‘Ellen’ from the Scientology ‘Day Care from Hell’ story comes forward
Yesterday, we told you we had an update from our 2015 Scientology ‘Day Care from Hell’ story.
This weekend Leah Remini and Yashar Ali published the first online photo of Julian Swartz, the notorious Scientology ethics enforcer who was partly responsible for keeping the day care scandal from becoming a news story at the time. So we republished our 2015 article, about how Swartz had convinced Scientology parents to report to police that their daughters had been molested by a 17-year-old boy at a Scientology day care, but also convinced them not to press charges.
The only mother who refused to go along with that plan was a woman we called “Ellen.” She did pursue charges, resulting in the boy getting probation, a far lesser penalty than if the other parents had joined in with her.
With Julian Swartz in the news again we checked in with Ellen this weekend. She told us she had some updates to the story, but she also said she’d come to a big decision.
It was about time that she identified herself and put her name on the day care story.
She is Trish Conley, a close friend of Leah Remini.
Trish is a former third-generation Scientologist. Her Melbourne maternal grandparents worked directly with L. Ron Hubbard at Saint Hill, and her parents, Jim and Kaye Conley, were “LRH Pers PRO,” Sea Org members who worked on burnishing L. Ron Hubbard’s image. They were and remain extremely dedicated Scientologists. Kaye’s sister Cherie, meanwhile, is the mother of Kate Ceberano.
That makes Trish first cousins with probably the most famous Scientologist in Australia, where Ceberano is a well known singer.
Trish herself joined the Sea Org at 9 years of age, and she says ever since then she had wanted one thing more than any other: To reunite her family, which Scientology had assigned to different areas. “Joining the Sea Org broke my family apart,” she says.
By eleven Trish was cleaning the rooms where David and Shelly Miscavige were living. It was also around that time that Trish’s mother Kaye “blew” — Scientology jargon for escaping — and was then assigned to the Rehabilitation Project Force. The RPF was the Sea Org’s version of a prison detail, and Kaye was assigned to sleep in a parking garage on the south side of Fountain Avenue, across the street from Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters, which is an old hospital, the Cedars of Lebanon. Joining her in the parking garage was Trish, who also went into the RPF to stay near her mother.
Three years later, when she was 14, Trish was out of the Sea Org, and she became increasingly difficult for her parents to handle. She ended up at the notorious Mace-Kingsley ranch in Palmdale, California, where many former Scientologist children have reported hellish conditions and discipline. (The Palmdale facility was closed years ago.)
In her 20s, Trish rededicated herself to moving up Scientology’s “Bridge” of courses, and eventually reached Operating Thetan Level Four — OT 8 is the top course. Eventually, she started to become disillusioned. For example, she was unhappy about how she’d been treated during a 2005 visit to “Flag,” Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida.
And then about a year after that, she got the call she never expected to receive, from Julian Swartz, telling her to come down for a briefing about the day care where he had been taking her daughter a few years earlier.
Her sister Liz, speaking to us from Australia, says the moment is still as vivid for her as it is for Trish.
“It’s still enough to make my body shake. It’s so powerful. That moment of seeing Trish so broken, on the floor at her house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like that. She’s very strong and outgoing. To see her crumble like that, it was like nothing I’d ever seen.”
Liz explains that even today, she is filled with emotion thinking about it, and she thinks it’s because it brings up for her an incident she went through at 19 with a Scientology celebrity.
“It was date rape, essentially. And I got put into ethics for it and had to write up my overts. That’s why this whole thing with Danny Masterson and what these women are saying has meant so much to me. Because it absolutely does happen.”
Liz was watching her sister try to come to grips with what Julian Swartz was telling her, that incidents of child molestation at a Scientology day care would be made to go away by refusing to press charges.
For Trish, that bizarre incident was connected to so many other things happening for her at the time, pushing her away from Scientology. But the final push, she remembers, came from David Miscavige.
In 2007 Scientology leader David Miscavige announced that he had produced new versions of L. Ron Hubbard’s essential texts and lectures — the “Basics” — and required all members to buy copies at $3,000 per set. Trish remembers her father hunting her down on L. Ron Hubbard Way in Los Angeles after the Basics were announced, insisting that she buy a set for herself, a set for her young daughter, a set for her then husband, and two more sets to donate to libraries. She refused, and she was embarrassed for her father.
Meanwhile, Trish’s parents were also becoming concerned because of the company she was keeping. Namely, ex-Scientologists.
Mike Rinder tells us he was close to Trish from many years before — it was Trish who found that Rinder’s then eight-year-old daughter Taryn had been seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver near Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters. Trish visited the girl in the hospital every day, and Rinder says he credits Trish with saving his daughter’s life. (After Rinder left Scientology in 2007, his former wife and his children, including Taryn, disconnected from him.)
Despite pressure from her parents, Trish refused to give up her friendships with Rinder or the others. In 2013, Trish’s parents flew from Australia to visit her in Los Angeles, and they spent more time arguing with her about being in contact with the wrong people than sightseeing. When Trish refused to break off contact with her friend Chrissie Weightman, another ex-Scientologist, her parents sent her formal messages announcing that they were cutting her out of their lives.
