For deprogrammers associated with the former Cult Awareness Network, violence is a way of life. Case in point: Hana and Jerry Whitfield.
Hana Whitfield has a history of mental illness from which she still suffers and for which she receives psychological counseling and drugs. In looking at the facts of her early life it is easy to see why: Whitfield experienced a family background which included sexual deviations, insanity, and an alleged plot by family members to murder her own father.
The killing took place in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1964. Whitfield’s father, Karel Alois Strnad, then a director and technical expert for a large footwear manufacturing firm, was clubbed and stabbed to death. Newspaper reports at the time placed Whitfield several hundred miles away in Durban the night of the murder. The handwritten statement of her former husband, however, sheds a different light on the incident. Dated July 2, 1986, the statement reads as follows:
“My ex-wife Hana informed me once during the period we were married that, prior to the time when her brother had stabbed her father to death, she had been party to a plot originated by her mother to kill him (the father) herself.
“It was moderately involved, with Hana arranging for them to be alone in a hotel room remote from their usual haunts…with some aspect of the arrangements being such that after he (the father) was slain it would not be obvious that she’d been there with him (she could leave, with him dead, and probably not be discovered).
“She said that she went as far as having gotten behind him and having raised the weapon to kill him (per plan) and then being unable to go through with it – lowering the weapon so he never knew anything happened – and then going on as if nothing had occurred.”
Per court testimony, shortly thereafter Hana visited her father at his flat in Port Elizabeth. This visit was noted by the housekeeper because Mr. Strnad was not often visited by his daughter at his flat. Two days later, on February 3, 1964, Hana’s father was stabbed and battered to death by Hana’s brother, John Frank Rhodes Strachan, who was convicted of this crime and imprisoned.
According to newspaper accounts and court records of John Strachan’s trial, the murder followed years of incest between Karel and his children. Perhaps because John willingly confessed to assassinating his father, the possible involvement of other family members was never probed to any great extent. Therefore questions remain as to whether or not Strachan acted alone. For example:
- Prior to Strachan leaving Johannesburg and hitchhiking to Port Elizabeth with the intent to kill his father, someone had given him the name and address of the Sydenham Hotel; instead of going directly to his father’s flat, John went to the Sydenham Hotel first. It did not come out at trial whether he went there to meet someone.
- Strachan gave conflicting reports to the police regarding how he gained entry to his father’s flat. He told one officer that he possessed a key, yet no key was found. To another officer, Strachan stated that the door was found open, yet the housekeeper testified at trial that she had locked the door before leaving the flat that afternoon.
- For some unexplained reason the flat had been wiped clean of fingerprints, even though Strachan knew at the time of the murder that he planned to confess.
- Although John Strachan admitted to inflicting multiple stab wounds to the victim’s chest and back, John himself had only a few specks of blood on his clothing and body. It was evident that someone had used water in the bathroom as the floor was wet, but there was no mention at the trial of the presence of a hand towel or other such item used to wipe off water or blood.
What is known is that Hana Whitfield later changed her name and fled the country.
In light of this information, it is ironic that Hana would now try to pose as some type of “family counselor,” given her own background and her history of psychiatric medication and mental disturbance.
Deprogrammer Jerry Whitfield, who poses as a “counselor” along with Hana, has a history of physically abusing his children and former wives. According to a statement by an ex-wife, on one occasion Whitfield struck her in the face causing her eye to swell shut for days. She also stated that another time, she returned home to find that her child was covered with bruises. Jerry claimed the child had fallen, but from that day forward the child was terrified of Jerry. In another instance, when Jerry’s two children were visiting for a few weeks, Jerry’s second wife has stated that she observed Jerry spanking them frequently with a belt. Although Jerry’s wife warned him that he was hitting them too hard, he continued.
Jerry Whitfield is a former drug dealer, having admitted to years of selling pot, speed and his own heavy use of illegal substances including LSD. Like Hana, he also has a history of mental instability evidenced by his admission of attempts at suicide. Prior to fashioning himself as a deprogrammer, Whitfield was involved in numerous “get rich quick” schemes. It wasn’t until the Whitfields met up with a clique of criminal kidnappers acting as deprogrammers for the Cult Awareness Network, that Jerry found his niche.
Today the Whitfields make their living as unlicensed “counselors,” receiving as much as $1,500 per day for breaking up families through attempted deprogrammings. Numerous individuals whom the couple have targeted have spoken out strongly against their brainwashing techniques and attempts to destroy religious convictions and familial relationships through lies and coercion.
In 1989, the Whitfields lured an unsuspecting young parishioner into a deprogramming, after turning his family against him. They later escorted him back to the Church premises with instructions to “get any documents” relating to their discussions of the Church. After the young man committed this theft, he turned documents over to the Whitfields who then instructed the young man to lie and not tell anyone of their dealings. For this deprogramming scam, the Whitfields extracted approximately $4,000 from the young man’s father.
Another victim DH, stated that the end result of a deprogramming forced upon him by the Whitfields was:
“a great deal of family upset, emotional distress and broken relationships which I am still working to repair.”
DH’s family members had paid the Whitfields $8,000. This fee was later refunded at the request of DH’s mother who stated that she held Jerry Whitfield personally responsible for the mess created within her family.
Victim, RF, stated that his mother ended up in the hospital over the stress caused by Whitfield’s attempt to deprogram her son.
During another attempted deprogramming, the Whitfields represented themselves to the victim, SR, as “business consultants.” SR stated in October, 1991, that it was his firm belief that the Whitfield’s “counseling” of his wife brought about the destruction of his family, ending his 14 year marriage. At the time, S.R. and his wife had two young children.
The Whitfields convinced another family to pay for the deprogramming of their son based solely on his friendship with two Scientologists. Although JW kept protesting throughout that he wasn’t a Scientologist, Jerry Whitfield ignored the man and continued anyway.
Later, JW looked into Scientology for himself and found it:
“to be both interesting and useful, quite unlike the picture that was painted by the Whitfields.”
Yet another victim, MH, states in a declaration filed with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Consumer Fraud Division:
“I am still attempting to resolve the severe emotional distress caused to my parents by Jerry and Hana Whitfield, and restore our relationship. I cannot describe in words the nearly irreparable harm caused to our relationship by these people.”
Deprogramming has been described by Dr. Don Sills, a Southern Baptist Minister as:
“nothing but an individual or a group who have taken it upon themselves to determine what is and what is not acceptable religious practice.”
Some take up this activity as a money-making scheme, others do it out of a compulsion to visit upon others the mental or physical violence that has been forced upon them in the past. In the case of the Whitfields, documentation shows that either or both motives may be applicable.
If you have been defrauded by the Whitfields, or individuals like them, Religious Freedom Watch encourages you to report your experience to the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency in your area. Information on the “Hate Crimes and The Law” link on our Home Page is provided for your assistance.