- Florida prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Flag Service Organization, the main operating branch of the Church of Scientology, in connection with the 1995 death of 36-year-old Lisa McPhearson. On November 30, the church pleaded innocent to "abuse or neglect of a disabled adult" and "unauthorized practice of medicine," both felonies. Pinellas County state attorney Bernie McCabe says an autopsy showed that McPhearson had been deprived of water for up to 10 days while under round-the-clock care of church members at the church-operated Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater. She died of blood vessel blockage after "severe dehydration," according to the autopsy. Church officials say McPhearson, who had suffered a nervous breakdown, had to be given injections of vitamins and medications because she refused to eat.
- Grammy Award winner J.D. Sumner, 73, died of a heart attack November 16 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Sumner, who had been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the lowest bass singer, had a 55-year singing career that included stints with the Sunshine Boys, Blackwood Brothers, the Stamps Quartet, and Elvis Presley. Sumner was instrumental in founding the Gospel Music Association.
- Ollin Collins, 47, chair of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's board of trustees, resigned October 7, a day after being suspended as pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Watauga, Texas. Two women who had counseling sessions with Collins have sued him, claiming sexual misconduct.
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January 11 1999
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