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Reyna Chicas, 32, is the leader of the “cult-like” group missing in Southern California, officials say.

Officials in Southern California issued an emergency alert late Saturday for six adults and eight children who are members of a “cult-like” group believed to be planning a mass suicide.

“They were awaiting the rapture or some other catastrophic event,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain Mike Parker said.

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, told a hastily called news conference covered by KNBC that the group believed “they were going to meet Jesus or deceased relatives.”

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He said deputies were searching the desert for the group, believed to be six adults and six boys and two girls. The children range in age from 3 to 17, Whitmore said.

The notes did not use the term suicide but did say “they wanted to go on to the next life,” Whitmore said.

UPDATE:

Ending a frantic search, deputies found Chicas and 12 others just before noon at Jackie Robinson Park near Palmdale after getting a tip from a local resident, said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. He said all members were safe.

Officers had been searching a wide area of Southern California since Saturday after family members found letters saying the group was awaiting an apocalyptic event and would soon see Jesus and their dead relatives in heaven.

The group of El Salvadoran immigrants was led by Chicas, a 32-year-old woman from Palmdale in north-east Los Angeles county, sheriff’s Captain Mike Parker said.

Members left behind cell phones, identifications, deeds to property, and letters indicating they were awaiting ascension into heaven.

The items came from a purse that a member of the group had left with her husband on Saturday. He eventually looked inside and called authorities.

Read entire update

Read entire article at MSNBC.com

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