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Scientology still faces suit

CLEARWATER, FLA., JUNE 13 -- Although criminal charges have been dropped, controversy continued Tuesday in the case of a Church of Scientology member who died in the care of fellow members.

The Scientologists still are embroiled involved in a civil suit brought against them by McPherson family members in Texas.

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No spokesman for the Church of Scientology would comment on the pending civil suit.

Chief Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer agreed to prosecuting attorney Bernie McCabe's motion to drop criminal charges, citing the revision of an autopsy on McPherson as the cause.

Pasco-Pinellas County, Fla., Medical Examiner Joan Wood discovered that McPherson, 26, died of a blood clot in her lungs that was directly due to severe, long-lasting dehydration coupled with forced bed rest.

Over three years later, Wood reclassified McPherson's death as accidental. McCabe used Wood's initial findings as the basis for his case.

McPherson was brought to HCA Hospital in New Port Richey and was dead on arrival on Dec. 5, 1995. McPherson's skin was scaled, indicting massive dehydration, and her arms and legs were covered with bruises.

The Church of Scientology's main headquarters is in Clearwater and the next day, Clearwater police began investigating the death.

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McPherson was taken back to Dallas, her hometown five days later for a memorial service and her corpse was cremated.

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