KING OF QUEENS LEAH'S ANGUISH AS HER SISTER FACES YEARS IN JAIL FOR COCAINE TRAFFICKING

Published on: June 29, 2005
KING OF QUEENS LEAH'S ANGUISH AS HER SISTER FACES YEARS IN JAIL FOR COCAINE TRAFFICKING

By Jim Nelson

King of Queens TV star Leah Remini is suffering personal heartache — her sister has been arrested on serious drug charges. Elizabeth Remini, 28, was placed in New Hanover County Jail in North Carolina in March after being charged with five felony counts of cocaine possession and trafficking in the drug. She was released after three days on $50,000 bail.

Remorseful Elizabeth told The National Enquirer: "I got myself into a bad situation which I am now taking responsibility for, and my sister stands 100 percent behind me."

But, in an exclusive interview, Leah's stepmother Donna Remini, who is Elizabeth's mom, told us: "Leah is distraught. She has tried over the years to reach out to Elizabeth and help her straighten out her life.

"Right up to the arrest she was in close contact with Elizabeth, offering to help her in any way she could.

"Elizabeth visited Leah in Los Angeles, and just two years ago when Leah was in New York to shoot some scenes for the show, she invited Elizabeth down to the set. Because she looks so much like Leah they even used her in a few scenes where Leah was to be shot from behind.

"But Elizabeth has always followed the beat of a different drummer — she wouldn't listen to anyone, not even Leah, and now she's facing prison."

Donna married Leah's divorced father George Remini when the future TV star was just five years old. Together, Donna and George had two daughters, Elizabeth and Stephanie.

Though Leah moved to California in 1984 with her mother Vicki, Donna says that she and Elizabeth saw each other frequently and developed a sisterly bond despite the distance separating them.

"All the girls were in my home constantly until Leah moved to California," Donna said. "My house was their house. Leah and Elizabeth in particular had a special bond — they were always clowning together and as girls had similar personalities.

"Even after Leah and her mother moved, Leah kept in touch with Elizabeth and all of her half-sisters. She was always there for moral support, always willing to lend a hand in any way she could. They wrote each other, they talked on the phone.

"But while Leah plunged into trying to make it as an actress while she was still a teenager, Elizabeth began straying. Even in high school she started hanging out with a bad crowd — and she was always running away from home and then moving back in. She was wild — a party girl.

"By the time Elizabeth was 17, she had left home and was living with a stripper and a drug dealer." Things only got worse. Donna says that one Thanksgiving she got a call from Elizabeth, who surprised her by saying she was at Leah's home in Los Angeles.

"Elizabeth told Leah she had been beaten up and Leah immediately arranged for her to fly out to Hollywood and stay with her for a while.

"But Leah's mom quickly put her foot down and told Elizabeth, 'Okay, you're going to have to get an apartment and a job,' and Elizabeth was indignant. She got angry and came crawling home yet again."

Leah's star ascended as she got roles on Living Dolls, Fired Up and, in 1998, The King of Queens. Meanwhile, Elizabeth continued to struggle — and Donna and George's marriage crumbled. Last year Donna left Leah's father, sold their home and moved to North Carolina — taking Elizabeth with her.

"I said, 'Elizabeth, it's beautiful here, you could change your whole life. You could put everything behind you and wipe the slate clean and be who you want to be.' I'm her mother, and I love her — I want her to straighten out her life.

"But as soon as she set foot in town my life went to hell. The first day she got here she wrote checks out of my account. But she put herself into cosmetology school. She was doing well and I thought there was hope. Then she told me she was doing strippers' hair but she wasn't. She was stripping at two clubs."

Things came crashing down when one night, the doorbell rang — and Donna found a group of police officers on her doorstep.

"They said they had a search warrant to search for narcotics," Donna recalled. "They said they had her selling cocaine to an undercover cop! Twice!

"When Elizabeth came home, they took her in my bedroom and she was crying and carrying on. This went on for three hours. Then they arrested her and took her to jail. "She was in jail for three days telling me, 'Mommy, I'll never do this again, I'm so stupid.'"

Elizabeth spent three nights in jail and was released under court supervision with the understanding she would help the police investigation, Donna said.

Donna added: "Leah's been real close with her but what happens is that when Elizabeth pulls something wild, Leah backs off for awhile.

"Leah is at wit's end like all of us. She believes Elizabeth should make her own bed and clean up her own messes — and we all agree. Leah is concerned but she doesn't know what to do. She's up to here with her. She says, 'Enough — she's made her bed.' She thinks tough love is the way to go."