Lisa McPherson Files - Interview of Carol SouthThis is an interview
with Carol South, a co-worker of Lisa McPherson's at AMC Publishing.
SF: Sharon Feola
JC: Jorge Carrasquillo
CS: Carol South
RC: Ron Cacciatore
SF: Todays date is March 12, 1997. It is approximately 1615 hours. Special Agent
Sharon Feola with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
JC: Did you say 1650?
SF: (Inaudible) conducting an interview with Ms. Carol South, who is an employee with
AMC Publishing Company. Present in the room is her attorney, Mr. Ronald Cacciatore
and Detective Jorge Carrasquillo with the Clearwater Police Department. Carol, could
you please state your name and your date of birth for the record?
CS: Carol Lee South, X fifty seven.
SF: And as a state law enforcement officer, I'm empowered to take sworn testimony. I'm
going to ask you to raise your right hand. Do you swear or affirm that the statement you
are about to make is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you
CS: I do.
SF: All right. Um, Carol, basically we're here to, just to get a little bit, I understand that
you worked with Lisa McPherson?
SF: And we're just uh, trying to conclude this um, incident with Lisa, and we just wanted
to talk to some of the people that she worked with and try to get some background
information and any information that you might have that might be pertinent um, to her
behavior prior to death or any information that you may have at or around the time that
she died. Okay? So, I'm just going to ask you some general questions. Um, how long
have you been employed with AMC?
CS: Since 1990. October.
SF: Okay, so you're one of the couples that moved from Dallas?
CS: that's right.
SF: So you initially were employed with AMC in Dallas, Texas?
CS: that's right.
SF: And you knew Lisa in Dallas?
CS: I did.
SF: Do you remember when you first met Lisa?
CS: Oh, um, early mid-eighties.
SF: Before then, was that when she was on staff at the church there at Celebrity Center
CS: that's right.
CS: So, I don't remember any exact time, but it was some
SF: it's been awhile?
SF: Did you work at AMC Publishing prior to her, or did she work there prior to you?
CS: She worked there prior to me, by
SF: Okay, so when you came
CS: a few months.
SF: When you came on board, she was there already.
CS: that's right.
SF: And what position do you hold there?
CS: I'm now the Senior Director of Production, which.
CS: Which is in charge of all the production aspects of the publishing.
SF: So, in the production, would that be the actual production of the flyers and the
SF: and the advertising pamphlets and all of that.
CS: that's right.
SF: So you actually make those products at the publishing company.
CS: that's correct. We don't print them there, but we create all the artwork for it there.
SF: Okay, were you employed, what, as an artist initially, or
SF: Okay. Um, so you worked with Lisa till I believe it was early 1994 when you
relocated to Clearwater?
CS: Well, and after. She came too.
SF: Right. Did you move at the same time?
SF: And when was that, do you recall?
CS: Right between Christmas and New Years and
SF: Of nineteen ninety
CS: I'm gonna try to be right
SF: I think it was three, nineteen ninety three
CS: Weve been here for three plus years
SF: So it's ninety three
JC: Ninety three
CS: I get so confused with that Christmas, you know, was it
SF: Right, right
CS: So was it ninety three, ninety four? Okay.
CS: That sounds right.
SF: So you didn't work directly with Lisa?
CS: Well, in the sense of
SF: You didn't, you weren't in sales?
CS: No, I was not in sales.
SF Okay. But did work directly with Lisa?
CS: Well, on her clients or if something would come up with her clients.
CS: Right, because I mean when the salesperson would sell something and then we would
produce it, sometimes you need to work with them to make sure the client was getting
what they wanted, or
CS: it's like customer service.
SF: Right, so you had contact, daily contact with her?
CS: Not at, not recently. At the beginning, a lot, recently, not so much, because as we
grew then there were more and more people to deal with and more and more, you start
doing things more by internal mail as opposed to face to face, you know what I mean, so
the last year that we worked together, I did not have daily contact with her.
SF: Okay. Do you have any information regarding the circumstances about her leave of
absence when she was not at work during July, the summer of 1995?
CS: Um, I
SF: Were you aware
CS: I was aware that
SF: Do you remember
CS: on leave
SF: Right. Do you know anything about the reason why she was not at work during
CS: Only what I was told.
