RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The oldest son of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, has filed a court petition contending his father is either dead or mentally incompetent and asking to be appointed trustee of his affairs.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Saturday Ronald DeWolf also claimed in papers filed last week in Riverside County Superior Court that officials of the Florida-based church have stolen millions of dollars, gems and securities from Hubbard's estate.
DeWolf, 48, of Carson City, Nev., asked the court to appoint trustee of his father's affairs to protect the assets.
The court action charged the worldwide organization was being run by David Miscevage, described in the petition as a '22-year-old with a ninth-grade education.' DeWolf further charged Miscevage and James Isaacson forged Hubbard's signature to loot the accounts.
DeWolf, a former Scientologist, said he was not attacking his father in a legal sense. In a telephone interview with the newspaper, he said:
'The only way he can contest all of this is to show up in court. But I expect he may have trouble doing that because I don't think he is alive.'
DeWolf said he had not seen his father since 1959, the year he left the religious organization. He said that since then, he has been subjected to 'harassment,' by the church, which in 1972 prompted him to change his name from L. Ron Hubbard Jr. to DeWolf.
The senior Hubbard's last known whereabouts was Gilman Hot Springs, the former resort near Hemet, Calif., owned by the Scientologists. He reportedly went to Gilman Hot Springs after being hospitalized in Los Angeles in 1978.
Gerald Armstrong, a former personal aide to Hubbard, said he last saw Hubbard toward the end of last year.
'His weight was way down,' Armstrong said. 'He was very shaky. He always shook a lot. His hands were never steady. I felt he looked very weak and drawn.
'There is every chance that the man is in fact dead,' he added.
Allen Hubbert, president of the Church in Scientology of California in Los Angeles, declined comment on DeWolf's petition.
DeWolf claimed in the court papers that his father had been ill for decades, suffered from venereal disease among other ailments and was a heavy user of drugs.
In order for DeWolf to be named a trustee, a judge must first decide whether to declare Hubbard legally dead. If it is determined that Hubbard is alive, DeWolf will argue that his father is mentally incompetent to handle his financial affairs, according to his attorney.