Overview:

Shell Miscavige, the wife of the leader of the Church of Scientology, has been missing for 15 years. But the LAPD closed the case after just hours. Why could this be?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Most people with even a passing interest in Scientology will have heard of David Miscavige. He is the infamous leader of the Church of Scientology, Tom Cruise’s best man at his wedding to Katie Holmes, and husband to Shelly Miscavige.

Shelly has been missing for 15 years. When famous suppressed (Scientology’s form of disfellowship) Scientologist Leah Remini left the cult-like religion in 2013, she immediately filed a missing person report.

The case was closed within hours.

And now, rather publicly, with a further nine years elapsing and no sign of Shelly Miscavige, Leah Remini is shouting about it—and for good reason.

Let’s talk about Cory Palka

Remini’s proclamations center around Cory Palka, who was a long-time captain of the LAPD Hollywood Division, a vet with 34 years of service. Los Angeles, it must be noted, is the home to the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center. The organization is so invested in (or, indeed, requires investment from) celebrities that they have a Center to act as an interface.

Remini has published a picture of Palka publicly accepting a charitable $20,000 check from the Church. It certainly looks like if Palka was ever required to investigate the Church in LA for any reason that there would be a conflict of interest.

When Remini asked detectives whether they had seen or spoken to Shelly, she was met with LAPD claims that this was “classified.”

Palka is presently being investigated for giving confidential information to CBS executives. This week, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves and CBS’s parent company, Paramount Global, had agreed to pay $9.75 million after an investigation by New York state investigation found concerted concealment of sexual misconduct allegations. As The New York Times reports:

The account from the office of Letitia James also made public how Mr. Moonves, who stepped down from CBS in 2018 after multiple misconduct allegations, and other network officials worked with a captain in the Los Angeles Police Department to suppress details of a formal sexual assault complaint against the entertainment titan. The complaint was filed with the department in 2017 by Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who had worked with Mr. Moonves decades earlier.

The L.A.P.D. said this week that it had begun an investigation into the now retired captain’s conduct.

That retired captain is Cory Palka, who had also worked as a security guard for CBS. Shortly after the victim in the Moonves assault allegation lodged her complaint, Palka left a message for the Head of Events at CBS:

“Hey, Ian, it’s Cory Palka, I know we haven’t talked in a while. I am a captain at L.A.P.D. Hollywood. Somebody walked in the station about a couple hours ago and made allegations against your boss regarding a sexual assault. It’s confidential, as you know, but call me, and I can give you some of the details and let you know what the allegation is before it goes to the media or gets out. So, all right, talk to you after a while. Bye.”

Palka provided a report marked “confidential” to CBS. After further collusion, and when (a year later) Moonves resigned from CBS after some articles in The New Yorker [said what?], Palka wrote to the Head of Events, Ian Metrose:

“I’m so sorry to hear this news Ian. Sickens me. We worked so hard to try to avoid this day. I am so completely sad.”

Palka then wrote directly to Mr. Moonves: “Les -I’m deeply sorry that this has happened. I will always stand with, by and pledge my allegiance to you. You have embodied leadership, class and the highest of character through all of this. With upmost [sic] respect.”

This gives some context for the sort of operator Cory Palk appears to be, at least as according to Leah Remini.

Opening the missing person case

When Remini filed her missing person report on Shelly Miscavige, the wife of the Church leader had already been missing for 8 years. Remini recalls being “shocked” in 2006 when Shelly was not present at Cruise’s “wedding of the century” to Katie Holmes at which her husband was the best man. The event was seen as a “critical” event in Scientology’s calendar where all the top Scientologists would be in attendance.

Except Mrs. Miscaviage. “Shelly was always with her husband,” says Remini. “She was his shadow, not only because she was married to him but also because she was his top aide. For her not to be in attendance was not only unusual but also unimaginable.”

At the wedding, Remini was surprised at Shelly’s absence to the point of asking about it. As Remini recalls, “When I asked where Shelly was, Tommy Davis, Tom Cruise, and David Miscavige’s henchman told me, ‘you don’t have the fucking rank to ask about Shelly.'”

As a result of Remini asking about the absence and showing concern, she “was subjected to months of cruel interrogations and reprogramming for the ‘high crime’ of asking where Shelly was.” Those self-preservation mechanisms of the organization were kicking into gear.

