Delaware officials released the names of the remaining victims of the Jonestown Massacre whose cremated remains were found in a defunct Delaware funeral home last month.
In August, the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Division of Forensic Science (DFS) visited the former Minus Funeral Home along the 200 block of Queen Street in Dover after receiving a request to check out the site.
Once inside, officials say they found 38 containers filled with cremated remains from 1970 through the 1990s. Nine of those remains were identified as victims of the Jonestown, Guyana, massacre.
After examining the remains, DFS officials learned that 31 containers were marked and identified. Seven containers of the remains are still unidentified.
DFS officials were able to locate family members and return the remains of Irra Johnson, Wanda King, Maud Perkins and Mary Rodgers, all victims of the Jonestown massacre.
They also returned the cremated remains of one local resident, Bryan Glass.
After spending the past month searching through Delaware death certificates, cremation permits, online obituaries and other State databases, officials still haven’t found the family members of the remaining victims. They are now releasing the names of the unclaimed identified remains. Anyone with information about family members should call DFS at 302-577-3420.
The massacre on Nov. 18, 1978, claimed the lives of 918 people — mostly through cyanide poisoning. The cult, the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, began in the United States in the 1950s. Its members migrated to Guyana, the only English-speaking country on the continent, in 1976 after its then leader, Jim Jones, came under media scrutiny.
Jones had opened a free health clinic and drug rehab program in San Francisco before becoming the city's Housing Authority chairman in 1976. But as allegations mounted about improprieties, Jones and the cult moved out of the country.
Two years later, after a number of incidents and a mysterious death of a Californian native, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited the cult's South American commune on Nov. 14, 1978. While trying to evacuate defectors at a remote jungle airstrip on Nov. 18, he was shot more than 20 times and killed. Four others, including an NBC photojournalist, were also murdered.
Following the deaths, 911 of the remains were flown from South America to Dover Air Force Base, which houses the U.S. military's largest mortuary. Several cemeteries refused to take the remains. The Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, Calif. eventually allowed 409 bodies to be buried there in 1979. The remaining victims were either cremated or buried in family cemeteries.
It is still unclear how the remains wound up at the white-walled, one-story funeral home, which remains padlocked and surrounded by overgrown grass and dead vines.
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