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Scientology officials say they can prove founder alive

By JOAN GOULDING

LOS ANGELES -- Attorneys for L. Ron Hubbard say a letter written last week by the reclusive founder of the controversial Church of Scientology should prove beyond all doubt that Hubbard is still alive.

Church officials Thursday submitted the Feb. 3 letter, a handwritten document signed by Hubbard, to Superior Court Judge John Cole in a move to quell claims the 71-year-old church patriarch was dead.

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Church President Heber Jentzsch said affidavits by two experts who analyzed the handwriting, fingerprints and ink used in the letter proved conclusively that Hubbard was alive -- contrary to allegations and speculation by Hubbard's son and former church leaders.

'This is good solid proof and all that is necessary,' church attorney John Peterson said. 'We have proved that he is alive.'

The church, one of the wealthiest and most controversial to be founded in the last 30 years, has been embroiled in a power struggle between an inner circle of young leaders and a growing number of disaffected members.

Hubbard's eldest son, Ron DeWolf, filed a court petition in Riverside County in November alleging that his father is dead or mentally incompetent to handle his huge fortune. DeWolf, who has not seen his father since he left the church 23 years ago, has asked the court to make him trustee of Hubbard's estate.

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DeWolf contends nobody has seen Hubbard since March 1980.

An affidavit by Howard Doulder stated that he analyzed several fingerprints found on the letter and the handwriting and concluded the letter was authentic.

Forensic expert Richard Brunelle stated in a second affidavit that he prepared a unique ink and sent it to Hubbard's personal secretary on Feb. 2. Brunelle said the ink used on the letter to Judge Cole was the same ink, proving that it was written after Feb. 2.

'To establish for you the veracity of where this (letter) comes from and ... the veracity of his being very much alive we have talked to two top world experts in the area of forensics,' Jentzsch said.

Asked why Hubbard did not appear publicly to prove he is alive, the officials said the church leader was a 'private person' who should not be forced into public appearances against his wishes. They also cited security as a factor.

Jentzsch said Hubbard resigned in 1966 from the church he founded in 1948 but continues to set policy. Jentzsch, who estimated church assets were $279 million with a worldwide membership of 6.5 million, said he had not seen Hubbard in several years.

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Former officials have said membership is probably about 700,000.

Church officials contend DeWolf's suit is just another in a series of more than 20 suits filed by 'enemies of the church' who are intent on obtaining money from the church through lawsuits.

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