Title: Parents of Arizona Suicide Monk Nevins Give Exclusive Interview to TNH
Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 2/28/2013
Publication: The National Herald
MODESTO, CA Nine months after Scott Nevins, their smart, handsome, happy boy, full of life and promise committed suicide outside of the monastery of St. Anthony in Arizona where he had spent more than six years as a novice, his parents, Ashley and Diane from Modesto, CA broke their silence and spoke to TNH.
They are still grieving the loss of their son and they alert other parents to be careful.
TNH notified Archbishop Demetrios America, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, and Abbot Paisios of the monastery of St. Anthony in Arizona about this interview, but they did not respond.
The interview follows:
TNH: How are you feeling?
Ashley: Our hearts are broken. These are difficult times. We have faced a lot of opposition. We have been tremendously frustrated and we grieving over the loss of our son.
Diane: It has been hard. It has been a long eight years. It started a long time ago.
TNH: Do you have any other children?
Ashley: Yes we do. We have a daughter who is in school getting a marketing degree and another daughter who is in nursing school.
TNH: What type of a child was Scott ? Was he the normal, happy young man as I saw him smiling in photographs?
Ashley: Scott was a very congenial person, very laid back if you will, easygoing. He had a very good sense of humor, he always had a big demeanor about himself, He was a joy to be around. Scott was the kind of guy you met and you just loved him, he was such a cool guy, he was always kind and generous with the family.
TNH: What pushed him to do what he did?
Diane: He was very idealistic. He was looking for perfection here on earth. He was contemplating. He was looking for God's will on earth. He was looking for the perfect Christianity. We let him to go and check out different churches.
TNH: Did he show any sign that he was going to do what he did?
Diane: No. We had talked to many of his friends that he met after he came back from the monastery and so they saw him before and after, and he was not the person they knew before.
TNH: How sure are you that Scott committed suicide?
Diane: We are sure. We had one question: we wanted to know which hand the gun went in because and it was in the left hand.
Ashley: He left no note.
TNH: Did you do your own investigation or you just were satisfied what the police report stated?
Ashley: We did not.
Diane: The main question was which hand the gun was in. Anything else on the autopsy made sense and didn't give us any major reason to seek a separate investigation.
TNH: How old was Scott when he went to the monastery?
Diane: He had turned 19 years old before he went to monastery. He was a sophomore in college.
TNH: Did Scott propose to you to convert to Orthodoxy?
Ashley: Not us.
TNH: How did you react when he told that he was going to become a monk?
Diane: First, he said he wanted to go and visit and stay for six months. Our reservations were that he was not going to school. He got very upset about that, he said "I have decided that I am not going to go to school, I am going to go there and stay for six months because I think I am going to become a monk," and we were very much against that.
Ashley: He came to us and asked us our blessings to go and become a monastic. We did tell him no and he cried. He was very upset. We told him this is the wrong decision for his life that it will not lead to anything good. He didn't really understand what he was getting into. He listened to the monastery and not to his parents.
TNH: Did he change his behavior?
Ashley: As soon as he went to the monastery for the first time, he started to become more deceptive, more elusive, and more reclusive of what he was talking about.
Diane: He was saying one thing and then he was saying another.
TNH: Did he ever talk to you about problems at the monastery?
Ashley: Not until the end.
TNH: What did he say at the end?
Ashley: He had some physical problems at the monastery, his diet and so forth, and they had taken him to an emergency room. Scott could see that the elder had a different lifestyle. He had different food, he had a refrigerator with his own food in it. He had special gifts from people. Scott had told me that the place was set up for the glory of elders Ephraim and Paisios. Everybody was working for the glory of those two people. It was like a tourist center. He had just started seeing these things. He had a confrontation with the elder asking him "are you holy, are you holy?" He said there was something wrong with the money, he couldn't figure out what it was, he just knew that there was something wrong.
TNH: Did he ever say that Ephraim or Paisios or anybody else had made any kind of attacks or insults towards him?
Diane: He had said that charges had been trumped charges on other monks and they were arrested. He had told us that there were monks in disagreement and they would take those monks out in the desert and bury them alive. After Barack Obama became president Scott called us and said that "I am hearing that martial law will govern the United States."
Ashley: He was in conspiracy theory environment and that made his mind thinking in those terms.
