.

In 1998, McCabe charged the church in Clearwater with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and unauthorized practice of medicine, both felonies. Prosecutors charged that McPherson died when she became severely dehydrated after being held against her will for 17 days.

Church officials said McPherson was well cared for but became violent and incoherent, had trouble sleeping and frequently resisted efforts to give her food, liquid and medications.

In its motion this week, the prosecution noted that the medical examiner's office had changed the cause of McPherson's death from "undetermined" to accidental.

In view of that, McCabe told the court the state could not "prove critical forensic and causation issues beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt."

Church spokesman Mike Rinder said, "The state attorney's office took the appropriate action in dismissing the case once they had the opportunity to review all the evidence."

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