US 'end-of-world' cult leader detained

The leader of a breakaway religious sect was undergoing a mental health check-up in hospital today after she and members of her group went missing, sparking fears for their safety.

California police had launched an urgent search after the group left behind evidence that they were awaiting the end of the world or some catastrophic event.

Reyna Marisol Chicas was placed under a 72-hour mandatory detention because she was not able to care for herself or others, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Kim.

He said she gave investigators a false name.

Earlier officers found Chicas and 12 others, including children, one aged three, in a park after getting a tip-off.

Officers had been searching a wide areas 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 described as “cult-like” by sheriff’s officials, was led by Chicas, a 32-year-old woman from from Palmdale in north-east Los Angeles county, sheriff’s Captain Mike Parker said.

Members left behind mobile phones, ID documents, deeds to property, and letters indicating they were awaiting the Rapture, which some Christians believe is an event during which they will be gathered together in the air and reunited with Christ.

“These letters read like a will and testament. They read like goodbye letters,” said police spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Officials said there was no criminal investigation planned.

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