Los Angeles is known as the international headquarters of Scientology. But, when followers refer to the spiritual headquarters, they’re talking about Clearwater, Florida. That’s where 39-year-old Shawn Lonsdale has turned up dead, raising a lot of questions on both coasts.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Lonsdale’s crusade against Scientology made him a “public enemy” of the church.
For a few months in mid to late 2006, Lonsdale stood alone in downtown Clearwater beside a sandwich board that read “Cult Watch” in the heart of Scientology’s religious headquarters.
Videocamera in hand, he taped hours and hours of footage: Scientology buildings, church staffers walking the streets, security guards watching his movements and verbal confrontations with Scientologists. He then edited them into a “pseudo-documentary” about Scientology that eventually aired on local cable television.
Lonsdale first clashed with Scientologists over redevelopment issues at a city council meeting. So they began following Lonsdale. Everywhere.
They hired a private investigator to look into Lonsdale’s background and found two misdemeanor convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct, both related to public sex with men, in 1999 and 2000.
They called Lonsdale’s employer at a title company and his landlord and said that Lonsdale was a religious bigot, possibly dangerous.
Police found a garden hose stretched from the exhaust pipe of Lonsdale’s car into a window of his home. There were no signs of foul play, and there was an apparent suicide note.
Photo from the St. Petersburg Times