CS: Basically that she needed some personal time and personal leave of absence and uh,
that she was spending some of that time at Fort Harrison.
SF: Okay. Um, do you have any information regarding her second leave, which would
have began October 18, November 18, Saturday the 18th from the day of her death on the
fifth of December?
CS: The knowledge I have is I know she went off to this conference that was happening a
few days before that
CS: and um, then after the next like Monday or Tuesday, when we got back to work
SF: When she should have been back to work?
CS: Right, right, exactly. So I found out that she wasn't and that she had gone on
SF: Who told you that?
SF: Okay. Did you ask, like where's Lisa or how'd the conference go or, do you
CS: Um, I think it might, I mean I'm guessing a little bit, I mean, it was not, I didn't have
to go ask. I was told, you know, very quickly, look I want to let you know Lisa is going
on another leave. Now, those are not exact words, by any means.
SF: Okay, and that was the explanation that you were given, as to the reason why she
wasn't at the office?
SF: That she was on another leave?
SF: At the South Fort Harrison?
CS: Um, I don't even know if I knew that right away, I knew within a few days.
CS: Certainly that where she had gone again. I probably asked, did she go back to Fort
SF: Besides work did you have any social or personal contact with Lisa?
CS: Yeah, some. Um, mainly in group gatherings or events or, you know, I certainly saw
her at church functions.
SF: Were you present when she went clear at her ceremony, when she went clear?
CS: I'm, there wasn't like a ceremony, I mean, there's what we call graduation.
SF Yeah, I guess that would be when she graduated and got her certificate
CS: I do think I went to that. (laughing) trying to remember.
SF: Is that what it is, a graduation?
SF: Okay. Um,
CS: that's where they announce people who have completed
CS: different actions or things.
SF: Okay. Um, when did you, Carol, learn about Lisa's death?
CS: I can't tell you what like, day in relationship, um, what happened was a chaplain from
the church was made, you asked us to come in and told us, like one on one, right, so I
went down to the church, I was told that the chaplain of the church wanted to see me and
I went down to the church.
SF: Do you know who that is?
CS: Um, Reed Suggs.
SF: So, just so that I,
JC: Can you spell that name?
CS: Yeah, I could guess at it. I don't know if I know how to spell it exactly, probably
Reed Suggs, probably S-U-G-G-S.
SF: Were you notified at work, like via e-mail or were you told you need to be down at
the Fort Harrison at this time, or how did that work?
CS: No, I was uh, trying to remember how I, I think Benetta, no, she wasn't there. I
don't remember who told me that the chaplain wanted to see me, but I was aware by the
time I was going down to see the chaplain that other people at work as well had been
asked to come down to see the chaplain, um, I waited for a few minutes, and I can't
remember if someone else came out of his office that I knew from work, and then I went
in to his office.
SF: So, it was kind of like, ten minutes later someone else
CS: Yeah, so and then obviously then when he told me what he told me, I realized oh
they're just, they're trying to like be supportive and make sure that
SF. Right. What did they say to you, do you recall Carol?
CS: He told me that um, he made sure that I knew that Lisa had been there, right, and
then he said I wanted to let you know that she became very gravely ill and I'm very sorry
to say that she passed away, something to that effect.
SF: And did you inquire any, did you ask any other questions about the circumstances?
CS: Well, I asked what happened.
SF: Right, sure.
CS: So, he said, basically he, he didn't have a whole lot more information, I mean, I was
somewhat stunned. I knew that she had not been doing well in the sense of you know, she
was on these leaves and these things so, um, when he told me that she had become very ill,
I didn't know what to think and then he told me that she had died so I kinda went into,
you know how you go when someone you know close has died, you kinda go a little
whacky in the head, you know, um, so I
CS: Well, sure, you know, I mean it was kind of shocking. I think he pretty much just
reiterated the same thing. He didn't have much detail at all, just that had been staying at
the hotel and she had become very, very ill. I think he did tell me that they were taking
her to the hospital and that she had died. Now I don't know, I can't tell you for sure,
because of course I read the newspapers, so,
CS: You know.
SF: Did they give you a cause of death at that time?