TNH: Did he tell you what type of insults he experienced in the monastery?
Diane: One time he had toothpaste on his beard and there were no mirrors in the monastery and Paisios came up to him and said something in Greek asking him if there was sperm of his beard, i.e., as if he were giving oral sex.
Ashley: Maybe that is going on down there.
TNH: Did he say if any sexual activities were taking place in the monastery?
Ashley: No, in fact it was the opposite of healthy sexuality. You can't look at a girl. You can't have any thoughts like that. He was 19 years old. They were clamping down his normal emotional sexuality, his emotional well-being.
Diane: Scott at times said all of the monks were using drugs. I don't know if that included drinking. After he escaped and he was at the airport, he was petrified because he was afraid that he was going to be reprimanded by the elder.
Ashley: He left around 2AM and walked for four hours until some ladies gave him a ride and some money and he got to the airport.
TNH: Did he say what kinds of drugs were used at the monastery?
Ashley: He might have exaggerated. Maybe some people were on medication.
Diane: He didn't give any specifics at all.
TNH: How was he after he left the monastery?
Diane: Very quiet, he didn't talk a lot. There was a long silence between the time you asked a question and he answered.
TNH: Did he tell you why he left?
Diane: He went to confession with Ephraim through an interpreter and he continued to ask Ephraim "are you holy, are you holy?" Ephraim said "no I am not holy," and that was the last thing which broke the chain. It didn't make sense to me, particularly. It was sometime after 2009 that he wrote a letter to us saying "I can't write any more letters to you. I am not going to take any more phone calls. I am not going to call you, I am going to work on my prayer more," and we thought that's it, and it's over. We are never going to hear from him again.
TNH: Did you visit him at the monastery?
Ashley: Yes and I spent the night there one time just to get the feel for the place.
Diane: We took our daughters there once, they wanted to see.
Ashley: He had become a weak person. He couldn't keep a conversation. He would go dead after 15 minutes.
Diane: Also, he didn't give us much to talk about after a few minutes. He fell silent and started chanting under his breath. He never asked us: "how are you? How are the girls doing? How is school for them?" He never had an interest in anything.
TNH: Did he embrace you as a son would his parents?
Diane: No, no.
TNH: How did Ephraim and Paisios treat you at the monastery?
Diane: We didn't see them. Scott wanted us to meet them, but we didn't want to. The other monks were very kind and polite.
Ashley: They wouldn't talk to you unless they had permission. I was at bookstore and there was a monk and I asked him which one out of these books is probably the best book I can read? He spent some time looking at the books and he said these are all good books. I picked up a New Testament and I told him this is my favorite book. He became red-faced.
Diane: He said the Bible is a good book written by men, but they study Ephraim.
TNH: Did you write a letter to Archbishop Demetrios of America and ask to meet with him in person?
Diane: He said "you should talk to Gerasimos."
Ashley: He told me in a letter "you should talk to Gerasimos because he has a psychological degree."
TNH: At some point you met with Gerasimos. Would you tell us about that meeting?
Ashley: We told him that we were concerned about what is going on in that monastery. We don't think is safe there. We don't think it's good there. What do you think? He went on to tell us a story about two sisters in Greece that had run away in the middle of the night to join a nunnery. He told us he was going to make changes to oversee the monastery but none of them would be retroactive. He didn't like the fact that I spoke out and I spoke out boldly for my son. He didn't care. He wasn't helpful at all and at the end I told him "you can't help us."
TNH: Recently you sent a demand letter to the Archdiocese, to the Metropolis of San Francisco, and to the Monastery asking for a settlement. What type of settlement are you talking about?
Ashley: We are not at liberty to talk about it.
TNH: Are you talking about money?
Ashley: We are not at liberty to talk about that.
TNH: Did the Archdiocese, the Metropolis, and the Monastery respond to your demand letter?
Ashley: Yes, they did.
TNH: What message do you send to those parents whose children have gone to the monastery?
Diane: Don't go. Be aware. Watch out. It's not healthy there. Save your children.
TNH: Has the American Media shown interest in this story? Did any major networks communicate with you?
Ashley: There are people interested in talking to us.
TNH: If you had an opportunity to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, what would you tell him?
Ashley: We want our son back. Will you please bring him back to us?