A disturbing mystery unfolds in the St. Louis area as six individuals, including two young children, vanish without a trace.
In Berkeley, Missouri, near St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a group of six linked to an online cult disappeared in August, leaving behind unanswered questions and deep concern.
The missing are identified as Naaman Williams, 29; Gerielle German, 26, and her son Ashton Mitchell, 3; Mikayla Thompson, 23; Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 25, and her daughter Malaiyah, 3. Their sudden disappearance has sparked a complex investigation, intertwining concerns of cult influence and personal safety.
The focus of the investigation quickly turned to Rashad Jamal, a convicted child molester currently serving time in Georgia. Jamal, who leads the University of Cosmic Intelligence, is known for his teachings to enlighten Black and Latino people. Despite his conviction, he remains an influential figure with a substantial online following.
Three of the adults involved in this disappearance have adopted names honoring spiritual deities, further cementing their deep involvement with Jamal's teachings. The cult, primarily operating online, boasts about 90,000 followers, indicating a vast reach beyond this immediate case.
From his prison cell, Jamal has denied any role as a cult leader and maintains his innocence regarding his previous conviction. His influence, however, seems undeniable in the lives of these missing individuals.
The group's last known location was a hotel in Florissant, Missouri, on August 13. Since then, there has been no communication, leaving their whereabouts a mystery. The adults, originally from diverse locations, including St. Louis, Washington D.C., and Lake Horn, Mississippi, exhibited behavior typical of cult followers. These included severing family ties, quitting jobs, and adopting sovereign citizenship beliefs.
Berkeley police Major Steve Runge has expressed his determination in the case despite the challenges posed by the cult's predominantly online presence.
"It's confusing, the internet is [the cult’s] home," stated Major Runge. He remains optimistic about the investigation, adding, "I know we’re going to find them. It’s just a matter of going through the motions … we are going to put in the work."
Cartisha Morgan, Ma’Kayla Wickerson's mother, shared her anguish:
I'm not doing so well, but I'm just holding on by my faith. I just wish that people are made aware of this. Ma’Kayla, we love you and we want the best for you. We would like for her to come back home. We are going to get her the help that we need. Your spiritual journey is your spiritual journey. If you want to be your best self, we understand that, but we love you and we just want you to come back home.
Cartisha Morgan, grappling with her daughter and granddaughter's disappearance, fears depression might have played a role in Ma’Kayla's decision to leave. Since moving out of her mother's house in November 2022 and losing contact in March 2023, Morgan has retrospectively identified her daughter's behavior as potential cries for help.
Mikayla Thompson's decision to leave her young child with her mother further complicates the story, highlighting personal struggles intertwined with the influence of the cult. These personal narratives add layers of complexity to an already baffling case.
Major Runge's belief that the group will resurface once their funds deplete offers a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. However, this assumption does little to ease the families' immediate anguish and uncertainty.
The disappearance of these six individuals under the influence of an online cult leader teaches us several critical lessons:
While we can take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we must accept that some situations are beyond our control.
This case is crucial for the community because it highlights the very real dangers of online cults. It is a stark reminder of how vulnerable individuals can become ensnared in such groups, often without immediate recognition by those closest to them. In this case, the involvement of young children underscores the need for greater awareness and vigilance in our digital age. It also sheds light on the complex interplay between mental health, family dynamics, and external influences. Understanding and addressing these issues is key to preventing similar tragedies in the future.
The disappearance of Naaman Williams, Gerielle German, and her son Ashton, Mikayla Thompson, Ma’Kayla Wickerson, and her daughter Malaiyah, linked to an online cult, raises serious concerns. This case underscores the complex challenges in tracking and resolving such mysterious cases, especially when they intersect with the murky world of online cults.