Man's Scientology Faith Ripples Through AdCo Murder Probe
Victim Accused Software Firm Founder Of Diverting $200,000 To Unidentified 'Church'
Alan Gathright, 7NEWS Content Producer
POSTED: 8:42 pm MST January 27, 2010
UPDATED: 12:56 pm MST January 28, 2010
ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. -- Among the mysteries in software firm founder William Rex Fowler's alleged killing of ex-partner Thomas Ciancio is whether Fowler's self-professed devotion to the Church of Scientology played a role in the workplace shooting.
The 58-year-old Fowler was charged last week with premeditated, first-degree murder in the Dec. 30 shooting of Ciancio, who had gone to Fowler Software Design to receive a $9,900 severance payment, according to a statement by an Adams County sheriff's detective supporting Fowler's arrest.
Employees told investigators that Ciancio quit the firm in November because he was upset that Fowler had allegedly taken $200,000 from the company "without permission and gave it to a church or some type of charity," the arrest warrant affidavit said.
Robert Read, an employee hired by Ciancio, told investigators he knew about allegations that Fowler had diverted money "to Africa or some type of charity …because William Fowler had to apologize to everyone in writing for what he did," the affidavit stated.
Read the Rex Fowler arrest affidavit.
Investigators initially believed that Fowler was the shooting "victim," because he had staggered bleeding from the office building with a gunshot wound to the head.
The 42-year-old Ciancio, described by colleagues and family members as a friendly, upbeat father of four, was mistakenly called the "suspect," because his body was found in the shooting scene near a 9mm Glock handgun.
But investigators reversed their suspicions after an autopsy showed that Ciancio, Fowler Software's former chief operating officer, had been shot three times in the head as he apparently sat at a table near Fowler's personal office, the arrest warrant affidavit stated.
Thomas P. Ciancio was found shot to death inside the company where he used to work -- Fowler Software Design.
References to the Church of Scientology, a popular faith among some Hollywood film stars, repeatedly crop up in the 11-page arrest affidavit.
The investigative report has been published on several Web sites critical of Scientology, which was founded in the 1950s by the late science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard.
Scientology critics have been chronicling the investigation of Fowler, who goes by his middle name Rex, on the Internet.
They claim the church financially drains members who are required to repeatedly pay for Scientology courses and "auditing," described as a "unique form of personal spiritual counseling," according to a Scientology Web site.
Officials at the Church of Scientology International's Hollywood headquarters did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Rex Fowler publicly praised the rewards of his 36-year commitment to the faith.
"I am very proud to be a Scientologist," Fowler wrote in 2008 letter to the Rocky Mountain News describing himself a Scientology minister.
Fowler said he was upset by the newspaper's review of comedian Kathy Griffin's TV series that highlighted the performer's "discriminatory remark about my religion."
"If the remark had been about Judaism or Islam, would the Rocky have included it in the article?" he wrote.
In a testimonial on a church Web site, he wrote that both his wife and two children "do Scientology courses on a regular schedule."
"Scientology has made a huge positive, difference in all our lives," he said.
The day after Ciancio was killed, detectives went to a Denver hospital where Fowler remained in critical condition from a bullet that entered beneath his chin and exited the top of his head, the arrest affidavit stated.
When detectives asked Janet Fowler to speak with them, she had an urgent concern as her husband lay fighting for his life in the intensive care unit.
"Janet Fowler quickly demanded the briefcase" containing information about Scientology that detectives had removed from his office, the arrest affidavit stated.
"One thing I need is his briefcase," Janet Fowler told detectives, according to the court record. "It was taken out of his office. It is important to me, my church, and it is religious material and I want it now!"
Rex Fowler had left a note dated the day of the shooting instructing whoever found it to "please give the briefcase to Jan." Another note, found on Fowler's work desk along with several keys, explained to "Jan" what each key unlocked.
Detective Gene Claps explained to Janet Fowler that investigators needed to review the briefcase contents.
"Even if you looked at it and read it, you would not understand anything in it," the wife replied, the arrest affidavit stated. "Because it is way above a normal person and you would not know what it meant."
"Janet Fowler then demanded the briefcase be returned again, by saying, 'I want it back now, right now!' " Claps wrote in his statement.
The wife eventually agreed to speak with the investigators after Claps explained that he just needed some background on her husband.
She said that Ciancio had sent e-mails to Rex Fowler threatening to sue him, because of money that the former executive said Fowler Software owed him.
"Janet Fowler stated William Fowler is a Sciencetologist (sic) and that William Fowler would have not gone without a fight," the arrest affidavit stated. "Janet Fowler stated William Fowler probably would have grabbed the gun during the struggle and that William Fowler would have not just let somebody shoot him."
Asked if the investigation had found whether Scientology played a role in the slaying, Adams County district attorney's investigator Krista Flannigan, said she could not discuss details of an on-going investigation.
Both the Fowler and the Ciancio families did not respond to requests for comment.
When detectives interviewed Ciancio's wife, Laura, at the couple's Castle Rock home, she confirmed that her husband and Rex Fowler had been "arguing over company matters for several months. Mrs. Ciancio stated Rex Fowler had sent several e-mails to Thomas Ciancio's laptop computer making financial threats that had to do with the business," according to the arrest affidavit.
The dead man's brother, Charles Ciancio, gave detectives "four binders of L. Ron Hubbard College of Administration Course, which he called study material that was given to Thomas Ciancio to study for 'Scientology,' " the arrest affidavit stated.
Scientology critics' Web sites say that Fowler Software was a member of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises -- or WISE -- an alliance of businesses and professionals who adhere to the "management technology" principles of L. Ron Hubbard.
"The goal of WISE, the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, is an ethical, sane and prosperous civilization," Wise.org states. "Through our work, we are returning to business the values and ethical standards upon which it was founded: honesty, integrity, craftsmanship, rewards for productivity, commitment to the prosperity of entire communities and nations."
Investigators traced the semi-automatic handgun used to kill Ciancio to Fowler's 25-year-old son, Alexander Hyung Fowler, who purchased the weapon from a Los Angeles sporting goods store in 2006, according to the affidavit.
Federal firearms records showed young Fowler listed his address at the time as 1413 L. Ron Hubbard Way in Los Angeles. It is the address for the Church of Scientology's American Saint Hill Organization, which trains "volunteer ministers."
Alexander Fowler, who now lives in Santa Fe, N.M., told investigators he gave the Glock pistol to his father as a Christmas gift in 2007.
The son said he went shooting once with his father and "William Fowler shoots much better than he does," according to the affidavit.
Before Rex Fowler discovered Hubbard's teachings in 1974, he wrote on a church Web site, "I was an angry young man looking for a group that might help solve the problems of this world, so I looked into Scientology.
"I'm not angry anymore," Fowler wrote. "As more and more people rediscover their true selves through Scientology, together we WILL achieve a world without war, crime, and insanity."