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5 Jonestown victims buried in California

October 21, 2014

OAKLAND, California (AP) — Five victims of the 1978 mass suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, were laid to rest in California after their cremated remains were recently discovered inside an abandoned funeral home.

The remains were buried in Oakland on Monday in a grave where more than 400 other unclaimed or unidentified Jonestown victims are interred, the Oakland Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1DxcfqH ).

The ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery was organized by the son of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple leader who took his followers to South America before ordering them to drink cyanide-laced grape punch. More than 900 people died.

“I have to accept the horrific event, the tyranny that Jim Jones created, but I also have to respect the people who were trying to build a new world,” said Jim Jones Jr., 54. “They were trying to build a new world and they really believed that.”

The five people buried Monday were among nine Jonestown victims whose remains were discovered over the summer inside a shuttered building in Delaware that formerly housed a funeral home.

Jonestown victims had been transported to Dover Air Force Base after the tragedy and local funeral homes had been asked to help families make arrangements for them.

The five victims who were buried are: Irene Mason, who turned 86 a week before her death; Tony Walker, a 20-year-old security guard who patrolled the Guyana colony and its livestock; Wanda Bonita King, a 39-year-old teacher at Jonestown; 34-year-old Ottie Mese Guy; and 74-year-old Ruth Atkins.

Delaware state officials were unable to find any relatives of Guy and Atkins, the Tribune reported.

Relatives of Walker, Mason and King agreed to let them be buried at the Oakland cemetery, where a memorial to the victims stands.

“They were unidentified and sitting somewhere for a long time,” said John Cobb, a Jonestown survivor who attended the burial ceremony. “It’s good to have this kind of closure.”

Jones ran the Peoples Temple in San Francisco in the early 1970s, but moved the settlement to Guyana when allegations of wrongdoing mounted.

On Nov. 18, 1978, on a remote jungle airstrip, gunmen from the group ambushed and killed U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan of California, three newsmen and a defector from the group. All were visiting Jonestown on a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of abuses of members.

Jones then orchestrated the mass murder and suicide. Most complied with his orders to drink the punch, although survivors described some people being shot, injected with poison, or forced to drink the deadly beverage when they tried to resist. Jones died of a gunshot wound.

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