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Search is On For Family Who May Have Committed Mass Suicide at Urging of Cult-Like Leader [UPDATED]
Reyna Marisol Chicas (LA Co. Sheriff's Dept.)
UPDATE 12:05 PM: KTLA is reporting that the family has been located, alive:
Missing members of a break-off religious group, who were reported missing by their families Saturday, have been found alive and well at a park in Palmdale.
The 5 adults and 8 children were spotted late Sunday morning at Jackie Robinson Park in Palmdale, according to sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore
.Five adults and eight children are missing and the search continues today in the Antelope Valley, as fear of loved ones mount that the group committed mass suicide at the urging of a cult-like group leader.
Yesterday afternoon two men went to the Palmdale Sheriff's Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to let authorities know they were worried about the well-being of their wives and other family members who are part of a group they described as being cult-like, explains a release issued by the Sheriff's Department. The group is led by 33-year old Reyna Marisol Chicas, and the spouses allege she may have "brainwashed" their families.
Chicas apparently directed one of the men to pray over a purse. Curious, the man opened the bag and found "five cell phones, money, deeds and titles to vehicles and personal property, personal identification for several people, and several letters written in both Spanish and English," inside.
The missing individuals have gone into the mountains to pray before, and often spend nights participating in prayer vigils, however the purse and its contents have led relatives and the authorities to believe the group may have committed suicide together, reports LA Now.
Although there has been no crime committed at this time, the Sheriff's Department is running a search operation for the group, which includes the participation of "civil volunteers and horse-mounted posse who were roaming through remote areas of the Antelope Valley." As of early this morning there was "no sign of the group, but the Sheriff's Department plans to continue the operation all day."
Authorities say that the group may have been awaiting a large-scale religious event, such as a rapture, based on the information included in the written items inside the purse.
All of the missing individuals, including children ages 3 to 18, are originally from El Salvador. They met Chicas at a Christian church but broke away to form a separate group.
If you have any information as to the possible whereabouts of anyone from this group or their vehicles, please contact the Palmdale Sheriff's Station at 661-272-2400.