CS: Um, no, his, um, what, they way he related it to me, the cause of death was she was
extremely ill, and
CS: that they didn't have a specific.
CS: Known cause.
SF: Um, you made a comment, Carol, about you knew that she wasn't doing well, and I
know that you meant that in an emotional sense, right?
SF Because of these little leaves of absences she had been taking.
SF: Did you personally observe any behavior that you thought was not like Lisa?
CS: Um, no, and I say that with reserve, and I'll tell you why. I think in the last year, she,
I mean, she had, she was not totally herself in the last year, if I compare all the other years
I've known her, right, she was more
SF: Known her for a long time?
CS: Yeah, I have known her for a long time. Um, she was you know, more uh, I'm not
sure how to say it you know, like a little moody, is a good way to say it or at times she
would be doing really well and you could tell she was really doing good and then she be
not doing so well,
CS: like stressful, um, anxious, that kind of stuff
SF: Do you know what attributed to that? I mean, do you have any idea what had been
going on with her that would caused that, I mean, cause we all have our reasons why we
act the way we do.
SF: You know?
CS: If you mean do I know of a specific thing or incident that could have triggered
SF: Do you of anything?
CS: No, I don't.
SF: How about could you take a guess? I mean, you were a real, you sound like you
were a good close friend to her.
CS: I was a good friend, I don't know how close. I mean
CS: because she and I did not discuss personal things, other than in passing where
sometimes she would throw things out.
CS: Um, I mean, I mean, I'd hate to even hazard a guess, you know
CS: You know, I know she felt at stress at work
CS: I mean, one thing I can say from my own knowledge would be I know that she was, I
mean, she had taken that long leave of absence and was back at work and then the new
leave of absence which resulted in the end result, so during that period of time, I know she
was working extremely hard trying to catch up, right? I mean she had, she'd had been our
top salesperson for many years so she had missed this whole period of time that now, I
think she felt very under stress.
SF: Did she work under a quota?
CS: In the sense of all salespeople are given quotas, yes. Um, at that time I think she was
not under much quotaing, I mean, when she got back, right? But I don't know for sure.
SF: Okay. All right. Um, I think you have probably already answered this question, but
did you care for Lisa
CS: Um, just one thing on the quotas. Our quota is, the way we do it in our company,
are targets. it's not like if you don't meet this quota, something bad would happen or
something, cause like, these are the sales targets that you're going for, so
JC: Well, financially, you wouldn't make the money if you don't reach those targets,
CS: Oh, sure, from, um, she was commission only as far as I know, so
CS: from that point of view, anyway, sorry.
SF: Did you care for Lisa McPherson during the time frame 18 November to 5
December, 1995 at all. The time frame from when
CS: When she went into the Fort Harrison? No, I never saw her.
CS: Yeah, that's correct. Sorry. I remembered once I had seen her the previous time she
was at the Fort Harrison, I saw her walking around the Fort Harrison when I was there.
SF: Were you at the Fort Harrison during that time frame 18th of November that you can
think of Carol?
SF: Did you happen to come across her?
SF: Did you look for her?
SF: You knew that she was there again.
CS: Yeah, but I wouldn't like, I wasn't actively looking for her.
SF: Did you inquire about her?
SF: You didn't ask anyone, have you seen Lisa?
CS: No, I mean, there's like hundreds of people in that building at a time, so, if one were
to inquire, youd have to go find the right person to inquire of, right, so, I mean the places
where I was, weren't those places.
SF: Okay. In your studies of, in your church studies, have you ever heard of an
CS: No, I've heard of the introspection rundown.
SF: Okay, and if you've read that, based on your own, have you read that somewhere in
CS: I'm trying to remember. No, I don't think so.
CS: So, I've heard of it, but I have not read it.
SF: Okay, and can I ask you were you heard of it from?
CS: I'd love to tell you I knew about it before all this came up, but I can't swear to that.
SF: that's the question I'm trying to ask you.
CS: I know, I could see that would be where you're going and I don't know. It is
SF: You don't know if maybe you read it in the paper or you read it
CS Right, like, where did I first hear about it, you know. I can tell you that I am
unaware of anyone I know having done that introspection rundown, so, no one ever talked
to me about that they had done it or, it was there whatever.
