LOS ANGELES -- Five adults and eight children from a "cult-like" group in Southern California were reported missing by their families Saturday, and the group left behind letters that they were awaiting the rapture, authorities said.
Husbands of two group members, who are from the Palmdale area in northern Los Angeles County, reported the people missing early Saturday, and sheriff's deputies were searching for three vehicles.
One of the men had a purse he was asked to hold by one of the group members, and inside were identifications, deeds to property, and letters indicating they were awaiting the end of the world.
"They were awaiting the rapture or some other catastrophic event," Parker said.
The group's leader, Reyna Marisol Chicas of Palmdale, was among the missing, Parker said.
Parker said the group had been members of a mainstream Christian church, and members had expressed concern to their families about their unorthodox beliefs.
Parker said authorities are searching for three vehicles: a silver Toyota Tundra pickup, a 1995 Mercury Villager and a 2004 white Nissan.
Eight Children & Four Adults Missing with Palmdale Cult LeaderFrom SanDiego 6:
"All are El Salvadoran immigrants, and left behind evidence they are waiting for the Rapture, or end of the world, he said.
The situation began at 1:45 p.m. when two husbands went to the Lancaster sheriff's station to report that their wives were missing, he said.
The husbands said they believe their wives had joined a cult-like group that broke off from an unidentified Palmdale church, he said.
One of them said he had been told by the leader, Reyna Marisol Chicas, 32, to pray over a purse that was in a Palmdale residence.
After several hours, the man became curious and opened the purse. Inside, he found five cell phones, cash, beads, titles to vehicles and property, identification cards and numerous letters written in Spanish and English.
Parker stressed there was no indication of a crime, but that authorities "do believe vulnerable people have been led to an unknown area in the Antelope Valley,'' and that based on the letters, they are ``possibly awaiting the Rapture or some catastrophic event.''
"There's no evidence they want to harm themselves,'' he added.
However, the husbands have expressed that concern, he said.
He said the missing persons include three sisters, ages 30, 32 and 40, a 19-year-old son and eight children ages 3 to 17..."