Fowler Software Design ran smoothly and profitably for years, even as the staff was divided between Scientologists and nonmembers of the controversial group.
But a full-blown schism developed after employees learned that the company's founder - 59-year-old William Rex Fowler - gave as much as $250,000 of the firm's money to the Church of Scientology, according to witness statements given to investigators.
Those conflicts were readily apparent after 42-year-old Thomas Ciancio, a non-Scientologist, was shot and killed by Fowler on Dec. 30, 2009.
Fowler was convicted in Adams County district court Feb. 25 and sentenced to life in prison. The witness statements were released Friday after an open-records request.
Fowler's family has declined comment, and the Church of Scientology couldn't be reached for comment.
Ciancio was an executive with Fowler Software until he quit a month before his death, upset over the way the company was being run. He was shot in Fowler's office while the two met to discuss Ciancio's severance.
In the days after the shooting, "... it's pretty obvious, there's a clear division between the Scientologists and non-Scientologists," Rebecca Hubis, a Fowler Software employee, told investigators. "And the people who are members of the church are really standing and supporting Rex."
Hubis told police "you could tell that the people who are involved in the church, they wanted, you know, condolences to go out to the Fowler family and then people like myself, I'm like, why? Why are we putting our condolences to them? He killed somebody."
The judge in the case told lawyers on both sides that Fowler's high rank in Scientology was not to be brought up during the trial. And lawyers referred to Fowler's "donation" to an "organization" throughout the nearly three days of testimony.
However, in police interviews, it's apparent Scientology was an important part of the company. For many of those interviewed, Fowler's $250,000 gift was the company's death knell and led to Ciancio's departure.
Robert Read, a project lead at the software company, told investigators that Fowler's act came at perilous time for the company because of the economic downturn.
Read, a friend of Ciancio's, also said Ciancio was being worn down by the bad times and laid the blame squarely with Fowler. "He said to me a couple of times, he said Rex Fowler is a crook," Read told police.
Read said Fowler followed the "L. Ron Hubbard methodology" of admitting a mistake and wrote a letter to employees explaining what happened. Read also told investigators the company's business practices were heavily influenced by Scientology and many employees attended regular Scientology classes at the office.
However, Read felt comfortable working at the "Scientology company" while Ciancio seemed to brush aside the church influences. "I'd say, 'Tom, is that something from Scientology,' and he'd laugh and say, 'Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, you need to (do) this and this and this.' "
Fowler's wife, Jan Fowler, told police Ciancio was to blame for the company's failings. She also brushed aside the gift to Scientology as "stretching the rules of the company" and said Fowler was paying it back.
She talked about the contents of a briefcase belonging to Fowler that included insights into the highest levels of Scientology. A beginning Scientologist like herself could never comprehend the writings. "Cause it's hard on them," Jan Fowler said. "... that's why it's confidential. Not from commercial reasons. Not because it is hurtful... . it's big dose for somebody who's not ready for it."