SF: Okay, um, did you at anytime, and I think you've already answered this, but I'm
gonna ask it anyway, take Lisa back to her apartment during the time frame in question
that we've been asking you about from the 17th, 18th? Okay.
CS: Nope, never drove her there.
SF: All right. Did you have any information about the accident that she was in on
Saturday, November 18th?
CS: No, nothing other than the paper, what the papers
SF: No one ever told you that she was in an accident?
CS: Well, no that's not true. Um, I'm trying to think, it's probably that Monday,
Tuesday, or Wednesday, you know, when Benetta, when I asked Benetta, I said what
happened or what's going on, how's she doing. She probably told me that yes, Lisa
had, what happened was Lisa was on her way over to my house and she had a car
accident so I'm sure Benetta told me that.
SF: Okay. Um, you know that they went to that convention in Orlando
SF: prior to the Saturday of the accident?
SF: Did you have any contact with Lisa or talk with anyone that was with her during that
CS: Not during the trip. Not until after they were back.
CS: Not until like Monday or Tuesday, when they were back at work.
SF: During the same conversation about
SF: how's Lisa and all that.
CS: And then finding out how'd the conference go, how'd we do? I mean that's our
biggest conference so,
CS: Sales wise.
SF: And you've already said that Lisa was in fact the best salesperson there and I don't
have any questions. Jorge?
JC: When was your last contact with Lisa prior to her death?
CS: It would have been whatever last day she was at work prior to her going to that
JC: The conference was Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
SF: I think they left Wednesday afternoon.
CS: So, I probably saw her Monday morning, er, Wednesday morning, if she were there,
and if not, I saw Tuesday afternoon.
JC: Did she appear normal to you or was there anything out of the, abnormal about her,
when you last saw her?
CS: No, she seemed uh, she seemed, I do remember that she was very, you know,
anxious in the sense of hurried to get every thing together, but they, but so were several
people trying to get ready for the conference.
SF: A little anxiety, making sure they work out everything they needed.
CS: Right, right, exactly.
SF: Did you assist them in anyway in loading the car? Do you know how Lisa got to the
CS: I couldn't say for sure exactly, but I know she would have driven, I mean, with
SF: Would they
CS: I mean they would have carpooled.
SF: Would they have loaded up her Jeep with all the materials that were needed?
CS: Possibly, I mean, her Jeep had lots of room, so if not her Jeep then someone else's
JC: You said you've known Lisa for a long time. How many years have you known her?
CS: I'm guessing 84. It could have been 83 or 85 or somewhere in there, I mean, when I
first met her through the church, I didn't know her, I wasn't even that close, but I knew
who she was.
JC: And then you said this last year, she wasn't the normal Lisa that you'd known prior to
that, is that correct?
CS: that's correct.
JC: During this last year, did Lisa ever make mention to you that she was leaving the
church or wanted to leave the church or had doubts about Scientology, or was it the
CS: Complete opposite. I mean, even right before, even during, I mean, during the time
we were prepping for this conference, or they were prepping for it, we were all working
on the Winter Wonderland projects and all of us, I mean, those of us who are very
interested in work on these types of projects, so she was very active in that. She was a
key person helping to gather donations and get people involved in it.
JC: And you also said you saw her back in July, during her first stay at the Fort Harrison,
where actually did you see her in the Fort Harrison?
CS: Upstairs in what they call the waiting lounge for the counseling sessions.
JC: Okay, and did you have a conversation with her?
CS: I said "hi". She was with a couple people and I just said, oh hi, how are you doing
and she said hi and they were on there way somewhere so she went on.
JC: So at that point in time, she was, I guess she was taking auditing or counseling?
CS: I don't know. I knew she was there, like, she was on this leave of absence. I knew
she was staying there, so I really don't know what she would be doing there. I mean, she
very well could have been doing auditing.
JC: And, and since you've known her for awhile, there was a notation made in her
personal diary on December 5th, 1995, and I know Lisa couldn't have made it, because
(inaudible) wasn't with her. The notation was Lisa dropped her body. What does that
indicate to you?
CS: that's the way Scientologists would express that the soul has left the body, so that
the body has died and now the spiritual being is going on.
