A CULT’S DARK DESCENT: TIMELINE
Jim Jones (left, in Los Angeles, 1974) forms the Peoples Temple Christian Church, in Indianapolis, to preach his gospel of racial equality.
Jones moves his congregation to California. By 1972 he claimed to have as many as 20,000 members. Among them: Jerry and Patricia Parks and their children Brenda, Dale and Tracy.
Peoples Temple member Grace Stoen defects, leaving her 4-year-old son, John (above), in the care of temple members. Because her husband, Tim, has signed an affidavit declaring Jones is John’s biological father, Jones refuses to release John to her. She files for custody.
Aug. 1, 1977
After San Francisco magazine New West publishes a story accusing Jones of financial impropriety and ordering physical assaults, he moves his church and followers to a remote compound on 1500ha of land in Guyana, taking 5-year-old John Stoen along with him.
Nov. 18, 1977
A California judge in San Francisco awards custody of John to Grace, with visitation rights given to Tim. The judge further rules Jones’s rights as John’s guardian are void and orders that “all actions necessary” be taken to return John to his parents.
Nov. 17, 1978
At the urging of the Stoens and other former Peoples Temple members, congressional Rep. Leo Ryan (left) travels to Jonestown to meet with Jones.
Nov. 18, 1978
Ryan leaves the camp with 15 church defectors, including Tracy and her family. Jones supporters attack the group at the airport, fatally shooting Ryan, three journalists and Tracy’s mother, Patricia (left); Jerry tends to the wounded as Tracy and her sister, along with others, flee into the jungle.
Nov. 18, 1978
Shortly after the airstrip massacre, Jones calls his followers to the pavilion and tells them there is “no hope” and they must all commit “revolutionary suicide.” Armed temple members ensure everyone takes cyanide-laced punch. Some 605 adults and 304 children die, including John, the child at the centre of the custody battle, and Jones himself. Tracy and her group are rescued.