-- For ABC News' reporting on the private investigators hired to follow Ron Miscavige, click here.
The pocket t-shirt is a handy item. Cell phones, reading glasses, shopping lists—they all fit neatly inside that little cloth cavity. Of course, if you’ve got your cell phone in there and you bend over, it will more than likely fly out.
In July 2013, I was living in Whitewater, Wisconsin, a town of 14,000 that lies 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. One morning, I had to do some shopping at Aldi’s market in nearby Janesville. I came out with my bags and leaned in past the steering wheel to set them on the floor in front of the passenger seat. As I did so, I reached up with my right hand to keep my phone from falling out of my shirt pocket. I’ve done that a million times. After you’ve dumped your cell phone or glasses on the ground once or twice, it becomes an almost automatic action.
There is something called the butterfly effect. Mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz came up with the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon jungle could result in a hurricane some weeks later in the Caribbean.
Little did I know that the simple, automatic action of reaching my hand to my chest was not only being observed but, like the butterfly’s wing, would set in motion events that I, and many others, never expected.About a week later, I was sitting at home in Whitewater one evening when I heard a knock on the door. I answered and was surprised to see an officer from the Whitewater Police Department.
“Are you Ron Miscavige?” he asked.
I don’t have a guilty conscience, but a police officer’s appearance in a place where I have been living for only a few months and asking for me by name sent my antennae up immediately.
“Let’s go to the garage so we can talk privately,” I said.
I had no desire to alarm my mother-in-law unnecessarily. She did not have a clue about why my wife, Becky, and I had suddenly showed up in her life in the spring of 2012, and I was stumped as to what the officer wanted. I closed the front door, went around to the garage and opened it.
“What’s this about?”
“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me!” Physically, this was like being punched in the gut. Emotionally, I was totally shocked.
“No, sir, I am not kidding about this.”
“Jesus Christ, man. I’m being followed?” I could not believe what I was hearing. It was totally out of the blue.
“As far as getting more information about this, you can go to the West Allis police station because they are the ones that arrested one of the PIs.”
The ATF agent wasn’t feeling well, however, and he never completed the check of my car to locate the GPS, but the following day Becky and I went down to West Allis and talked to the police. They sat us down at a long table in a conference room. Shortly, the detective who had made the arrest a few days earlier came in and introduced himself as Nick Pye. He was built like an NFL linebacker who could bench-press 400 pounds, and, after we got to know him, it turned out that he actually could bench-press 400 pounds. Yet his demeanor was utterly calm and unpretentious. In my experience, those are the toughest guys of all—the ones who don’t need to act tough.
“I am going to fill you in on what happened, but, first, let’s get your car checked out,” he said.
We brought the car into the service bay where they work on the police cars. They put it up on a lift and a mechanic checked the wheel wells.
“Yep, this is where they had one,” he said, pointing up to a rear wheel well. “It’s no longer there, but you can see the scratches where the magnet was,” and he shined a flashlight up into the well so I could see the spot. I’d been driving around for a year broadcasting my every turn to the two guys that had been following me. Goddammit, what a sickening thought.
“This is wild,” I said to Detective Pye. “I can’t believe it.”
“Do you have any idea why they were following you?”
“Well, maybe they were concerned that I would go to the media or something. I’m the father of the Chairman of the Board of the Church of Scientology, and last year we left the organization. And maybe he was a little concerned about my health. But I really don’t know.” I was fumbling for an answer because the whole thing was still unreal to me.
“Listen,” he said, “I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to have to.”
He thought for a minute, and I could see that he was searching for the right words. I was a little apprehensive. What now? Finally, he let me have it straight.
“Look, they saw you in a parking lot at a store, and you bent over and grabbed your chest with your hand. These two guys thought you were having a heart attack. Their instructions were to call if anything like this happened. When we pulled them in, they told us that none of the PIs had ever spoken to your son before. The routine was that they would contact the PI firm they were working for. The head of the PI firm would call an attorney, and the attorney would forward the information on to your son.
“So they called their contact, and within minutes a man who identified himself as David Miscavige called them and he told the PIs, ‘If he dies, he dies. Don’t intervene.’”
To say that I was shattered by Nick’s words is the understatement of the century. Shocked, stunned, incredulous—fill in your own adjectives. I couldn’t believe my ears. In fact, I heard it but did not accept it for quite some time. I think it is one of the most basic human impulses to help others, especially someone who is in dire need and especially a family member. And for a son to say that about his own father—just to let him die?!
This book is the story of how that came about.
"Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me" is out on May 3, 2016