December 17, 1978, The Washington Post, Jonestown Is an Eerie Ghost Town Now; Soldiers Patrol Amid Rotted Cheese Sandwiches and Scattered Clothing, by Charles A. Krause, Washington Post Foreign Service,
JONESTOWN, Guyana-—Just four weeks after the murders and suicides of more than 900 people here stunned the world, the jungle community that the Rev. Jim Jones created in his image is a ghost town.
Only a small and jumpy contingent of Guyanese troops—still afraid that Peoples Temple gunmen may be lurking in the surrounding rain forest—occupies the settlement where hundreds of men, women and children lived just a month ago.
The mounds of bodies that once littered the grounds around the community's central pavilion are gone now, shipped to the United States and awaiting burial.
But reminders of what happened here—the attack at nearby Port Kaituma that killed Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.) and four others and the suicide-murder of more than 900 members of Jones' cult—stand out jarringly in the jungle quietude.
I returned to Jonestown the other day, the fourth time I had been there in less than a month.
The first two times, I accompanied Ryan and saw Jonestown alive and well—but unknowingly, on the brink of its destruction. The third time I returned to see the aftermath of the tragedy, the bodies piled atop one another, many linked arm-in-arm, the agony of their poisoning evident on their contorted faces.
This last time, Jonestown was still, except for the troops. An eerie silence had replaced the music, the talk and the tension that marked the first two were so much a part of the third. visits, and a kind of emptiness had replaced the bodies and the gore that were so much a part of the third.
This time, only physical reminders of what had happened here on the afternoon of Nov. 18—when Ryan spent long hours trying to learn the truth about Jonestown from its residents and leaders--were, present. But they were enough to bring back memories of what I had seen and smelled and heard then.
In the communal kitchen were hundreds of cheese sandwiches, uneaten and rotting, a part of the meal that had been prepared for Ryan and his party before they left for their rendezvous with death at Port Kaituma. These were the cheese sandwiches that Peoples Temple's lawyer Mark Lane later said he had refused to eat because someone told him they might contain tranquilizers or more frightening drugs. [Could human bodies decay beyond recognition within a matter of days, but cheese sandwiches remain identifiable for a month? And would a poor community starved for food have lunch leftovers like that, and treat them like that?]
In the small, two-bedroom wooden house where Jones lived with at least two of his mistresses, shirts belonging to the Peoples Temple leader still hang in the walk-in closet, almost as if Jones—dead nearly a month now-—were coming back to collect them. [Jones' cabin had been boarded up and sealed by Guyanese authorities, and we have datable photographic evidence in support of this fact.]
Along the muddy path that served as a sidewalk for much of the commune, other reminders of the life and death that were Jonestown lie half buried in the fertile soil. [The soil was far from fertile--it was impoverished.] A pair of woman's eyeglasses, a towel, a pair of shorts, packets of unopened Flavor Aid lie scattered about waiting for the final cleanup that may one day return Jonestown to the tidy, if overcrowded, little community it once was.
The Guyanese government of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham was unpopular before the events of Nov. 18 and it is more unpopular now because of charges that Jones had special ties to the ruling party that enabled him to skirt the law. Burnham's government has not yet decided what to do with the commune that Jones' followers carved out of the rain forest.
Indeed, Burnham and his government do not seem to know how to explain crucial questions about Jonestown-—how it was that gold and diamonds and currency worth more than $1.5 million were found among the ruins, [Imprecise sentence structure. They know how it was found---because Burnham's wife knew where to look for it. The unanswered question is how it was got there.] how Jonestown became filled with guns and ammunition, in apparent [clear] violation of Guyanese laws, or how it was that the Peoples Temple regularly brought from abroad food and other goods whose import is strictly prohibited, because of a serious economic crisis here.
Burnham has granted a couple of interviews to foreign journalists after what was, for him, more of a political than a social or human crisis. But he has yet to issue a statement explaining Jonestown to his own people.
Neither the government nor the government-controlled press here has told the country's citizens that as many as 10 Guyanese died with the Americans at Jonestown. So far, the Burnham government has only announced that one Guyanese was among the dead. [No one in Guyana reads the Washington Post?]
Thousands of pages of documents and scores of tapes recovered from Jonestown have yet to be released, in part, many observers here believe, because some of the Peoples Temple records may be embarrassing to the government. [Released? By whom and to whom? The same conditions of poverty that allowed Jim Jones to purchase influence and control with the Guyana government allow the CIA to do so.]
Nonetheless, the police, under the direction of Assistant Commissioner C. A. (Skip) Roberts, are continuing their investigation of the killings at Port Kaituma and the mass suicide-murder at Jonestown, trying to determine whether any of those who survived may have committed criminal acts.
