A Missouri Scientologist accused of bludgeoning his sister-in-law and her boyfriend to death with a hatchet before setting their home ablaze in a bid to cover up the evidence is blaming his religion for his violent crimes.
Kenneth Wayne Thompson offered up the defense in an Arizona courtroom with the hopes of avoiding the death penalty for the murders of Penelope Edwards and Troy Dunn, according to Arizona Central. During opening statements last week, his defense attorney Robert Gundacker argued it’s his client’s devotion to the core beliefs of Scientology that set him on the path to commit the double murder.
Thompson in March 2012 drove 24 hours non-stop from his home in Missouri to Arizona after learning that his wife’s nephew had been undergoing mental-health related treatments. As a Scientologist from childhood, Thompson was taught that “psychology is evil” and that any type of medication would cause more harm to the child than good, Gundacker told jurors.
“One of the central tenets, and it was core to the whole wider system of beliefs, is that psychology is evil, probably the most evil on planet earth. Think Tom Cruise,” he said, referencing the actor’s 2005 interview on “NBC” where he slammed psychology.
Gundacker also argued that once Thompson arrived at the couple’s home in Prescott Valley, he killed them in a fit of passion rather than as a the result of a pre-planned intent to kill, Arizona Central reported. That means, he said, that the jury should return a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder in the first-degree, which would require an element of premeditation.
Thompson told his defense team he believed the boy’s soul was at risk.
The Church of Scientology, founded in 1952 by author L. Ron Hubbard, “objects to the mistreatment of the insane, which is psychiatry’s historical hallmark,” according to its website.
“Nor do scientists believe people should be stigmatized with labels and ‘treated’ with ‘cures’ that have no basis in scientists and are brutal in the extreme,” it reads. “Through its long and tragic history psychiatry has invented numerous ‘cures’ which eventually proved destructive in the extreme.”
Thompson’s attorneys have called on several Scientology experts, including actress and documentarian Leah Remini, to offer testimonies and have subpoenaed records from the church.
Prosecutors meanwhile contended that Thompson’s long drive to Arizona, his purchases of a hatchet and knife as well his decision to burn down the house illustrates he planned to kill his sister-in-law and boyfriend and then tried to cover it up. Prior to the trial, they attempted to bar the Scientology defense, arguing there is no proof Thompson continued to practice Scientology beyond his childhood.
His grandmother, Eva Harvey, told the Arizona Central thatThompson, who lived in a home on the same property as her own, went to church from time to time — but the services he attended were Baptist.