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Shelly Miscavige

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Shelly Miscavige
Michele Diane Barnett

(1961-01-18) January 18, 1961 (age 63)
DisappearedAugust 1, 2007 (aged 46)
Riverside County, California, U.S.
StatusMissing for 16 years, 11 months and 11 days
Organization(s)Church of Scientology
Sea Org
Known forMarriage to Scientology leader and public absence
(m. 1982)

Michele Diane Miscavige (née Barnett; born January 18, 1961) is an American Scientologist. She is a member of the Church of Scientology's Sea Org who married Scientology leader David Miscavige.[1]: 303  She was last seen in public in August 2007. Since her disappearance, she has been the subject of speculation and inquiries regarding her whereabouts and wellbeing.

In 2012, attorneys who said they represented her responded by saying she was merely living a private life devoted to the Church of Scientology. In August 2013, actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and critic of the organization, filed a missing person report regarding Miscavige with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) which was closed within hours by the LAPD as "unfounded".

Family and personal life[edit]

Miscavige was born Michele Diane Barnett on January 18, 1961, in Dallas, Texas. Her mother, Mary Florence "Flo" Fike Barnett, was a long-time Scientologist[2] who later resigned, taking with her copies of "confidential upper-level materials". She joined David Mayo's Advanced Ability Center, an independent Scientology organization considered heterodox by the Church of Scientology.[3] According to testimony by former high-ranking church executive Vicki Aznaran: "The fact that David Miscavige was linked to [Barnett] by familial ties was extremely repugnant to him and to his wife..."[3][4]

On September 8, 1985, Mary Barnett was found dead at age 52 from a shot to the head from a Ruger 10/22 rifle. The body also had three rifle shot wounds to the chest (one surface wound, one through a breast implant, and one that passed through the left lung and fractured a rib), and there were superficial slash marks on her wrists that were identified in the autopsy report as possibly having been several days old.[3] Her death was ruled as consistent with suicide.[3] David Miscavige denied any part in his mother-in-law's death in an affidavit on the case, calling it a "personal tragedy in my family’s life."[3] However, in the presence of other witnesses he exclaimed: "That bitch got what she deserved."[3][4] Miscavige's 77-year-old father, Maurice Elliott Barnett, died on June 25, 2007, and Shelly was escorted to the funeral on August 1, 2007. She has not been seen publicly since.[1]: 303 

Scientology career[edit]

Miscavige was a member of the Sea Org, the organization responsible for the international management of the Church of Scientology and its affiliated entities. From the age of 12, she was a member of the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), the internal Sea Org group responsible for personally servicing Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard aboard his flagship, MV Apollo, in the 1970s. She was described as "quiet, petite and younger than most of the other Messengers at the time ... and a bit overshadowed by the older girls".[1]: 176  Jim Dincalci, one of her shipmates, says that she was "a sweet, innocent thing thrown into chaos".[1]: 176 

At the age of 21, in December 1982, she married a fellow CMO member, 22-year-old David Miscavige.[1]: 176  She came to view Miscavige as the reincarnation of Simón Bolívar and herself as his mistress Manuela Sáenz.[1]: 302  She subsequently joined her husband's group as the official assistant to her husband, the chairman of the board (COB) of Scientology's Religious Technology Center. According to author Lawrence Wright, she was closely involved in Scientology's liaison with its highest profile member, Tom Cruise.[1]: 248  When Cruise began a three-year relationship with Penélope Cruz, Miscavige supervised Cruz's auditing and helped her through Scientology's Purification Rundown program.[1]: 285 

