For a few days, we have been communicating with a woman we’re going to call Rachel. We know Rachel’s real name, and a lot more about her besides. Everything she’s told us about herself and her husband has checked out. But because they fear retaliation for telling us what they know (and they say that it’s already happening, more about that below), we’ve agreed not to use their real names.
Rachel and her family live less than two miles from the Church of Spiritual Technology headquarters near Twin Peaks, California — the 33-acre super-secret compound where we believe Scientology leader David Miscavige has kept his wife Shelly stashed away for the last 11 years.
The small CST headquarters is in the mountains above Los Angeles and near Lake Arrowhead, California. It’s not to be confused with Scientology’s much larger 500-acre International Base about 50 miles away and near Hemet, where David Miscavige lives and where, in 2004, he created a notorious prison for his top executives that is known as “The Hole.”
In the late summer of 2005, eyewitnesses tell us, David Miscavige blew up over some minor changes that his wife Shelly made at Int Base while he was away. A week later, she vanished. Several different lines of evidence have convinced us that at that point she was moved to the CST headquarters, and she’s been living and working there ever since. Shelly was only seen in public one time since then, in the summer of 2007 when she was allowed to go to the funeral of her father in the presence of Scientology “handlers.”
Rachel, who has lived her entire life in the area, tells us she was only vaguely aware of the odd CST parcel, and didn’t really know what it was for. “High school kids here like to drive by and flip off the cameras,” she says with a laugh.
Then, earlier this year, Rachel had to deal with a medical situation that required her to spend a lot of downtime taking medication. With time on her hands, she began watching a lot of Netflix and YouTube. And that’s how she stumbled on Leah Remini’s appearance on ABC’s 20/20 which had first aired the previous year, in October 2015.
In that appearance, Leah was promoting her book, Troublemaker, and 20/20’s Dan Harris asked her about the fateful 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when Leah first noticed that Shelly Miscavige was missing.
At that point in the program, ABC posted this image of Shelly…
It was one of the photos of Shelly taken around the year 1990 by Claudio and Renata Lugli, who were Scientologists and personal tailors to the Miscaviges. In the photo, Shelly is modeling an outfit they had made for her. (We met the Luglis in Italy a few years ago and brought these photos back with us.)
Rachel says she was stunned. She called over her husband, and she says at that moment, they were “90 percent sure” that they had seen the woman before, on two different occasions in the nearby town of Crestline.
The first incident happened in the first week of December, 2015. Rachel says they were at Lake Drive Hardware, just a few blocks from Lake Gregory, picking up some Christmas trees that had been donated to the place where she works. Rachel’s work involves helping people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse problems, and she says it’s that background which made her take note when a woman walked into the store.
“She was a thin, smaller woman, escorted by two men,” Rachel says. “Disheveled. Almost like a drug addict, or like she was homeless.”
The woman, whom Rachel now believes was Shelly Miscavige, looked all of her 55 years, had long, stringy graying hair, and appeared “frail.”
The two men with her looked younger; Rachel estimates they were in their 30s. “They seemed to be leading her, like you would someone who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It was awkward.”
She apologized for not noticing more about the young men. “My attention was never on them. My attention was on her. This was what I do for a living, work with people who are in that kind of shape. And I had a thought that this woman was not supposed to be there. It was disturbing.”
Four months later, around April 2016, the same thing happened. This time, Rachel says she was at Goodwin & Sons Market, a few blocks away from the hardware store, when the same woman came in, again escorted by two younger men. The woman had the same kind of appearance as the previous time, but Rachel didn’t notice if it was the same two young men.
When Rachel later saw the 20/20 special while she was convalescing, she realized that the frail looking woman was Shelly Miscavige. She then began researching more about Scientology and who Shelly was.
Then, as Leah Remini’s new A&E series began to air recently, Rachel became determined to do something about her sighting, and she reached out to us.
By then, she had already made a trip to the CST compound with her husband. They had seen the drone footage we posted of the compound in September and they wanted to find out what they could see of the place from the ground.
They took a few photos, including this one…
But as they did so, a truck emerged from behind a fence, and began following them as they made their way back to town. Since then, in the last few days, they have noticed people sitting in cars outside their home.
“Yesterday at the grocery store, some guy asked my husband for change and directions, then started asking him personal questions, about how long he had lived in the area, things like that. It was really weird,” she says.
We asked her to update us if she continues to see strange activity.
In the meantime, we called up Dylan Gill, the only former CST employee who has ever given press interviews, and whose story we first told in 2012.
Dylan told us that he’s been positive for years that Shelly Miscavige was being held at the CST headquarters. And when he worked there, he regularly was given time for buying supplies in town.
“I think it’s very possible that it was Shelly they saw, and if she had company, it’s because of who Shelly is,” he says. “I was pretty positive that she’s there, and this just confirms what we expected.”
In 2013, Leah Remini filed a missing person report about Shelly with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD closed the case without ever giving Leah a formal response, and told reporters that the case was “unfounded.”
On Monday, Leah’s attorney, Douglas Mirell, filed a records request with the LAPD, asking it to explain how it closed the case and what investigation was done to make sure that it had checked on Shelly’s whereabouts.
Leah tells us that so far, she’s had no response to her new request.
Was it Shelly that Rachel and her husband spotted near the CST headquarters twice in the last year? At this point, we think her report is credible. And if that’s the case, our concern for Shelly Miscavige is even more acute.
Frail, disheveled, perhaps disoriented. Is Shelly Miscavige in need of help? And when is the LAPD, or any law enforcement agency, going to take her disappearance more seriously?
Chris Shelton on Leah Remini’s A&E series
Says Chris about this video: “Leah Remini’s A&E show, Scientology and the Aftermath, is a tour-de-force of truth against the vicious and horrible lies that Scientology tells about its critics and what it does to its own members if they dare to buck its authority. In this episode, I lay out the five reasons that this show is far more important than just ‘another Scientology documentary’ and why everyone should be seeing it.”
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield