'Suicide Cult' Leader Held for Psych Probe
Mom Reyna Marisol Chicas on 72-hour mandatory mental watch
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Suggested by outofsorts
Posted Sep 20, 2010 3:37 AM CDT
Updated Sep 20, 2010 7:46 AM CDT
Reyna Chicas, the leader of a breakaway religious sect, is taken in for questioning.   (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
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(Newser) – The head of a southern California cult police feared planned to commit mass suicide is being held in a locked-down mental health ward for psychiatric evaluation. Reyna Marisol Chicas, 32, was taken into custody after she and 12 members of her group, including as many as eight children, were found praying in a local park. Police were alerted by worried relatives after cult members disappeared, leaving behind important possessions and notes that indicated they were considering suicide to "go to heaven." Chicas was placed under a 72-hour mandatory hold after it was determined she wasn't able to care for herself or others, said a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. The rest of the group voluntarily accompanied police to the sheriff's office, but their current status was not immediately known.

Chicas' two children were found praying in the park, though she denied that she was their mom to police, reports AP. She also lied about her identity. The letters left behind by members have been reviewed by law enforcement authorities who believe they "read like a last will and testament," said the police spokesman. The group was praying for an end to sexual immorality, reports the Telegraph. Officials promised an extensive investigation that will involve representatives of the county Department of Children and Family Services. No criminal charges have been filed against Chicas. Group members denied they were contemplating suicide. For more on the situation, click here.