Woman sues psychiatrist, claiming tale of Satanism

Thursday, August 13, 1998

By Janet Kelley
New Era Staff Writer
Lancaster New Era

The psychiatrist summarized the Lititz woman's problem simply, according to court papers: she had been raised in a satanic cult. Her family had forced her to participate in the ritual killing of babies and sexual orgies, Rose Gray said Dr. Stephen Powers told her. And her husband, Mrs. Gray said she was told, married her for "inbreeding" purposes within the cult. Exorcism, she said, along with continued hypnotism and drugs, were the doctor's prescribed treatment.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in Lancaster County Court, Gray accused the Lititz psychiatrist and Philhaven of Mount Gretna, the hospital with which the doctor was associated, of malpractice and negligence in handling her case. Powers, through his secretary, declined comment. The secretary said they were unaware of the lawsuit or its contents. Frances Maust, director of community relations for Philhaven, a behavioral health-care service facility in Lebanon County, also declined comment. "We don't have any comment. We don't have any information," Maust said. Philhaven's attorney, Gerald J. Brinser of Palmyra, also declined to comment, saying he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Mrs. Gray, 50, of the 200 block of East Main Street, would not discuss the pending case. In her lawsuit, however, Mrs. Gray explained that she first sought Powers' help in April 1988 when she was suffering from depression. She saw him on a weekly basis, according to the lawsuit, at which time the doctor prescribed psychotherapy and lithium. Powers later expanded his treatment to anti-psychotic drugs and hypnosis, according to the lawsuit. Mrs. Gray said Powers told her that during the hypnotic sessions, she had revealed to him "disturbing memories" from her childhood. Powers told Mrs. Gray, according to the lawsuit, that "she had spent her entire life in a "satanic cult' and was a "child of the devil.' " "Her parents, maternal grandparents and many members of the community" where Mrs. Gray "had grown up were all involved." "Powers told (Mrs. Gray) that she had recalled, under hypnosis, that she had attended meetings and ceremonies which involved killing babies, drinking their blood and eating their hearts, and that a sex orgy would take place afterwards."

When Mrs. Gray told Powers she felt suicidal, according to the lawsuit, "Powers told her it was because "the cult' had programmed her to kill herself if she revealed cult secrets to anyone." In addition, the doctor told Mrs. Gray that her husband had married her for "inbreeding purposes," the lawsuit claims. During the course of this treatment, Mrs. Gray said, she became estranged from her family, including her husband, after she accused them of being involved in the satanic cult. She moved to Malvern, Chester County, in 1989 but continued to seek treatment from Powers. In 1995, Mrs. Gray and her husband, Edward, were divorced. She repeatedly attempted suicide - slitting her wrists, taking overdoses of medication, and hanging herself, and was hospitalized for a time, according to the lawsuit.

Powers, Mrs. Gray said in the lawsuit, also told her she was suffering from a multi-personality disorder and that new personalities were continuing to "emerge." Exorcism, he said, was the answer, she claims. Although exorcism often involves expelling evil spirits through prayer or incantation, Mrs. Gray said Powers "made negative comments" about the small cross she wore, "asking her why she wore "a dead Christ' on her neck."

Powers continued his treatment of Mrs. Gray for almost 10 years, her attorneys said. After paying for $65,000 worth of treatment over the years, the lawsuit claims, Mrs. Gray was terminated as a patient when she failed to pay a $300 bill. In March 1998, Mrs. Gray, after watching a television program about therapists who use similar techniques for financial gain, sought the help of another psychologist. Her attorneys say that treatment has been successful. Mrs. Gray, a nurse, and her husband, a computer programmer, reconciled and recently returned to Lititz, according to her attorney's office.

The Grays' attorney, Skip Simpson of Dallas, Tex., said the family learned of his experience with psychological legal problems on the Internet and contacted him earlier this summer. Simpson, who has earned a national reputation for successfully pursuing similar cases, reviewed Mrs. Gray's story and agreed to represent her in court.

In the lawsuit, filed by Simpson and Joseph Rizzo of Darby, Delaware County, Mrs. Gray blames Powers for her "irrevocably damaged" relationship with her family, her financial devastation, emotional pain, loss of earning power, mental anguish and embarrassment. She accuses him of malpractice for misdiagnosing her condition, failing to treat her properly, instead using hypnotism and performing exorcisms, and interfering in her marriage. Edward Gray, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, also seeks damages from the doctor and Philhaven for his financial and emotional loss. They both seek an unspecified amount of damages and are asking for a jury trial.

Mrs. Gray grew up in New Jersey, according to her attorneys, attended Catholic schools and enjoyed what would be considered a normal life. Like her mother, who is a retired registered nurse, Mrs. Gray pursued a career in nursing and graduated from nursing school, according to Molly Colvin, Simpson's assistant. Mrs. Gray and her family moved to the Lititz area in 1984, approximately four years before seeking treatment for depression. It was unknown where the Grays are currently employed or her current condition. Simpson's office also could not comment on the specifics of the woman's case or what corroborating evidence may be available in the pending litigation. According to the American Medical Association directory, Powers is a 1970 graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass. He completed his residency in psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Nassau County Medical Center, and is board certified in psychiatry.

Simpson has been profiled in "The Wall Street Journal" for his work in psychological malpractice, especially false "repressed memories." According to his biography, Simpson had a varied career as an attorney before going into private practice. He was a military prosecutor and a defense attorney as well as a state and federal criminal prosecutor. When he went into private practice, Simpson pursued his fascination with psychology, especially diagnoses based on memory repression and multiple personalities, without outside corroboration of the alleged events. He represented and settled the first case ever brought by a sexual abuse "retractor" against her therapist based on the repressed-memory issues.

The parents of television star Rosanne Barr retained Simpson when she raised allegations of memory-repressed abuse. He won a $3 million jury verdict against a doctor accused of causing a suicide through the prescription of depression- invoking medications and negligent follow-up to the patient's complaints. Over the years, Simpson said, he's developed "a good sense" for which cases are legitimate legally, and which are not. And more than instinct, Simpson said, he's talked with the experts, read the latest reports and knows what the standard, accepted treatments are for certain psychological problems.

Lancaster New Era

(Staff writer Tom Murse contributed to this report.)