It was about a year after that when we talked to Trish for our story about the Day Care from Hell. Trish’s daughter was one of the girls affected, but less so than others. The 17-year-old boy admitted that he was about to take the 3-year-old girl’s diaper down when Trish arrived to take her daughter.
“I didn’t put my name on the Day-Care story because my daughter never knew about it. And she’s grown up to be pretty Internet savvy,” Trish said.
In the meantime, while she kept her name under wraps in regards to defying Julian Swartz and her attempt to get the 17-year-old boy prosecuted, Trish was still dealing with her parents and their involvement in Scientology.
Over the years, they had kept in touch, even though she was declared, in the hopes that they could somehow reunite the family. Last year, Trish even flew to Australia to see her parents, hoping to figure things out.
“When I flew to Australia in May 2022, it was on the down low. Kate wasn’t allowed to know,” Trish says. “My dad set me up in a room in his place. He was really excited. But if the phone rang and it was Kate, I would have to sit outside and be really quiet. They didn’t want Kate to know I was there.”
At one point, during the visit, her father began showing her boxes with old letters in them. They were from his mother, who was not a Scientologist.
“My dad showed me these letters from his mother in the 1980s. They said, ‘we’re really worried with what you’re doing with Trisha. You’ve run off to this weird cult and she’s not getting educated.’ And stapled to each letter was a response from him, ‘handling her originations’.”
Why, we asked, would her father be showing her those letters?
“They were to convince me, look, I’ve always loved you. Look at these letters I saved. But I read them and thought, what?”
She was stunned to see how much her father had defended the church against his parents’ attempts to find out what was really going on.
“After that I changed my flight and went home early. And after all these years, he was still saying that he wanted me to do my ‘A to E.’ If you handle it we can be a family, he said. And with no regard for the reality of it.”
For Scientologists who have been declare suppressive, applying to the International Justice Chief to accomplish a set of tasks, called “A to E,” is a sign of submission to the church’s authority, something that Trish is simply not willing to do.
When she got back home, her father called, and asked what he could do to change her mind. She said he needed to watch every episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath and the HBO documentary Going Clear.
“He did it. He would watch an episode and we’d talk about it. For months,” Trish says. “I thought I was going to get my dad out, and we were really going to put our family back together.”
But even after seeing all of Scientology’s controversies laid bare, he still insisted that Trish do her A to E to reunite the family.
He also, Trish says, went to the Advanced Org in a suburb of Sydney and confessed that he’d been communicating with his declared daughter for years.
“They were really pissed off,” she says. “They told him he had to fly Kate up to the AO and confess it to her. And he did. It’s bananas.”
Trish says she sent Leah a photo that Kate Ceberano took earlier this year, arm in arm with Cruise, and told her this was why her parents won’t leave. “It’s the Tom Cruise show,” she says.
“It’s the Kate thing, and that Kate is close to Tom Cruise, that my mother loves Kate, and they won’t leave for that reason. It’s too much for them to handle,” Trish says. “It doesn’t matter that their granddaughter was molested, or that they know the Ideal Org program is a scam, or about the abuse he went through, he still chooses that over his children. It’s messed up,” she says.
“But it’s OK. For the first time — I’m 50 years old — for the first time in my life I’m OK with it. I’ve finally accepted that they will never change. And it’s OK.”
She realizes it would be hard for her parents to turn their backs on what they’ve known for 45 years. “They’re not going to do it,” she says.
A few months ago, her father told her again that she needs to do her A to E.
“That was your answer? I can’t right now, and I hung up,” she says.
At that point, she and her sister Liz decided to write their parents a letter. In effect, they had decided to disconnect from their Scientologist parents.
“Now we’re free. And that has been incredibly liberating,” she says. “My sister and I feel great. Because we’ve tried everything, and family is not enough to get them to leave.”
They got no response to the letter.
But then, there was another twist.
Trish’s daughter could see that the situation was stressing out both Trish and her sister Liz. “My daughter and my sister were talking, and my sister told her, You know, your mom really fought hard to prosecute that molester in the Day Care. Our parents were not on her side, the church was not on her side. But your mom tried to bring justice.”
And my daughter said, what are you talking about?
“My sister had forgotten that I’d never told her about it. So then Liz told her the whole story. My daughter then Googled ‘Scientology and Day Care,’ and found your story. Then she came to me and said, Mom, are you ‘Ellen’?
“We just bawled our eyes out.”
Trish says her daughter was stunned that she’d never said anything about it, but she was proud of her mom for trying to do what she did.
“We’re all good now. We’ve cut my parents out. We want to put our names on things. Liz and I are speaking out now about what we’ve both been through. And we’re super tight with my daughter, who is an amazing person. She’s in her fourth year of college.”
“Before, Liz and I had never wanted to put our names on it because of Kate and our parents. Now, we just don’t care.”
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