Scientology foe's notes shed light on suicide

St. Petersburg Times/May 3, 2008

Clearwater - Shawn Lons­dale, who carried on a one-man crusade against Scientology in 2006, was "sick, depressed, broke and tired of it all" when he took his life in February, according to a suicide note released Friday.

Police discovered him on Feb.16, a garden hose stretching from the exhaust pipe of his car into a window of his home at 510 N Lincoln Ave.

Online speculation coursed through anti-Scientology circles that he did not kill himself. On Friday, however, police officially ruled his death a suicide.

The notes Lonsdale, 39, left - apologetic in parts, heartbroken throughout - shed light on what transformed someone with no affiliation to Scientology into a sworn enemy.

In a note to a friend, Lonsdale wrote that years ago he was diagnosed with hepatitis B and C. Because of "stupid acts" in his past, he was convinced he'd never love or live with a woman.

"So I decided to try to use this time to make a difference and shed some light on the B.S. going on here with Scientology!" he wrote. "I hope I helped if even a little."

He did, said attorney Luke Lirot, who represented Lonsdale in his tangles with Scientology.

"He stuck to his beliefs to the end, and I don't think you can ask any more of a human being under these circumstances," Lirot said.

For a few months in 2006, Lonsdale stood beside a sandwich board that read "Cult Watch" near Scientology's headquarters in downtown Clearwater.

He videotaped hours of footage: Scientology buildings, church staffers walking the streets, security guards watching him. He edited them into a "pseudo-documentary" for local cable TV.

The church and some of its members hired a private investigator to look into his background and found two misdemeanor convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct, both related to sex with men, in 1999 and 2000.

Anonymous calls put pressure on Lonsdale's employer and landlord, making it difficult for him to hold a job.

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