Spokane man shares story of his father's murder at Jonestown

KXLY News, Washington/September 28, 2018

By Melissa Luck

Spokane, Washington -- Friiday night, an ABC News Special will revisit the massacre at Jonestown, when an enigmatic cult leader ordered the mass suicide of hundreds of people. For one Spokane family, it's a story they live with every day.

The ABC special Truth and Lies features interviews with survivors of the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978. Reporters also interview cult leader Jim Jones's sons. But, Jones' followers weren't the only ones who died that day; Jones followers also murdered five people on an airstrip, including journalists who were there to expose the truth.

One of the journalists was the father of former KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey.

"What I remember the next day is that my mom came into the room," Humphrey told us 10 years ago, on the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre. "She said, 'it's time to get up son... Your father is dead.'"

Humphrey's dad Don Harris was in Guyana and was the last reporter to interview Jones before the mass suicide. Humphrey said it was typical of his dad to put aside his own concerns in pursuit of the truth.

"I'm not sure I would have done it," Humphrey said about his father's questioning of a clearly agitated Jones. "But, that's my dad - he was up for asking the tough questions."

Even though it's been 40 years since that day, the pain still feels fresh for Humphrey and his family. ABC is not the first network to revisit the tragedy in recent months and more press coverage is expected in the months leading up to the 40th anniversary of the tragedy in November.

Humphrey told me he watches the documentaries and news specials, though it's hard to watch his father's final seconds on the airstrip, captured by NBC News cameras. 

Friday, I reached out to Humphrey and asked if he'd be watching. He said it was okay that I shared what he said in a text that had me in tears. 

"I watch because every time, someone has uncovered a new detail about my dad. His commitment to the truth, his bravery to the last second as he allegedly helped people find cover under the plane after the bullets started flying. I've never told anybody this, but inside my dad's wallet we found a family photo with a bloody fingerprint on it... I still wonder if dad had the time to look at his wife's face one more time. Was he trying to send us a message we were definitely his last thought?"

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