After the end of the Cruise–Cruz relationship, Miscavige was reported to have led a Scientology program to find a new girlfriend for Cruise. Around a hundred young Scientologist actresses were interviewed, though they were not told why.[1]: 285  An actress named Nazanin Boniadi was introduced to Cruise and dated him for a few months before he broke off the relationship in January 2005.[1]: 286-87  The search resumed, with more actresses invited to audition for what they thought was a role in a forthcoming Mission: Impossible film, and eventually concluded with Katie Holmes meeting and marrying Cruise.[1]: 290-91  His attorney denies that any Scientology executive set him up with girlfriends.[1]: 290  Miscavige subsequently oversaw a project to use Scientology members and contractors to renovate Cruise's nine-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills.[1]: 300–301 


In 2006, Shelly returned before her husband from a trip aboard the Freewinds. After David arrived back, Shelly was said to have "visibly changed" her mood and to have "looked cowed". Mike Rinder, then Scientology's chief spokesman, says that she asked him if her husband was still wearing his wedding ring. Shortly afterwards, in June 2006, she disappeared and no longer made any appearances in public.[5][6][7] Miscavige has not appeared in public since August 2007 when she was spotted being escorted to her father's funeral.[1]: 303 

At least two missing person reports have been filed with the Los Angeles Police Department concerning Miscavige: one was reported by Lawrence Wright, though he did not say who submitted it;[1]: 302-3  and another in August 2013 by actress Leah Remini,[8] but which was closed within hours by the LAPD as "unfounded".[9][10] Remini, who used to be a member of the Church of Scientology, had questioned Shelly's absence at the 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.[11] Remini further questioned Miscavige's whereabouts in her show produced for the A&E network, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath in December 2018.[12]

The Church of Scientology has not commented on Miscavige's location[1]: 303 [13] and regularly hides replies on their X account of people asking about her whereabouts. In 2011, Lawrence Wright said that Scientology's spokesman Tommy Davis told him that he knew where Shelly was, but would not tell him where.[14] In July 2012, responding to press accounts of speculation on Miscavige's whereabouts, two UK newspapers were informed by lawyers who said they represented Miscavige and "that she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology."[15]

Some former Sea Org members have said that they believe Miscavige is being held against her will at the compound of the Scientologist's Church of Spiritual Technology corporation near the mountain town of Running Springs in San Bernardino County, California.[6] There continues to be speculation about the whereabouts of Miscavige. Remini has been pushing for an investigation into the conflicts of interest and relationship between the Church of Scientology and the Hollywood Division of the LAPD.[16][17]

In popular culture[edit]

The Fox police sitcom television series Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes reference to Miscavige's alleged disappearance in its fifth-season episode "NutriBoom". The episode satirizes Scientology as a multi-level marketing company that produces amino acids and amino acid reducers, allegedly to improve their clients' health.[18] Brooklyn Nine-Nine's parody of Miscavige, Debbie Stovelman, is found to be alive and well, having faked her own disappearance to allow her to run NutriBoom and escape the consequences of illegal activities.[18] In the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode "Sliding Van Doors", the character Gretchen, who rose up in the ranks of a parody of Scientology named Cosmetology, repeatedly asserts that her husband Shelly is "definitely alive."[19]

