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Elli Perkins
Born Elli Present
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died March 13, 2003
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Murdered by her son Jeremy
Occupation Artist - glass painting
Known for Circumstances of her death
Religion Scientology
Spouse(s) Don Perkins
Children 2

Elli Perkins née Present (1949 – March 13, 2003) was a mother of two, a professional glass artist, and a Scientologist who lived in Western New York. She was a senior auditor at the Church of Scientology in Buffalo, New York. Her son, Jeremy, started showing signs of strange and disturbing behavior. She attempted to correct this with treatment by non-psychiatric means consistent with her Scientology beliefs, but his schizophrenia progressed to the point where he felt Elli was poisoning him, prompting an unsuccessful suicide attempt. When this failed, Jeremy instead murdered his mother.

The crime received both local and national coverage including The Amherst Bee, The Buffalo News, the New York Post, and an installment of the investigative news program 48 Hours. Aside from the tragedy itself, issues covered included the implication that her refusal to allow Jeremy to be treated by a psychiatrist caused his eventual outburst, and her death.


Early life

Elli Present[1] was raised Jewish, and married Don Perkins, who was brought up with a Christian background.[2] Elli had met Don shortly after taking a Scientology course.[2] Before coming to Buffalo, Perkins had lived in Rochester, where she attended the Rochester Institute of Technology.[3] Elli Perkins crafted handmade glass art, and traveled to an annual Renaissance fair in upstate New York to sell her wares.[2] She had been a member of the Sterling Renaissance Festival for twenty-three years, and had helped to run the Niagara Craft Association.[1] She had previously been unsuccessful selling paintings, and was inspired to start glass painting by a friend.[4] When her friend left town, the market was left open for Elli to set up shop and begin selling her painted glass works.[4]

In 1979, both Don and Elli Perkins reached the Scientology state of "Clear", after taking Scientology courses and receiving "Auditing" processes.[2] The Perkins family then moved to California and lived there during the 1980s, where Elli worked at the Celebrity Centre.[2] In the late 1980s, the family moved back to Buffalo.[2] Elli and Don had a daughter, and a son named Jeremy Perkins, who lived at home and worked for Don's contracting company.[2] In addition to contracting work, Don Perkins is also a cabinetmaker and carpenter.[3]

Declining mental health of her son

Perkins' son Jeremy, at age 24, began to show changes in behavior which concerned her. Jeremy told his father that he was hearing voices in his mind.[2] At that time, the Perkins sent Jeremy to join Scientology's Sea Org in California,[2] which they hoped would help resolve his troubling behavior. Jeremy's treatment didn't succeed with the Sea Org, so he returned to his parents within a few months, rejoining his job at his father's business.

A family friend explained; "Elli strongly believed that psychiatry was an evil", so she would not consult a psychiatrist about her son's behavior.[2] Scientologists believe as part of their ideology that psychiatry "doesn't work".[2] Court-ordered psychiatric evaluations of Jeremy Perkins showed that he was displaying symptoms of schizophrenia in 2001.[2] Jeremy's defense attorney John Nuchereno stated that his condition declined further over the summer of 2002, and that his father had to terminate his employment.[2] His deterioration exhausted the Church of Scientology's efforts to cure him. They classified Jeremy Perkins as a level III "Potential Trouble Source", and banned him from taking further Scientology courses.[2]

Search for alternatives to psychiatry

After being found trespassing outside of the University of Buffalo on August 14, 2001, Jeremy was arrested and later remanded to a local hospital after a court-ordered psychiatric exam confirmed that he was schizophrenic.[2][5] However, Elli Perkins later convinced the court to release her son into her custody, and she began to seek out alternative methods of treatment to psychiatry,[2] and refused to allow her son to be treated with anti-psychotic medications.[5] In the fall of 2002, the Perkins family consulted with Dr. Conrad Maulfair, an osteopathic physician and Scientologist.[2][5] According to Jeremy's defense attorney, Dr. Maulfair concluded that "he was suffering from certain digestive problems, that he had certain chemical toxins in his body, and he needed to be purged of it. Maulfair said he needed to be "energized" through vitamin therapy.[2]

Elli Perkins began feeding Jeremy the recommended vitamins, but the only result was Jeremy being highly suspicious of his mother. In a recorded interview, after being asked what concerns he had about taking these vitamins, Jeremy stated: "Well, concerns just that maybe she's trying to poison me or something."[2] In February 2003, Elli Perkins took Jeremy to see Albert Brown, a self-taught "natural healer". Jeremy told Brown in a session: "Sometimes I think I'm Jesus Christ."[2] Elli Perkins' plan was to send Jeremy to live with Brown for treatment, but days beforehand Jeremy began to act more aggressive. After consulting with her son-in-law Jeff Carlson, the executive director of the Buffalo Church of Scientology, Elli was told to give Jeremy "MEST", or busy-work around the house in order to get him tired.[2]


Jeremy Perkins' statement to police

Jeremy was 28 years old[1] at the time his parents had agreed that he should stay with Albert Brown, whose treatment regimen was acceptable to Scientology doctrines. Jeremy had also agreed that Brown might be able to help him, and was to leave in the afternoon of March 13, 2003.[5] That morning Don Perkins had to return from work briefly in order to settle an argument between Jeremy and his mother. Later Elli told Jeremy to take a shower, which he did. When he finished his shower, Jeremy found his mother in the kitchen talking on the phone. He retrieved a steak knife and attacked Elli as she spoke to her friend. According to a statement given to the police, Jeremy Perkins stated:

"I tried to slit my wrists after the shower … but I wouldn't die so I decided to do my mom in instead...She was screaming, 'No, Jeremy, don't.' I stabbed her about four to five times before she fell down. … I then stabbed her about ten more times in the stomach after she fell to the ground. I knew she was a goner. … I believe that I have lived different lives for the past thousand years, and wished I was in another life now."