Three inquests related to the Jonestown tragedy are under way.
The first, at Matthew's Ridge, about 35 miles from Jonestown, will officially determine the causes of death of the 909 persons whose remains were found here a month ago. This will allow authorities in the United States to issue death certificates for the bodies taken by military airlift to Dover, Del., Air Force Base. [A clear lack of accountability and consequence.]
The other inquests will determine whether two Peoples Temple members charged with murder and attempted murder should be brought to trial in connection with their alleged roles in the Port Kaituma killings and the deaths of four members of the Peoples Temple who were found in Georgetown with their throats slashed shortly after the suicide-murder at Jonestown. [The attempted murder charge concerns Jim Jones' 9-year-old granddaughter, who stumbled into the bathroom following the slaughter of the Amos family and was nearly killed herself. Why was she in Georgetown at the time? Playing basketball?]
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in San Francisco has been impaneled to determine whether a conspiracy to kill Ryan extended beyond Guyana to the United States. [The plan to kill Ryan by downing his aircraft with the killer aboard was originally for Sharon Amos to execute on the flight to Jonestown, but she was denied access to the plane. The plan was then put in Larry Layton's hands, but Layton aborted a mission in which he also was to die, choosing instead to start shooting randomly on a plane still on the ground, but without Ryan aboard. Jim Jones' announcement on tape that Ryan would be dying in a plane crash---not at Jones' command, but with his prescience---and that the community must perish in consequence, could be called a "pre-anticipatory consequence response." Tim Carter's presence in San Francisco a few days before Ryan's visit to Guyana, then in Georgetown alongside Ryan, indicates a broader, international conspiracy.]
Early next year the House International Affairs Committee will investigate whether the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown were derelict in their efforts to uncover what the real conditions were at Jonestown. It appears that the Rev. Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple will not fade from memory soon. Trials here and possibly in the United States, the congressional investigation and the unending details that continue to fascinate much of the world ensure that the Jonestown tragedy will remain alive for months, if not years, to come.
The central questions-—whether Jones ordered Ryan killed, why he ordered his own followers poisoned and why so many of the 909 who died apparently did so willingly-—may, never be answered completely.
But a host of related questions, such as Jones' flirtation with the Soviet Embassy here, his ties to the Guyanese government and the culpability, if any, of those who escaped the suicide-murder rite, will probably eventually be put to rest.
For the past month, a bizarre relationship has existed in Georgetown among those who survived, in one way or another, Jones' final desperate hours
Twelve of those who left Jonestown with Ryan, known locally and abroad as "the defectors," continue in limbo at the Park Hotel. Several of them have testified as material witnesses to the killings at Port Kaituma and they are expected to be allowed to leave Guyana this week. [That should read "sixteen" defectors, not twelve---except for two who were wounded and airlifted to Puerto Rico. Why were the Parks' allowed to leave for the U.S. within days? Afterward, even the FBI didn't know if they were in San Francisco or Washington, D.C. If the central question concerns "the culpability, if any, of those who escaped the suicide-murder rite," what is the difference between a Larry Layton and the Parks who disarmed him? My examination of the evidence leads me to conclude that the fatality, Patricia Parks, is a fabricated entity.]
Five Peoples Temple members who escaped the suicide-murder rite, either immediately before it began or while it was under way, continue to live at the same hotel, unsure whether the Guyanese intend to charge them with a crime or whether they eventually will be let go. [Why does the number of "escapees" also not include those who walked to freedom on the morning of the 18th?]
The defectors are hardly willing to talk to the escapees, believing that they are still loyal to Jones, even though he is dead. The escapees fear that if they are repatriated to the United States, they may be killed by irate relatives of persons who died at Jonestown.
Meanwhile, a third group, now numbering about 20, continues to live at the Peoples Temple headquarters in Georgetown, where they were the day Ryan was murdered and Jonestown was consumed by cyanide. Most of those still at the Georgetown house were among the elite when Jonestown was functioning and some of the defectors have charged that this group is the most dangerous of all.
In this group is the Jonestown basketball team, which some defectors have said was composed of trained marksmen whom they believe may return to the United States determined to kill "enemies" of the Temple, whom they blame for destroying it.
None of these groups fully trusts the others, reflecting the paranoia that consumed Jim Jones at the end. All of them know, as Tim Carter, one of the escapees said the other night, that "Jonestown will haunt us all until we die." [Krause blows it by quoting Tim Carter as spokesman for lack of trust. A Dec. 5 FBI memo describes Carter as "Member of Security Force and Hit Squad; Chief enforcer for PT,"