Cult Watch

Hunt for Religious Group Ends in Relief

Members of a Los Angeles religious group left behind important documents, goodbye letters and cash before disappearing on a trip, and when family members reported them missing, authorities feared the group, which included eight kids, could have made a suicide pact. But after a 22-hour hunt that involved horses and helicopters, authorities found them gathered peacefully in a city park. The group’s leader, Reyna Marisol Chicas, gave officials a different name when they initially approached her; Chicas is being held for 72 hours in an involuntary psychiatric evaluation. The other members—all the adults are women—agreed to go to the sheriff’s station, and child welfare authorities are investigating. The notes left behind were like “a will and testament” police said, and two letters written by 14-year-olds were identical, a sign of coaching. But when they were found, the group said they were Christian and would never hurt themselves. Police promised an intense follow-up in the case, though no one is facing criminal charges.