A man, three women and two young children went missing from their rented home in Berkeley, Mo., in August
Authorities are befuddled by the disappearance of six people — one man, three women and two young children — from a St. Louis-area home in August, which police believe to be related to the existence of a cult.
It’s been months since Naaman Williams, 29, Gerielle German, 26, her 3-year-old son Ashton Mitchell, Mikayla Thompson, 23, Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 25, and her 3-year daughter Malaiyah were last seen. The group had been living in a rented home in Berkeley, Mo., near St. Louis Lambert International airport.
Berkeley police Major Steve Runge tells PEOPLE that the four missing adults are believed to be part of a cult allegedly revolving around Rashad Jamal, who was convicted of child molestation charges in 2023 and is currently serving a prison sentence in Georgia.
Over the past few years, Jamal has amassed thousands of followers on social media with his spiritual teachings, operating what he calls the University of Cosmic Intelligence, which according to its website is “geared toward enlightening and illuminating minds” of Black and Latino people.
Speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from prison, Jamal denies being a cult leader and maintained his innocence in his child molestation case.
Runge says some of Jamal’s followers, which he says includes three of the missing adults, have changed their names in honor of those they believe to be spiritual gods or goddesses. Williams is also known as Anubis Aramean, Thompson goes by Antu Anum Ahmat, while Wickerson is Intuahma Aquama Auntil, according to Berkeley police.
According to police, the Berkeley quartet has now allegedly exhibited some of the other followers’ behaviors: total disconnection from family and loved ones, a desire to go off the grid, quitting their jobs and embracing sovereign citizenship, among other behaviors.
“It’s confusing, the internet is [the cult’s] home,” Runge says. “It’s not like ‘OK, we’re going to go to St. Louis.’ No, the internet is its home. [Jamal] has 90,000 followers.”
On Aug. 12, Runge says Wickerson’s mother, Cartisha Morgan, called police and said she was worried about her daughter, who she hadn’t heard from. Days later, detectives began investigating and searched the Berkeley home and found no signs of foul play. Runge says they discovered the group’s Facebook profiles, which contained references to Jamal and were once extremely active and public before the activity abruptly stopped.
Through further investigation, Runge says the group was last seen at a hotel on Aug. 13, in Florissant, Mo. No one has heard from them since.
While Wickerson, who according to her LinkedIn profile once worked for JP Morgan & Chase, and Thompson are both from St. Louis, Williams is from Washington D.C., while German is originally from Lake Horn, Miss., near Memphis.
Thompson, like the other two women, is also the mother of a young child whom she left behind with her mother, according to Runge.
Runge believes the missing group will resurface eventually, most likely when they run out of money.
“I know we’re going to find them,” Runge says. “It’s just a matter of going through the motions … we are going to put in the work.”
Morgan spoke to PEOPLE and says she is worried about both her daughter and granddaughter, whom she hasn’t seen in months. She believes Wickerson had been suffering from depression following the birth of her daughter, and that she was preyed upon as a result.
“I'm not doing so well, but I'm just holding on by my faith,” Morgan tells PEOPLE. “I just wish that people are made aware of this.”
Wickerson had been living with her mother while she was pregnant before moving out in November 2022. Morgan last heard from her daughter in March 2023. Malaiyah, Wickerson’s daughter, just turned 3 in October, Morgan says.
Morgan recalls Wickerson telling her she was feeling overwhelmed as a mother. Looking back, she now thinks her daughter was crying out for help and that there were signs her daughter wasn’t OK.
Still, Morgan says her daughter was very family-oriented, making her disappearance “astonishing.”
“Ma’Kayla, we love you and we want the best for you,” Morgan says. “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.”
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