JC: And again, I'm trying to understand this. Is there any philosophy that the soul returns
CS: To that body? (laughs)
JC: I don't know, that's why I'm asking.
CS: You mean like reincarnation?
JC: Something along those lines.
CS: Yeah, a lot of Scientologists believe in reincarnation. I do.
JC: So, when you, when somebody drops a body, it's nothing that traumatic then,
because they're going to come back, maybe pick another one?
CS: Yeah, yeah, but, I mean, it is traumatic in the sense of, uh, you know, especially, in
the sense of someone who's young, or has a life ahead of them, I mean, very normal.
JC: Exactly, and that's what I'm
CS: Saying that one dropped their body is the equivalent of saying they've passed on or
they've passed away, I mean, that is an exact
JC: And your right, you know, it's
JC: normally something very traumatic, but, I found, you know, and we've been doing
quite a few interviews with people, that, most people are nonchalant about it, you know,
she dropped her body, you know, or don't even bother to ask, you know, Lisa was in an
accident, she's not at work, what's happened, and you've brought a very good point, you
know, she's a young person. Something very traumatic. You'd think there would be
more interest. During the time she was not at work, from her coworkers, I just,
CS: You know, there, in my estimation, there was an extreme amount of interest. A lot
JC: Okay, did anybody make an effort to go down to the Fort Harrison and check on her?
CS: I don't know if anyone else did. I did not, uh, there too, unless someone were her
family or someone that close, I mean, uh, there really wouldn't be a need to, I mean, I
know from my experience that she had been in there before and was fine. I saw her in the
hotel even, so for her to go and do more rest and relaxation when I knew that she had had
this accident, she was distressed or whatever, I wouldn't think about it, you know, I
personally, I asked Benetta several times have you about Lisa, how's she doing and
she'd say, no, I hadn't heard, I'll check on it or I'll try or whatever, but
JC: Any of the other coworkers show that same interest in asking?
CS: Very much, I mean, I mean, several times there were, you know, short conversations
I had with June, like gee I hope she's okay, and I'm glad she's doing this or I hope
she's back soon, you know, so, no, there was
SF: But Benetta didn't really know what her standing was at that time either.
CS: I don't know. She didn't report to me.
JC: I have no further questions.
CS: I do know Benetta checked on her
CS: you know, that was the impression I had.
SF: We're not gonna need another tape run cause I got one more question..
JC: So do I.
SF: Did you work on the Winter Wonderland with Lisa that year?
SF: Did you have any contact with her on and occasion when you were all working at
some warehouse painting signs, or?
CS: No, I avoided that kind of work. (laughs)
SF: Okay. Were you more of sales, who picked up her slack when she suddenly didn't
show up and she was supposed to be bringing in all this money for this project?
CS: Well, she wasn't the only one working on it, so, I don't know. I don't know if I
would have an answer for
SF: I mean, she must have missed there as well.
CS: Oh very much.
SF: You know?
CS: Very much so.
SF: Who do, do you know Carol, who was working on that Winter Wonderland project
that could maybe, that we could talk to that offer us, maybe could assist us with the
CS: Well, Benetta.
SF: Of course, and Brenda.
SF: Are you close with Brenda?
CS: Um, probably about as close as I was with Lisa. Um, God, I mean, there were
hundreds of people.
CS: You know, those that were working as, you know, on the core team, Benetta would
probably be the best
SF: Okay, we'll talk with her.
CS: one of that list of people. Also, I'm very likely to confuse it with this most recent
year versus last year.
JC: One more question on my part. How do you know Benetta went down to check on
CS: I don't know that she went down to check on Lisa. My impression is that she was or
had talked to someone and knew that Lisa was okay. I mean, I knew that Benetta was
closer to Lisa as a friend than I was, so
JC: But she gave you updates, and she said she's okay throughout that 17 day period?
CS: Probably, you know, she didn't give me updates, for sure, but when I would ask
about well, how is Lisa doing, she would say, as far as I know, she's fine and I don't
recall her saying anything as specifically as she did go down there or called or talked to
anybody in specific.
JC: No more questions for me.
SF: Okay, this concludes the interview with Carol South. It is approximately 1440 hours.