CANADIAN — A Pittsburg County drug rehabilitation center is under investigation after a third patient died in nine months.
The most recent incident at Narconon Arrowhead involves Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso, whose body was found at the center about 9:20 a.m. Thursday, Sheriff Joel Kerns said.
“Due to the number of deaths at the center, an investigation has been opened,” Kerns said. He said the center has about 150 patients.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called to assist with the investigation, the sheriff said.
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown confirmed the agency is working with the sheriff’s office. OSBI agents will focus on the most recent death, she said.
Two previous deaths were reported at Narconon Arrowhead in the past nine months. Gabriel Graves, 32, of Owasso, died Oct. 26, and Hillary Holten, 21, of Carrollton, Texas, died April 11.
Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, died March 3, 2009, at a Eufaula hospital after she was transferred from the center, Kerns said.
The Werninck family filed a lawsuit against the company in Pittsburg County District Court on June 1, 2010, and settled April 15, 2011. Terms of the settlement are confidential.
Kerns said deputies picked up Murphy’s roommate, Destanie Ramsey, 19, of Holdenville, Thursday night after she called the sheriff’s office and said she wanted to leave the rehabilitation center.
The sheriff said there are no obvious signs of foul play in Murphy’s death. Authorities are waiting on a toxicology report, which often takes 12 weeks to complete.
Several calls to the state medical examiner’s office seeking information about Murphy’s death were not returned.
Kerns said Murphy had just returned to the center after a brief home visit.
“It appears she brought back with her prescription drugs that she did not have a prescription for,” he said.
Her father, Robert Murphy, said: “I want to see a full and complete investigation by the OSBI. I want answers why my daughter didn’t receive medical attention, and due to the negligent acts, it is my belief they (Narconon Arrowhead) are unsafe and should be shut down.”
Murphy said his daughter had been abusing drugs for four years, but that she wanted to get clean.
Stacy Murphy voluntarily admitted herself to the clinic and had been a patient for about six weeks when she received a day pass to come home, he said.
After she returned to the center, she began acting peculiar and was given a drug test, which came back positive for opiates, he said.
Robert Murphy said that during her visit his daughter said, “Daddy, I want to go back. I want to get high. I have to go back to get help.”
He said his daughter died from gross negligence.
“She died from someone neglecting her after they knew she had drugs in her body,” he said.
The center didn’t deal with the emotional issues behind the drug use, Murphy said.
Narconon Arrowhead officials said they have an 85 percent success rate, he said. His daughter’s stay cost the family $1,500 a day, which insurance paid, he said.
“The more I have looked into and seeing how this place is run, I believe it was a recruiting ground for Scientology to take advantage of the downtrodden,” he said.
According to the center’s website, the Narconon program was founded on principles developed by author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology.
Murphy said the center didn’t contact the family after his daughter tested positive for drugs.
“It can be anybody’s child,” he said. “She grew up in the church, played in sports and was a cheerleader.”
She wanted to be a veterinary technician, he said.
Rehab is nonprofit
Narconon Arrowhead is a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian. It has been in operation in Oklahoma since 1992, employs 190 rehabilitation and nursing staff members and has served more than 10,000 people, Director Gary Smith said in a statement.
Smith did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
“It is always deeply saddening when drug addiction takes a life or destroys a family,” he wrote in an email.
“It hurts when a young person passes away before their time. For the family the pain of losing a loved one to addiction is unimaginable and our deepest sympathy goes out to those families. Our prayers are with them.”