Contributors: Apr. 7, 1997

CATHY BOOTH, TIME's Los Angeles bureau chief, was in her office working on a celebrity profile when the first, sketchy reports of a group suicide near San Diego came in. Sensing a big story, Booth quickly mobilized the bureau's extensive reporting forces. Correspondents Jeanne McDowell and Richard Woodbury began calling cult experts. Patrick Cole switched from covering the upcoming Oklahoma City bombing trial to snag an interview with the daughter of the cult's co-founder. Booth took off for Rancho Santa Fe, where she was joined by veteran correspondent James Willwerth. "Stories like this," says Booth, "are what TIME does best."

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