Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Bodies in Guyana Cause Confusion
November 22, 1978, The Washington Post, page A1, Bodies in Guyana Cause Confusion; Many Missing in Jungle, by Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service, 1,757 words
GEORGETOWN, Guyana---International confusion over what to do with more than 400 bodies rapidly deteriorating under the hot tropical sun and the mystery of hundreds more Americans who have disappeared in the jungle now dominate this languid capital.
First, an American military task force tried unsuccessfully here yesterday to begin shipping bodies of the victims of Saturday's forced mass suicide at the Jonestown commune to the United States. The U.S. State Department then authorized the Guyanese government to begin burying the bodies here.
But Guyana then informed the State Department that it still wants the United States to take all the bodies from Jonestown out of Guyana. The U.S. mission here said last night that plans were still going forward to continue identifying bodies and arrange transportation for them.
Earlier, the U.S. military had decided it would be unable to land giant transport planes any closer to Jonestown than the international airport near here. There also was uncertainty about whether the U.S. helicopters already here could ferry the bodies from Jonestown to the cargo planes without refueling.
Meanwhile, the bodies were continuing to rot in the tropical heat and humidity. The few journalists able to tour Jonestown yesterday found the bodies bloated and decomposing badly. One U.S. military technician at the scene said that if the bodies were not moved or burned very soon they would burst.
In the vast snake-and jaguar-infested rain forest around the Jonestown site, Guyanese police continued to search for several hundred more Peoples Temple members believed to have disappeared when the others took cyanide poison under orders from their leader, former San Francisco city official
See GUYANA, A17, Col. 1
GUYANA, From A1
Jim Jones, who then died of gunshot wounds.
Many accompanying Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) on the fact finding mission to Jonestown that ended in the murder of Ryan and four in his party followed by the mass suicide, believe they saw 800 to 900 people living in the commune. Its leaders claimed the population was close to 1,000.
Yesterday, only a few Jonestown residents who escaped the mass suicide emerged from hiding in the rain forest, and speculation grew about what may have happened to the others.
Leaders of a group of relatives of Peoples Temple members, who long have charged publicly that their kin were being imprisoned and abused by Jones and his followers in San Francisco and Jonestown, theorized here that Jones' lieutenants had gradually killed off many Jonestown residents who were too old to work.
That theory, however, would not explain the difference between the 800 or so people seen by reporters in Jonestown only last week and the more than 400 bodies counted after the forced suicide Saturday night.
Another theory is that while Jones directed the poisoning of the 400 residents gathered in the middle of Jonestown, some of his lieutenants led or chased masses of other residents into the forest and shot them there. This theory is buttressed somewhat by the disappearance of at least one cult gunman, and by the discovery of an arsenal of weapons and ammunition in Jonestown. In addition lawyers Mark Lane and Charles Garry heard screaming and shooting in the underbrush as they fled into the forest from Jonestown when the killings began.
Guyanese police are working on a third theory. They reportedly believe that when Jones ordered everyone in the compound to gather and drink the poison, hundreds of residents of buildings on the compound periphery fled into the forest. Some may have been shot and killed by Jonestown guards.
Others, including many elderly people believed to be among the missing, may have succumbed to the elements. And many more, according to this theory, may be wandering in the forest, lost or still afraid to come out.
Police are searching the many trails that wind through the forest leading to small mining camps, agricultural settlements and villages of indigenous Indians, looking for survivors or any word of their passing.
The thick forest is made up of tightly packed trees and dense underbrush that make it easy to lose one's way. Although Port Kaituma is only five miles from Jonestown in one direction, the outpost at Matthews Ridge is 20 miles away in a slightly different direction. The rest of the forest around Jonestown is uninhabited except for widely scattered miners and Indians. It is also filled with water, swamps and tropical insects.
In addition, the Guyanese have been able to mobilize and transport to Jonestown only a limited search party of 100 to 200 officers.
There were reports yesterday that about 20 survivors have turned up at various outposts and are being brought here for medical treatment and questioning.
Four young men were seen at the central police station here late yesterday afternoon. One was recognized by a San Francisco television reporter as a member of the Peoples Temple and he told the reporter, before being taken away by police, that he was glad to be out of there. Police would not identify any of the four or allow them to be interviewed.
