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Mass-suicide fears prompt search for members of cult-like group in Palmdale

September 18, 2010 | 10:22 pm

Chicas Fears of a mass suicide by members of a cult-like group in Palmdale prompted authorities to launch a major search Saturday night for five members of the group and at least eight children.

The group was believed to be traveling in three vehicles: a white 2004 Nissan Quest, a 1995 white Mercury Villager and a newer-model, silver-colored Toyota Tundra, according to the California Highway Patrol, which issued an alert for them.

"It is believed, through further investigation, that [their] intentions are to commit mass suicide," said a California Highway Patrol alert, which was based on information from sheriff's officials.

Letters left behind by the group do not specifically mention suicide but contain references to "going to heaven" and the "end of the world," said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the children were ages 3 to 17. The adults and children were reported missing Saturday afternoon by the husbands of two women in the group, officials said.

The adults, including three sisters, belong a religious sect that broke off from a Palmdale church whose name was unknown, Whitmore said.

Read the full story here.

--Patrick J. McDonnell and Richard Winton

Photo: Reyna Marisol Chicas, one of those missing. L.A. Sheriff's Department.