Did Scientology Drive Kenneth Wayne Thompson to Commit Bloody Murder?
A man accused of hacking a couple to death with a hatchet and dissolving their bodies in acid is claiming Scientology made him do it. His friends and family aren’t convinced.
In March of 2012, according to court testimony, a 28-year-old man named Kenneth Wayne Thompson told his wife and two kids he was taking a quick trip away from their home in Doniphan, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee. Thompson’s mother and stepfather had died in a motorcycle accident eight months prior, leaving him with a small sum of money. The trip, he allegedly told his wife, had something to do with their estate. But after Thompson left his family, he didn’t go to Memphis. Instead, he drove 1,400 miles west to the small mountain town of Prescott Valley, Arizona, where he bludgeoned Penelope Edwards and Troy Dunn—his wife’s sister and her fiancé—to death with a hatchet, poured acid over their bodies, and set the house on fire.
This month, in the opening arguments for a major, lengthy trial which could send Thompson to death row, defense attorneys laid out a daytime-soap subplot of an argument for Thompson’s detour: the Church of Scientology. Alongside the legalese of standard court documents, Thompson’s defense includes the Scientology “tone scale,” a diagram which purports to sketch the full spectrum of human emotion, multiple mentions of the phrase “eternal soul,” and the name Tom Cruise.
The lawyers’ thesis hinged on the fact that the female victim’s son was receiving psychiatric treatment. Scientology, a religion the practice of which involves regular one-on-one meetings with a counselor to talk through emotional and mental problems (a ritual they call “auditing”), has a long, bitter opposition to psychiatry—a church spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the industry is “brutal” and rife with “human rights violations.” Thompson’s lawyers claim their client is a practicing member of the faith (the church denies any affiliation), whose opposition to mental health treatment led him to intervene on his nephew-in-law’s behalf.