Victim Accused Software Firm Founder Of Diverting $200,000 To Unidentified ‘Church’
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.
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.
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.
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.