RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A judge ruled Monday that Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is alive and well despite the claims of his estranged son and dismissed a probate suit against the reclusive church leader.
Ronald DeWolf, 49, who changed his name from L. Ron Hubbard Jr. after leaving the church 23 years ago, filed a petition last November contending that his father is either dead or mentally incompetent and unable to handle his huge fortune. DeWolf, manager of an apartment complex in Carson City, Nev., asked to be made a trustee of Hubbard's estate.
Superior Court Judge David Hennigan dismissed the case, saying he was convinced Hubbard was living in seclusion.
DeWolf said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview from Nevada that he plans to pursue further legal action against his father's estate.
'Now that he's adjudicated alive and not missing we'll go on,' DeWolf said. 'We feel we have overwhelming evidence to show his funds are being ripped off. We feel he's being manipulated.
'If he is alive, then of course he's indictable and subpoenas can be put out for him. We'll get in gear pretty soon,' DeWolf said.
The Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said in Los Angeles the ruling against DeWolf made him and his attorneys 'dead as credible sources.'
'They've been exposed in the courts for their continued disinformation,' Jentzsch said. 'The name of Mr. Hubbard continues to grow in the public mind.'
Hennigan said last month he was leaning toward granting DeWolf's request until he received a letter from Hubbard, bearing his fingerprints and initials on all seven pages.
'I am not a missing person. I am in seclusion of my own choosing,' Hubbard said in the letter, submitted to Hennigan by attorneys May 19.
'My privacy is important to me and I do not wish it or my affair invaded in the manner permitted by this action,' Hubbard wrote.
Attached to the letter were statements from handwriting and fingerprint experts verifying the authenticity.
Hennigan gave DeWolf's attorneys until Monday to prove the letter was a fake.
In the letter, the 71-year-old Hubbard claimed he has kept his whereabouts a mystery out of a desire for privacy and due to 'numerous threats against my life over the years.'
Hubbard denied DeWolf's contention that officials of the Florida-based Church of Scientology have stolen millions of dollars, gems and securities from his estate.
Hubbard said Scientologists 'are my most trusted associates and would never do anything to harm me, much less hold me prisoner or steal from me.'
He said he considers DeWolf 'neither a friend nor a family member' and has disinherited him.