Missing Sect Members Found, Leader Hospitalized

VIDEO:Frantic Search for 13 Members of a Cult

The 13 members of a Southern California religious sect whose disappearance sparked a frantic search were found safe today, praying in a Palmdale park, police said.

Some of the group expressed surprise and confusion at the concern over their apparent disappearance.

"We are OK, don't you see me?" a member of the group who identified herself only as Anna told ABC Radio. "I'm OK, my son, my dogs, everybody's OK.

"We eat like you guys; we drink the same soda that you do," she said. "We didn't see nothing bad, and we're OK."

When asked why they had all left their cell phones at their homes, Anna said: "I don't want to interrupt me when I'm doing my -- the Jesus stuff."

VIDEO:Frantic Search for 13 Members of a Cult

Members say they often pray early in the morning and intentionally leave their worldly possessions behind in hopes that one day they'll miraculously be taken to Heaven.

Officials said that the group broke no laws, but Reyna Marisol Chicas, who has been identified as the leader of the 13 members of the sect, was hospitalized for a mental evaluation after they were found.

Chicas, 32, was placed under a 72-hour mandatory hold after she was deemed unable to care for herself or others, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Kim.

Chicas also gave police a false name and stated that she did not have any children, though her two kids were there with her at the time, Kim said.

VIDEO: Police are looking for 14 missing people who may be about to commit mass suicide.
California Police Fear Mass Suicide

The news that the group, which includes children as young as 3, were found alive and well came as a surprise even to the police spokesman, who was holding a news conference to update reporters about the search when he was informed.

Spokesman Steve Whitmore paused as another member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department whispered in his ear, and then said, "They are all alive and well. I was just given that update. That is the best news of the day."

Whitmore said the group was found at 11:55 a.m. PT at Jackie Robinson Park in Palmdale.

The group left behind cell phones, identification, deeds to property and disturbing letters before disappearing on Saturday, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Captain Mike Parker. Authorities said it appeared they had gone off to await an apocalyptic event.

"Essentially, the letters say they are all going to heaven to meet Jesus and their deceased relatives," Whitmore said at an earlier news conference today. "Some of the letters were saying goodbye."

"They indicated they were going to the next life, if you will. I'm not quoting exactly, I'm paraphrasing of course, but that's essentially what they said," he added.

The major crimes unit, helicopter patrols and a number of deputies searched for the 13 Salvadoran immigrants today, according to Whitmore.

The husband of one of the missing sect members said his wife left a purse with him that contained the letters and other items, and she asked him to pray over it. After the man eventually looked in the purse, he -- along with another member's husband -- contacted the authorities.

"Apparently, they told deputies, the Palmdale Sheriff's Station investigators, that they were concerned that they believed their wives were under 'the spell,' they used that kind of language," Whitmore said.

"So obviously, we became interested in that, and then we found out there were children and there were adults that were missing, we began to search," he said.

A house in Palmdale, believed to be Chicas' residence, was found empty on Sunday.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...