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D.A. Won't File Charges Against Man Who Kept Wife Locked Up

January 31, 1990|JOHN H. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has decided not to file criminal charges against the husband of a mentally distraught woman who was kept isolated in a cell-like bedroom for two months, a prosecutor in Pomona said Tuesday.

Edwin Coenan, 41, was arrested Dec. 5 after Pomona police found his wife incoherent, bruised and confined in a boarded-up room at a residence in the Phillips Ranch area.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Hayes said the case was being "kicked back to police detectives for further investigation."

Detective Carolyn Lundstrum said Coenan has refused to discuss the case with police. She added that the wife's father and stepmother, Floyd and Audrey Twede, who live at the house, also refused to answer police questions. The Twedes were not arrested.

Attorneys for the husband and the Twedes told investigators that Marianne Coenan, 31, was isolated so she could safely recover from a mental breakdown suffered in October. When police and Los Angeles County mental health workers found Coenan, she was locked behind a door into which a small, square window was cut and steel bars had been inserted.

"Generally speaking, the family was not under obligation to report (the confinement)," Hayes said. "Our decision not to file charges was based on insufficient information to support the case. From what I read between the lines, these people actually thought they were benefiting this woman."

The family, which belongs to the Church of Scientology, apparently adhered to beliefs espoused by the church's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard--particularly, a disdain for psychiatric treatment.

Coenan's confinement was consistent with the method of treating mental breakdowns described in Scientology literature that police requested and reviewed while investigating the case, Lundstrum said.

"Based on the report we submitted, the (district attorney's) office was not convinced that any criminal activity took place," the detective said.

Prosecutor Hayes said the investigation will continue until additional relatives and friends of the woman are questioned.

"We want the police to conduct a few more interviews," Hayes said.

"I don't think the wife has been questioned yet," he said. "I believe her condition has improved greatly, though. The detectives will talk to her when she is able to handle an interview."

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