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6 people missing from St. Louis area believed to be in clutches of online cult

Police believe the six have become followers of Rashad Jamal, a convicted child molester and former rapper-turned-online guru who operates the University of Cosmic Intelligence.
/ Source: NBC News

A half-dozen people in Missouri who were reported missing in August are believed to have been lured into a cult led by a convicted child molester, police said.

The cult is led by Rashad Jamal, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence in Georgia after he was convicted in August of one count of child molestation and one count of cruelty to children, police in the St. Louis suburb of Berkeley said.

Berkeley Police Maj. Steve Runge told NBC affiliate KSDK of St. Louis last week investigators believe the missing six have become followers of Jamal, a former rapper-turned-online guru who operates what he calls the University of Cosmic Intelligence.

Jamal’s website says it is “GEARED TOWARDS ENLIGHTENING AND ILLUMINATING THE MINDS OF THE CARBONATED BEINGS A.K.A YOUR SO CALLED BLACK & LATINO PEOPLE OF EARTH.”

“I would like to know that they’re OK so that I can get a good night’s sleep,” Shelita Gibson, whose daughter and grandson are among the missing, told KSDK. “I would like to know they’re not hungry, they’re not cold, that no one is making her do things that she would have to pay for in the long run.”

Gibson’s daughter, Gerielle German, 26, and 3-year-old grandson, Ashton Mitchell, were last seen with the four other missing people in August at a Quality Inn near St. Louis Lambert International Airport, police have said.

The pair and the four others — Naaman Williams, 29, Mikayla Thompson, 23, Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 25, and her 3-year daughter, Malaiyah — had all been living in a rented house in Berkeley before they vanished, police said.

Wickerson’s mother, Cartisha Morgan, told KSDK she has not had any contact with her daughter since August. She said she believes her daughter was “suffering from postpartum depression.”

Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 25, and her 3-year daughter Malaiyah.
Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 25, and her 3-year daughter Malaiyah.via KSDK

“Meeting these people online, and they just preyed on her weakness,” Morgan said.

In a recent jailhouse interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jamal denied being a cult leader even though, in videos posted online that have gotten more than 200,000 views, he regularly calls himself a god, a prophet or a messiah.

Jamal, who insisted that he was an innocent man and that the molestation charges stemmed from a child custody dispute, also denied knowing the six people who vanished from the St. Louis suburb.

“I am pretty sure I have never met these people,” he told the newspaper. “I get on my phone and I give a lecture. I go live, and then I get off the phone. I do not know the people that are in my live[stream]. It’s too many people.”

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.