Mass suicide fear as children disappear with sect
Monday, September 20, 2021 12:16 AM

(Source: Irish Times)By CHRIS McGREAL

FEARS WERE growing last night for the safety of at least eight children in California who disappeared with members of a religious sect feared to be planning a mass suicide.

Police have launched a hunt by land and air across a large area of the state for a group of 13 migrants from El Salvador, who have been missing since leaving a prayer meeting in northern Los Angeles late on Friday night. They were apparently heading in to the desert in three vehicles.

State authorities said the adults in the group left behind letters that prompted the search and alarm over the fate of the children, six boys and two girls aged three to 17.

"The letters essentially state that they are all going to heaven shortly to meet Jesus and their deceased relatives," California highway patrol said in a statement. "Numerous letters found say goodbye to their relatives."

The statement described the group as "cult-like. They were awaiting the rapture or some other catastrophic event".

Authorities say that while there is no direct reference to anyone killing themselves, the phrases "going to heaven" and the "end of the world" in the letters are cause for serious concern.

The police were alerted by the husband of one of the women after she left behind a bag containing identification papers, property deeds, mobile phones and letters from adults in the group saying they were awaiting the rapture - the belief that they will be transported to heaven at the second coming of Christ.

The husband, who has not been named, described his wife as "brainwashed" by the leader of the sect, Reyna Marisol Chicas (32).

Neighbours said Chicas became increasingly religious after her marriage broke down four years ago.

Capt Mike Parker of the Los Angeles county sheriff's office said little was known about the group formed by Chicas.

"We've got a group here that's practising some orthodox and some unorthodox Christianity," he said. "Obviously this falls under the unorthodox." - (Guardian service)

Originally published by CHRIS McGREAL.

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