Tim and Grace Stoen’s efforts to reclaim John Victor from Guyana were complicated by the fact that they had both signed a parental consent and power of attorney form in March 1976 – and Tim signed a second one in September 1976, almost three months after Grace’s departure – which allowed Jim Jones and other leaders of Peoples Temple to make decisions on behalf of the child. Not only were the powers granted by the documents all-encompassing, they each specified the authority to remove the child from the country, with the former specifying “going to Guyana, South America.”
Both forms were drafted by the Temple for use in establishing custody rights over minors who would be leaving for Guyana. The minors would be without their parents, but would travel with their parents’ consent.
While both forms were signed, the first one is more problematic than the second. There is no notary stamp on the March 1976 document, it has a typographical error, and it includes a significant factual error: John’s birthdate is listed as April 27, 1974, completely at odds with his true date of January 25, 1972.
Grace had also provided information on her son for a form to be completed “by persons desirous of immigration into Guyana.” The undated government document includes an additional typed notation at the end that “The applicant is a member of People’s Temple Agricultural Mission in Guyana.” Her signature appears beneath a declaration that the statements are “true and made in good faith.”
Finally, the Temple had a slip of paper authorizing John Victor to be taken to Guyana. “I give my full permission to have my son, John Victor Stoen go to the Promised Land for any reason,” the note states in its entirety. It is not an affidavit – as the Temple described it – but it is unambiguous, and it is written and signed in Grace’s handwriting.
Undated note from Grace Stoen, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-31-a-43