Cremated Remains of 9 Jonestown Victims Found in Old Dover Funer - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Cremated Remains of 9 Jonestown Victims Found in Old Dover Funeral Home

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The front of the Minus Funeral Home at 222 N. Queen St. in Dover. (Photo: WBOC) The front of the Minus Funeral Home at 222 N. Queen St. in Dover. (Photo: WBOC)
The Minus Funeral Home at 222 N. Queen St. in Dover is shown Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (Photo: WBOC) The Minus Funeral Home at 222 N. Queen St. in Dover is shown Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (Photo: WBOC)
DOVER, Del. (WBOC/AP)- The cremated remains of nine victims of a 1978 mass cult suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, have turned up in a former funeral home in Dover, officials said Thursday.

It's part of a story WBOC first broke Wednesday evening.
   
The Delaware Division of Forensic Science has taken possession of the remains, discovered at the former Minus Funeral Home on North Queen Street, and is working to make identifications and notify relatives, the agency and the Dover Police Department said in a statement.

Last week, the DFS responded to a request to check the former dilapidated funeral home in Dover after 38 containers of cremated remains were discovered inside. Thirty-three containers were marked and identified. They spanned a period from about 1970 to the 1990s and included the Jonestown remains. The DFS said its staff will work to identify the current unidentified remains and will in turn notify family or arrange for final disposition.

On Wednesday, the DFS, along with the Dover and New Castle County police departments, also conducted an "exploratory excavation" on the former funeral home property.

"They decided they would check the exterior of the building," said Cpl. Mark Hoffman, spokesman for the Dover Police Department. "During that time they noticed three depressions with disturbed soil. At that time the decision was made to and excavate those areas."

They discovered an arrowhead, two animal bones, oyster shells and charcoals.

William Crawford has lived across the street from the old funeral home for years. He watched Wednesday as the digging was happening.

"It's a mystery solved. Everybody was concerned," he said. "There were a lot of different concerns about what had actually taken place."

On Nov. 18, 1978, gunmen from the Peoples Temple cult ambushed and killed U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California, three newsmen and a defector from the group at a remote jungle airstrip as they visited on a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of abuses of members.
   
Cult leader Jim Jones then orchestrated a ritual of mass murder and suicide at the temple's nearby agricultural commune, ordering followers to drink cyanide-laced grape punch. Most of them complied, although survivors described some people being shot, injected with poison, or forced to drink the deadly beverage when they tried to resist.
   
After the deaths, bodies of 911 massacre victims were brought to Dover Air Force Base, home to the U.S. military's largest mortuary. Many of the bodies were decomposed and could not be identified. Several cemeteries refused to take them until the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California, stepped forward in 1979 and accepted 409 bodies. The remaining victims were cremated or buried in family cemeteries.

WBOC spoke with officials at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations. They say they are looking into the situation. But finding information about something that happened so long ago is difficult.

Crawford was living in Dover in 1978. He remembers the time right after Jonestown.

"It was a sad occasion," said Crawford. "It was a lot of hustle and bustle, a lot of excitement, a lot of electricity in the air at the time and a lot of sadness, too, because so many souls were lost."

Police do not suspect foul play. DFS calls this a simple case of unclaimed remains.

Searchers also found several bronze grave site markers for deceased veterans who served in World War I through the Vietnam War during an initial check of the building. Officials said if family members can be located through the Veterans Administration, the markers will be given to them.
   
Jones ran the Peoples Temple in San Francisco in the early 1970s. He established a free health clinic and a drug rehabilitation program, eventually emerging as a political force. He became chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority in 1976. But allegations of wrongdoing mounted, and Jones moved the settlement to Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America. The cult leader believed he would be safe there from what he perceived as media and police persecution. Hundreds of followers moved to Jonestown, seeking socialism and racial harmony.

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