35 years later, remains of Jonestown victims found
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Thirty-five years ago, funeral directors in Delaware struggled to quickly bury and cremate the remains of more than 900 people who died in a suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, many of them Peoples Temple followers who drank cyanide-laced punch.
Some bodies that arrived back in the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in 1978 were claimed by families. Some were cremated. Others were buried in a mass grave in California.
On Thursday, officials revealed that not all had been brought to a final resting place. The cremated remains of nine Jonestown victims were discovered in a decrepit, now-shuttered funeral home in Dover, officials said. The discovery reopened wounds.
"All the survivors in touch with me are traumatized because that door had been closed," said Jonestown survivor Laura Johnston Kohl, now a retired teacher from San Diego.
"Whatever journey the ashes took in the U.S. is secondary. The first issue is how do we settle it to make sure the ashes are where they belong ... at Evergreen where everybody is," she said, referring to the cemetery that is the site of the mass grave.
Hundreds of children and a U.S. congressman died at Jonestown, and 911 decomposing bodies were brought to Dover Air Force Base, home to the U.S. military's largest mortuary.