Police are trying to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against anyone still alive in connection with the forced mass suicide or the ambush shortly before of Ryan and the 30 persons who accompanied him to a nearby landing strip at the end of his visit to Jonestown.
The police have in custody three top lieutenants of Jim Jones. One of the three, Larry Layton was identified by witnesses, including Washington Post reporter Charles Krause who was at the scene, as one of the gunmen who fired automatic weapons at Ryan and his party of aides, newsmen and defectors from Jonestown on the airstrip five miles away at Port Kaituma. It was not discussed where and when Layton was arrested.
The other two under arrest, Mike Prokes and Tim Carter, were taken into custody in Port Kaituma, not far from Jonestown. They and Layton have been identified by defectors from Jonestown as being among the lieutenants of Jones they feared the most. There also are reports from several sources that each of the three men was found by police with large amounts of money in his possession.
The police also have under house arrest 46 people, Temple Church leaders and members who were in the sect's Georgetown headquarters at the time of the murders and mass suicide in Jonestown. Their house on the edge of the city is surrounded by Guyanese troops.
These 46 persons include 19-year-old Steve Jones, the only surviving natural child of Jim Jones; Steve's adopted brother, Jim Jones, Jr., and the members of the Jonestown basketball team. The team, of which Steve Jones is a member, had played the Guyanese national basketball team Friday night, while Ryan was in Jonestown.
Defectors from Jonestown who left with Ryan's group Saturday have told reporters that members of the basketball team were trained sharpshooters who practiced with weapons at Jonestown
The defectors also said there was a plan, in the event a mass suicide was ordered at Jonestown, for Peoples Temple gunmen to travel to the United States and kill critics of the cult who were regarded as its enemies. There also were to be mass suicides at the Georgetown headquarters and the Peoples Temple church in San Francisco.
Knowledge of all this was vigorously denied yesterday by Steve Jones at a press conference the Guyanese authorities allowed him and a handful of others from the Peoples Temple Georgetown headquarters to hold in a police meeting room here.
Jones portrayed his father as a deranged man who had surrounded himself with mentally unstable lieutenants who ruined what had been a successful experiment in Utopian socialism.
"I will never denounce the fact that I am a socialist," Steve Jones said. "We had worked hard building a beautiful thing...all races living together. We never dreamed that this would happen."
He said his father had become extremely paranoid and lived in a dream world, acting out fantasies from various books he read. "He claimed he was afraid of nothing, which was bull: he was afraid of everything," Steve Jones said of his father. "He claimed he had no ego, which was the total opposite; he had the biggest ego of anyone I ever saw."
Steve Jones portrayed himself as a frequent opponent of his father on ideological issues at Jonestown. He said he had taken over from his father the day-to-day running of farming and construction in the commune. He hinted that he had hoped to take over power completely before his father did something rash.
"But I'm only 19," Steve Jones said. "What should I have done, left Jonestown and all the people I love there? How would that change things?"
He acknowledged that Jonestown residents were coerced into staying there, were not always housed and fed as well as they should have been, and sometimes were punished violently. But he denied knowing anything about the weapons and ammunition and the $1.5 million in cash, personal checks and U.S. Social Security checks found by police who have searched Jonestown since the mass suicide.
"That makes me more angry," the tall gaunt young man said. "That money could have been used to improve things."
Sitting alongside Steve Jones, Paula Adams, a soft-spoken woman who had been a secretary and administrator at Jonestown before falling into disfavor with Jim Jones, tearfully told how Jim Jones had kept her young child hostage at Jonestown to prevent her from leaving. So instead, she said, she had moved into the Georgetown headquarters house.
For nearly four years, she said, she had worked as a trusted aide to Jones, had helped negotiate the Jonestown lease of 3,000 acres of Guyanese land from the government here, and had sat in on meetings with Jones and Guyanese government officials.
But recently, she said, she discovered she was "no longer trusted because I questioned the paranoia and the over-reacting to things," such as the desire of relatives to visit residents and check conditions there.
When asked by a reporter if she knew what had happened to her child in Jonestown, she began crying and unable to speak, shook her head to indicate that she did not know.
Steve Jones concluded by referring to the killings in Jonestown and emphasizing for the reporters and Guyanese police in attendance: "I don't want to be associated with what happened."