Feb 11, 2013 4:07 PM
Florence - We've been investigating a monastery mystery near Florence for 7 years. It's a beautiful religious oasis but some parents say, it's more like a cult.
St. Anthony's Monastery sits on 106 acres of desert land. And it looked pretty much the same when we went back, recently, to walk the grounds.
A former monk killed himself outside of the monastery this past June. 25 year-old Scott Nevins from Modesto, CA was in our report 7-years ago.
In that report we showed you photos of Scott, provided by his family, where he appeared frail. He was one of about 50 monks inside St. Anthony's Monastery at the time. He looked nothing like he had a year before he moved there.
In high school, Scott was an academic standout. He was awarded a scholarship and titles of distinction.
When he joined the monastery, Scott changed according to his parents. He pushed his family away and started talking about conspiracies.
It took several years for Scott to snap out of it.
Scott tried calling his Mom the day he ran from the monastery. He hitchhiked out of there and immediately cut his hair.
"He was scared to death," says Scott's mom, Diane Nevins.
Paranoid and panicked his parents say Scott got his weapon's license and two guns.
"We didn't even know he had a gun," his dad, Ashley tells us.
Ashley and Diane say Scott was never the same. After leaving the monastery, he tried college but he just couldn't settle his mind.
"He was obsessed about the fact that he'd left his retainer at the monastery," Diane says.
Obsessed about that and other belongings, one day, Scott packed his guns. He drove from Oregon to Arizona arriving late June 10th.
According to a report Kristi's Kids obtained from the Pinal County Sheriff's Department, a monk working security that night told responding officers, Scott drove to the monastery entrance and, "when approached, turned around fast and drove away."
The monk followed him, in another car and a mile from the monastery entrance, Scott stopped at Axtell Road. This is where he shot himself in the head.
Seven months after his suicide, and seven years after they first spoke out against the monastery, Ashley and Diane say they're done.
They've tried telling leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church what happened to their son and the grave concerns they have about the monastery its leader, Elder Ephraim.
"They're trying to destroy families. You're absolutely destroying individuals. And so, the ripple effect of that, we have to stop," pleads Ashley.
Metropolitan Gerasimos, of San Francisco, oversees Ephraim. They went to him.
Ashley and Diane say he didn't help.
Kristi's Kids tracked down, Lou Atsaves, a watchdog of Elder Ephraim's monasteries. His website http://gotruthreform.org/ has been tracking the subject for the last 5 years and he's highly critical of Elder Ephraim's methods.
"What is going on at the monasteries, and why aren't they confronting these issues, is one of the biggest problems our church is facing today," Atsaves tells Krist's Kids in an interview via Skype.
There is also billionaire, and Forbes 400 businessman, Michael Jaharis. He's Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council and he's calling the monastery out. Four months ago his speech was uploaded all over the internet.
Jaharis said, "We expect to take severe and appropriate action as required to remedy this existing issue - since not doing so could have long term consequences."
So far, the Nevins say, there's been nothing from the church and they feel robbed of something priceless.
"Unethical, to say the least," says Scott's dad. "It was coercive, to say the least. And it was extremely, emotionally and psychologically damaging to him."
The Nevins first born son who, at the age of 25, left this earth on the only road leading to St. Anthony's.
The only thing that would bring his parents comfort is the removal, from power, of those responsible.
Scot's dad goes on to say. "Those people need to go, especially those who were in positions of authority, who knew better."
And so, a few days ago, the Nevins through their attorney, mailed the church and the monastery a demand letter. If they don't make changes, the Nevins say they'll file a lawsuit.
Kristi's Kids tried numerous times by phone and email to reach the Greek Orthodox leaders involved. They have not returned any emails or phone calls.