During the first six months of 1977, before Tim Stoen decided to leave Peoples Temple, he started work on a statement declaring his former wife’s unfitness to assume custody of her child, John Victor Stoen. The draft affidavit is rough and incomplete – it ends seemingly in mid-thought after a single page which includes a number of cross-outs, inserts, and an uncompleted sentence – and whether it was ever submitted to a court or even finalized is unknown.
Nevertheless, Peoples Temple was aware of its existence. Tim Stoen’s reunion with his wife was initially perplexing, because Temple leaders had heard him echo the sentiments of this draft document. After learning of Stoen’s shift in loyalty to the Concerned Relatives oppositional group, these same leaders declared him an opportunist – one of the lesser epithets against him – whose actions were directed more against Jim Jones than in support of either Grace or John Victor.
Stoen’s reference to himself in the draft affidavit as “the legal father of John Victor Stoen,” rather than either “the biological father,” or simply “the father” without qualifying adjective, is also revealing in light of documents he later submitted in the custody battle.
Despite the cross-outs, incomplete sentences, and transitory nature of a first draft, it provides insights into the Temple’s future antagonist. The Jonestown leadership believed it was worth keeping this scrap of paper for future use, and so it did. The State Department recovered the document in Jonestown following the deaths in 1978.