Cops Hunt 'Cult,' Suspect Suicide Mission
Religious group left behind notes that talked of 'going to heaven'
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2010 11:54 AM CDT
Los Angeles County Sheriffs officers sit outside Reyna Chicas' home. The possible leader of a "cult-like" group has been reported missing along with 12 other members, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
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(Newser) – California cops are hunting a breakaway religious group they call "cult-like" after five adults and at least eight kids went missing last night—leaving behind deeds, cellphones, final notes that referred to "going to heaven," and the strong indication they were on a mass suicide mission, reports the LA Times. "We do not think this is a hoax," says a sheriff's spokesman. "We don't know that this is a potential suicide, but we know that it's real and we're going to find them."

The intrigue centers around Reyna Marisol Chicas, a 32-year-old devoted mother of two whom neighbors describe as chronically unemployed. Chicas became increasingly devout following her divorce, spending several hours a day at a local church, and eventually heading up the group now missing outside of the church. "They've done late-night prayer vigils before, but not in the context of these elements," another sheriff's spokesman said. "IDs, money, goodbye notes, all that stuff left behind, put in a purse."