In John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, he included "Where's Shelly" (in Latin) in the opening montage of the show for an entire season. In the final episode of season 5, he did a piece that wrapped up his year long secret "advertising campaign" for Scientology and demanded that they pay him $650,000–$700,000 for it. In his October 2021 segment on Taiwan, he joked about Miscavige's wife before asking, "Where's Shelly?" In the March 19, 2023, segment on Timeshares, Oliver said "Where’s Shelly?"[20] In his April 2023 segment regarding Mickey Mouse's future lapse into public domain, an animated Mickey repeatedly asked "Where's Shelly Miscavige?", which Oliver stated would become his catchphrase, as Mickey asked "Where's Shelly?" in a later segment on Chuck E. Cheese.[21] At the 80th Golden Globe Awards in January 2023, host Jerrod Carmichael joked that since Tom Cruise had returned his three Golden Globe awards the previous year, those trophies could be exchanged "for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige".[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Wright, Lawrence (2013). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-70066-7. OL 25424776M.
  2. ^ Tobin, Thomas C (October 25, 1998). "The Man Behind Scientology". St Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on November 12, 1999. Archive page 2, page 3, page 4
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ortega, Tony (January 25, 2012). "The Strange Death of Flo Barnett, Mother-in-Law to Scientology Leader David Miscavige". Village Voice.
  4. ^ a b Prince, Jesse (September 13, 2018). The Expert Witness: My Life at the Top of Scientology. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform. pp. 145, 154. ISBN 978-1725992634.
  5. ^ Lawrence Wright, Going Clear, pp. 302–303. Quote: "That spring, Shelly returned from a Freewinds voyage before her husband did, and in his absence she decided to arrange the Org Board herself. There were no settled posts, executives were still churning in the Hole, and the management structure was a mess. Taking matters into her own hands, Shelly made a number of appointments. Soon after her husband came back, Shelly's mood visibly changed. Her brother-in-law, John Brousseau, observed that she looked cowed: "The bulldog was gone." Shortly before she disappeared, she asked Mike Rinder if Dave still had his wedding ring on. Then she vanished. ... She was escorted to her father's funeral in August 2007. That's the last time she was seen in public."
  6. ^ a b Edwards, Jim (July 13, 2012). "Tour The Compound Where The Missing Wife of Scientology's Leader Might Be Living". Business Insider. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  7. ^ Lutz, Ashley (July 3, 2012). "Scientology leader David Miscavige's wife has been missing since 2006". Business Insider. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  8. ^ "Leah Remini Files Missing Person Report for Scientology Leader David Miscavige's Wife". The Hollywood Reporter. August 8, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  9. ^ Finn, Natalie; Passalaqua, Holly (August 8, 2013). "Leah Remini's Scientology Mystery Solved: Missing Person Case for Shelly Miscavige Now Closed, Per LAPD". E! Online. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (August 9, 2013). "Scientology leader's wife located by LAPD after Leah Remini inquiry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Kelsey, Eric; Sinha-Roy, Piya (July 13, 2013). "Latest celebrity defection casts light on Scientology leadership". Reuters. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  12. ^ Barilla, Lucille (December 19, 2018). "Leah Remini Demands Answers About Missing Scientology Leader's Wife On Latest Episode Of A&E Series". Inquisitr. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  13. ^ "Where's Tommy Davis". Nine Network. Retrieved August 20, 2012 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ "The Apostate : Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology". The New Yorker. February 6, 2011.
  15. ^ "Mrs Shelly Miscavige". Telegraph. July 31, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  16. ^ "Where Is Shelly Miscavige? Wife of Scientology Leader Has Been Missing for Over a Decade". In Touch Weekly. January 10, 2023.
  17. ^ Pearce, Jonathan (November 15, 2022). "Where is Shelly Miscavige? Scientology's First Lady still missing after 15 years". OnlySky.
  18. ^ a b Ferguson, Latoya (April 15, 2018). "With 'NutriBoom' and 'DFW', the Nine-Nine works through some unfinished business". The AV Club. Archived from the original on November 4, 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  19. ^ Lewis, Hilary (January 19, 2019). "Breaking Down the Scientology Parallels in 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's' 'Sliding Doors' Episode". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  20. ^ "John Oliver — Where's Shelly?". March 31, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  21. ^ "Mickey Mouse Joins 'Last Week Tonight' As The Show Aims To Provoke Disney's Copyright Lawyers". April 3, 2023. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  22. ^ "Jerrod Carmichael Mocks Tom Cruise for Returning Golden Globe Trophies: 'Let's Exchange Them' for Shelly Miscavige's Return". Variety. January 10, 2023. Hey, guys backstage I found these," Carmichael said. "[It's the] three Golden Globe awards that Tom Cruise returned. I'm just a host briefly, or whatever, but I have a pitch I think. Maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige.

Further reading[edit]