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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Johnny Lewis: Drugs, Mental Illness, Murder and the Scientology Connection

     During his teenage years, actor Jonathan "Johnny" Lewis landed roles in various television series such as Malcolm in the Middle, Drake & Josh, Judging Amy, Boston Public, American Dreams, and The OC. In 2007 he appeared in the movie AVPR: Aliens vs Predator Requiem, and three years later in the film The Runaways. More recently, he played a series character in a motorcycle-gang drama called, Sons of Anarchy. In the final episode of season 2 his character was killed off. (He said because he wanted out of the contract.) At one time Lewis dated an actress named Katy Perry.

     In January 2012, a pair of residents of a town house in Northridge, California came home to find the 28-year-old actor inside their dwelling. (Lewis had once lived in the complex.) Before leaving the scene of his burglary, Lewis, out of his mind on drugs, beat the town house occupants with an empty Perrier bottle. Charged with burglary and assault, Lewis spent some time in the Los Angeles County Jail before being released on bail.

     Six weeks later, while out on bond, Johnny Lewis punched a man in the face at a Santa Monica yogurt shop. A week later, police arrested him while attempting to break into a home in that city. Once again he posted bail, and was released from custody. But in March, when Lewis failed to show up at a court hearing, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Police took him into custody a short time later, and put him back in jail.

     In preparation for his sentencing hearing on the Santa Monica attempted burglary case, a probation officer, in a report dated May 17, 2012, wrote: "The defendant suffers from some kind of chemical dependency, mental health issues, and lack of permanent housing. Given this, [Lewis] will continue to be a threat to any community [in which] he may reside."

     On May 23, Judge Mark E. Windham, relying on the above report, sentenced Johnny Lewis to 30 days of mental health and drug abuse treatment at the Ridgeview Ranch in Altadena, California. After completing the program as an outpatient, the judge presiding over the two assault cases sentenced Lewis to a period of probation. Not long after that, Lewis was put behind bars for some other offense. He made bail again, and on September 21 was back on the street abusing drugs and causing trouble.

     Johnny Lewis was renting a room in a sprawling, two-story house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Felix Hills. His 81-year-old landlady, Catherine Davis, rented rooms in the Spanish-Style, bed-and-breakfast-like facility to young Hollywood actors. At ten o'clock in the morning of Wednesday, September 26, 2012, just five days after he had been released from jail, Lewis hopped a fence and attacked a painter working on the house next door. The owner of the home got into the fray, but Lewis was so high on drugs, there was nothing they could do to subdue him. The two men, fearing for their lives, took refuge in the house while Lewis tried to break into the place to continue the assault.

     When the mad actor returned to the Davis home, he broke into her living quarters, ripped her cat to pieces with his bare hands, smashed and ransacked the place, then beat the old woman to death. Neighbors who heard Catherine Davis screaming for her life, called 911.

     At 10:40 AM, when the police arrived at the scene, they found Johnny Lewis sprawled out dead on the driveway to the Davis house. Investigators believed that under the influence of drugs, he had fallen off the roof of the hillside dwelling. Inside, they found the beaten and strangled landlady, and her dismembered cat. Based on the dead actor's recent history, and the nature of his violence, detectives believed that Johnny Lewis had been high on PCP, crystal meth, or a new designer drug called "smiles," a psychedelic substance sold in the form of powder and pills.

     Jonathan Mandel, Lewis' attorney, told reporters that "Johnny Lewis had a lot of problems. I recommended treatment for him but he declined it. I give a lot of credit to his parents, they were really strong in trying to help him out. They really went to bat for him, but I guess they just couldn't do enough."

     Johnny Lewis' father, Michael, is a Scientologist who runs a Scientology clinic out in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Lewis once wrote a screenplay with L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology founder, about the practice of Dianetics. Since Johnny Lewis' arrests for burglary and assault, and the drug-crazed murder of Catherine Davis, Scientology officials have distanced themselves from the young actor, claiming that he left the church years ago. His image, and references to him, have disappeared from the church's various websites.

     Members of the Church of Scientology are forbidden from consulting with psychologists and psychiatrists, or from taking psychotic medication. L. Ron Hubbard considered psychiatrists pill-pushing charlatans, and established his own programs for members suffering from mental illness, emotional problems, and drug and alcohol abuse. In lieu of modern psychiatry, Scientologists are treated with one-on-one counseling sessions, the ingestion of large amounts of vitamins, and sweating out their demons in high-temperature saunas.

     In 2004, Johnny Lewis went through a Church of Scientology drug program called Narconon. He spoke publicly about his treatment, and appeared on Narconon related websites. (These images have been scrubbed from the Internet.)

     Critics of the Church of Scientology, and there are millions of them around the world, have accused church officials with contributing to the deaths of mentally ill Scientologists by denying them modern psychiatric medication. While the media has generally refrained from emphasizing the Scientology connection to Catherine Davis's drug-crazed murder, the subject has come up, and will not go away. 

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