March 27, 1997 11:00 AM ET

Group in mass suicide apparently ran Web design firm
By Maria Seminerio

  The 39 men and women found dead after an apparent mass suicide in a mansion outside San Diego yesterday were evidently Web site developers who ran a Denver-based design firm called Higher Source Contract Enterprises, sources said today.

The company's own Web site, at www.cris.com/~font/, makes no mention of any type of cult or religious affiliation, though it does give an extensive list of services.

"We at Higher Source not only cater to customizing Web sites that will enhance your company image, but strive to make your transition into the world of cyberspace a very easy and fascinating experience," the company says in its service pitch.

The bodies were found late yesterday afternoon inside a sprawling estate in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. The identically dressed victims bore no signs of violence, and no suicide note was found, police said. The exact cause of their deaths has not been determined.

The home was apparently rented to either Higher Source or some of its individual employees, and neighbors reportedly have described its occupants as referring to the mansion as their "temple." A large variety of computer equipment, apparently used for designing Web sites for clients including the San Diego Polo Club and a film production company called Kushner-Locke, was found inside the home, police said.

Higher Source also offered Java and VRML programming, systems analysis, and consulting services, according to the company's advertising.

The sales pitch also pointed out: "The individuals at the core of our group have worked closely together for over 20 years ... We try to stay positive in every circumstance and put the good of a project above any personal concerns or artistic egos."

Officials at Higher Source did not return phone calls seeking comment this morning.

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