HPA/Hutchins Photo; Claudio and Renata Lugli
November 04, 2015 01:40 PM

The story behind Leah Remini‘s very public, dramatic split with Scientology started with a simple question.

In 2006, the former King of Queens star was attending the lavish wedding between the church’s biggest star – Tom Cruise – and Katie Holmes at a castle outside Rome when she noticed that Shelly Miscavige, her longtime friend and wife of controversial Scientology leader David Miscavige was nowhere to be found.

“I kept asking throughout the night, ‘Does anybody know where Shelly is?’ ” Remini tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, which details her more than three decades in the church – and her personal journey to break free.

When none of the guests, most of whom were high-ranking church insiders, would respond, Remini, 45, says she posed the question to top church official Tommy Davis, who she says replied: ” ‘I don’t think you have the f—— rank, quite honestly, to ask where Shelly is.’ It was a little bit shocking to hear that answer. That sort of sparked something in me.”

Through an attorney, Davis denies having said that. “This claim is an invention,” says his lawyer, Gary Soter, adding that Davis and his wife, Jessica, a Scientology staffer who was also at the wedding, “recall observing Ms. Remini’s repeated rude behavior which became so blatant it was a topic of dismayed discussion among other guests, including friends of Ms. Remini.”

Remini had good reason to be curious about the whereabouts of her friend, who reportedly hasn’t been seen in public in a decade. Cruise’s nuptials, she says, was considered to be the “wedding of the century” by Scientologists and it seemed odd to her that the wife of Tom’s best man wouldn’t be in attendance at such an important event.

For much more from Remini – including her revelations about Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and more – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

For Remini, whose odyssey with the church is detailed in her new book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, the repercussions of asking such a question, she says, along with her other perceived misbehavior at the wedding, led to her being summoned to a church facility in Clearwater, Florida.

It was there, during a four-month hiatus from King of Queens, that she underwent a grueling “Sec Check, Truth Rundown and Reprogramming,” she says, which she describes as, “intensive and exhaustive forms of interrogations” lasting as long as 12 hours a day.

Another six years passed before Remini summoned the resolve to leave the church in July 2013 and for much of that time she continued to press for answers about Shelly, whom she says she had gotten to know at church events and movie premieres.

Weeks after leaving the church, she filed a missing persons report with the LAPD. The report was officially ruled unfounded after investigators said they met with Shelly. Remini says police told her that Shelly “did not want to talk,” she says. The Church of Scientology has long mantained that Shelly has never been missing and says in a statement: “Ms. Remini also continues her bizarre efforts to harass the Church of Scientology’s leader and his wife, whom Ms. Remini has been obsessed with and has stalked for years.”

Remini says she is still “concerned” for her friend. “When I asked the officers, ‘Did you see her with your own eyes? Is she alive and safe?’ their response was, ‘We cannot give you that information, ma’am,'” she says. “I still don’t have an answer.”

Leah Remini on the cover of PEOPLE

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