He also said he attempted to cut out her right eye because he thought it was evil. The attempt was unsuccessful, and this along with statements like "She gets mad at me when I play my drums in my room and she makes me take these vitamins everyday. When she made me take the shower this morning this was the last straw."[6] Jeremy's Police Statement led to a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

Autopsy reports later showed that Elli Perkins was stabbed 77 times.[7] In June 2003, Jeremy Perkins pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal weapons and second degree murder in a court in Erie County.[7] The District Attorney in the case stated that death by stabbing is not unusual in homicides, but 77 stab wounds is "really rare."[7] The court ordered another psychiatric examination for Jeremy.[1]


Jeremy Perkins - Order of Commitment

Jeremy Perkins was found not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect on July 29, 2003, and was placed on probation.[8] Six months later, on January 29, 2004, a commitment order was issued which assessed him as "Dangerously Mentally Ill" authorizing him to be committed in a "secure facility of your choosing" by the NY State Office of Mental Health.[9]

According to Rich Dunning, a former deputy director of the Buffalo Church of Scientology, there "was a panic" among the Church of Scientology's international leadership after the murder of Elli Perkins.[2] Dunning stated that the goal was "to distance the church as far away as they could from Jeremy Perkins."[2] He also stated that the murder was a public relations fiasco because it exposed the dangers of Scientology's ban against consulting psychiatrists, and the belief that members who attain high Operating Thetan levels achieve special powers.[2] Jeremy Perkins was later placed on psychotropic medications, which court psychiatrists state have not cured him, but stabilized his condition. Jeremy Perkins' defense attorney stated: "Jeremy himself told me that he firmly believes that if he had been taking these medications [earlier] that it would not have happened."[2] After attorney Nuchereno spoke with 48 Hours, Jeremy was visited by a senior Church of Scientology staff member, and Nuchereno was replaced by an attorney whose law firm had worked previously for Scientology.[2]

In March 2006, an advertisement was taken out in LA Weekly which blamed Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology for the murder of Elli Perkins.[10] The ad stated: "Thanks, Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology, for your expert advice on mental health."[10][11] The ad went on to recount the story of Elli's death, stating she was murdered "by the schizophrenic son she was told to treat with vitamins instead of psychiatric care."[11] The advertisement also cited the Web site "", as did Salon.[11]

On October 28, 2006, the CBS program 48 Hours aired a feature story on the murder of Elli Perkins.[12] CBS later reported on the background behind the production of the program, and wrote that they had received complaints from Scientologists: "The Scientology community was not happy with the story, which raised the possibility that Elli Perkins might not have been murdered had her son been given psychiatric treatment."[12] According to CBS, the Church of Scientology did not provide the 48 Hours production staff with an official spokesman, and also attempted to influence the broadcast itself.[12] Scientologists claimed that CBS had a conflict of interest because pharmaceutical companies advertise on the network's television programming.[12] However, CBS News Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects Linda Mason stated: "Nothing could be further from the truth...At CBS the sales department and the news department – there is a Chinese wall between them. And we just don't cross. And we've done numerous stories on the ill effects of drugs of various sponsors that are on CBS."[12] When questioned about the litigious nature of the Church of Scientology, Mason stated that this history of litigation did not influence the show's production, saying: "We do stories that we feel stand on their own grounds in the court of law."[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Staff (March 2003). "Son Held in Stabbing Death of Hopkins Road Woman". The Amherst Bee. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Staff (2006-10-28). "Scientology - A Question of Faith: Did A Mother's Faith Contribute To Her Murder?". 48 Hours (CBS News): pp. 1–9. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  3. ^ a b Pignataro, T. J. (March 14, 2003). "Son arrested in woman's fatal stabbing". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  4. ^ a b Gramigna, Glenn (1995). "Ex-hippie turns successful businesswoman". Metro Community News, Buffalo, New York. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  5. ^ a b c d Stasi, Linda (October 27, 2006). "Scientology Schizo: His Mom's Religion Said, No Meds. That Edict May Have Cost Her Life". New York Post. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  6. ^ Jeremy's Police Statement People's exhibit used at the trial. Read into the public record, April 17, 2003.
  7. ^ a b c "Amherst Man Accused of Stabbing Mother to Death, Pleads Not Guilty". WIVB TV. 2003-06-04. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  8. ^ Finding of non-responsibility 07/27/2003
  9. ^ Commitment Order 01/27/2004
  10. ^ a b Walls, Jeannette (March 29, 2006). "Scientology foes blast Cruise in ad". MSNBC (NBC). Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  11. ^ a b c "The Fix: In other Scientology news". Salon. March 21, 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Montopoli, Brian (November 2, 2006). "'48 Hours' Questions Role Of Scientology In Murder, Scientologists Question CBS Ethics". PublicEye (CBS). Retrieved 2007-03-23. 

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