Remini wrote letters and tried to phone, but to no avail. Remini has a friend at the LAPD and when she left Scientology, she filed a report with them, really hoping to find Shelly. Hours after the filing, the LAPD closed the case, announcing that they had found Shelly Miscavige.

However, when Remini asked detectives whether they had seen or spoken to Shelly, she was met with LAPD claims that this was “classified.”

“I was told to file a public record request if I wanted further information. I spent $50k in attorneys fees filing various requests. My requests for information from the LAPD were shut down,” Remini has said, adding, “I still don’t know anything about the circumstances of this investigation.”

Remini has claimed that Scientology has always done a good job of “ingratiating itself with law enforcement despite being experts in obstructing justice.” This is something OnlySky has reported on in the context of the Danny Masterson sexual abuse trial, with supporting comments by former Scientologist Chris Shelton.

The simple fact of the matter is that Palka and Dawson both had close relationships with the Church of Scientology, and Palka is being investigated for breaking the rules to favor another large organization in a very serious legal matter. This case demands answers, not a mere hand wave and a claim of “classified.”

As Remini claims, “Scientology hires off-duty LAPD cops as security and donates to LAPD charities. All while instructing their members never to help any criminal investigations involving Scientologists and making it a high crime within Scientology to report Scientologists to law enforcement.”

A parallel ethical system

In secular society, we rely on the legal system and law enforcement agencies. Not so much with Scientology. This is reflected in the Ethics and Justice system of the Church, which operates as its own judge, jury, and executioner with regard to errors, misdemeanors, and crimes. With the us-versus-them mentality of Scientologists, anything governmental is seen with a great degree of skepticism and mistrust. 

This can be seen in the remit of an “Ethics Officer,” whose job is “to remove counter-intention from the environment. If you’re getting in the way of Scientology or its mission,“ Chris Shelton, [WHO IS HE?] explains, “even if you’re a Scientologist—especially if you’re a Scientologist—the Ethics Officer is going to want to see you and deal with you and remove that counter-intention. They are not about helping you as an individual. L. Ron Hubbard’s writings and his policies on this are crystal clear.”

This set of priorities is worth bearing in mind.

Remini has met with Cory Palka. When she did, she remarks, he had a letter on his desk thanking him for all of his help with matters pertaining to Scientology, and an invitation to lunch at the aforementioned Celebrity Center. This, for Remini, represents a closeness between Palka and the Church that warrants suspicion. Indeed, he dismissed Remini when she suggested donating twice as much to LAPD charities as the Church did if he agreed not to accept donations from Scientology.

Such closeness is clearly evidenced in a set of emails obtained by journalist Tony Ortega between Palka and officials in the Church.

In his LAPD capacity, Palka appointed a specialist detective to deal with all Scientology complaints. Something of a privilege. Further, Palka offered to set up contact between the Church and the Detroit Chief of Police.

The detective who was personally responsible for Remini’s missing person filing, Lieutenant Andre Dawson, also had a “cozy relationship” with the Church, with Remini detailing a speech by Dawson at the Celebrity Center.

Remini also gives photographic evidence (useful because it was quickly taken down) of a Scientology information kiosk set up in the LAPD Hollywood Division.

The simple fact of the matter is that Palka and Dawson both had close relationships with the Church of Scientology, and Palka is being investigated for breaking the rules to favor another large organization in a very serious legal matter. This case demands answers, not a mere hand wave and a claim of “classified.”

As Chris Shelton shared with OnlySky, “It’s a small group with an outsized reach because celebrities like Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Moss give it air cover and a lot of money in support. That in turn feeds our fascination and outrage over how it is that the wife of prominent, PR-conscious David Miscavige hasn’t been seen or heard from in 15 years. How does he get away with this? Is she okay? Is she even alive?”

But the concern for Shelly Miscavige, as Shelton sees it, can be extrapolated much further.

“It’s not just Shelly that people are wondering about,” he tells us. “I think we are all very concerned about everyone in that group and Shelly sort of personifies all that concern and anger. It’s well past time that this question of where Shelly is be answered and that the Church of Scientology stop hiding behind its so-called religious status to answer for the very real crimes it and its prominent members have been engaged in for many years. Enough is enough.”

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...