Marilyn Pursley, a member of Peoples Temple who visited Jonestown in early November 1978 to escort her daughter to the community, died June 15, 2016. Cynthia Pursley died on November 18. A second daughter, Joan, was living in Georgetown at the time and survived the deaths. A profile of her life written a few months before here death, appears here. A remembrance by Marilyn’s daughter Jordan Vilchez appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
John Heneka, a member of Peoples Temple and the post-tragedy companion to Jonestown survivor Bea Orsot, died in mid-February 2016. A remembrance by Laura Johnston Kohl appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
Sherwin Harris, a member of Concerned Relatives who traveled to Georgetown with Leo Ryan’s congressional party – and whose former wife Sharon Amos and daughter Liane Harris were among the four fatalities in the Lamaha Gardens bathroom on November 18, 1978 – died January 11, 2016. His reflections about Liane appear in a Special Section by members of her family. A remembrance by Jordan Vilchez appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
Mark Lane, an attorney who represented Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the summer and fall of 1978, died May 11, 2016. Along with another well-known lawyer Charles Garry, Lane accompanied Leo Ryan to Jonestown but stayed behind in the community to help facilitate additional departures on November 18. Both attorneys survived the tragedy after being escorted to a house away from the pavilion. Already well known for his claims of conspiracies in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lane wrote several books which either focused on or referenced his legal work with Peoples Temple during its final months. Other online obituaries appeared on the Community Idea Stations, the NPR/PBS affiliates in Richmond, Virginia, the state where Mr. Lane died; on Sys.com; and on the PR Newswire. An obituary by Matthew Thomas Farrell appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
Bob Flick, the NBC producer who traveled with Leo Ryan’s congressional party to Jonestown, died December 31, 2015. His first interview after the deaths was given. A remembrance for Mr. Flick appeared in The Octogenarians website in January 2016. Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons’ reflections on his Jonestown trauma appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
Phil Tracy, who co-authored the New West article with Marshall Kilduff in the summer of 1977, died on September 18, 2016. A remembrance by Leigh Fondakowski appears in the 2017 edition of the jonestown report.
Frank Bell, an attorney who represented Larry Layton in the initial parole hearings in 1991, five years after Layton’s conviction for his role in the Port Kaituma shootings, died February 25, 2016. A remembrance by Marianne Bachers appears in this edition of the jonestown report.
Don Edwards, a U.S. Congressman who initially planned to travel to Guyana with Rep. Leo Ryan – and who eventually tried to dissuade his colleague from making the trip – died on October 1, 2015.
In addition, we learned this year of other deaths from previous years.
John Jacobs, who was Tim Reiterman’s cowriter of Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His Peoples Temple, died on May 24, 2000.
Dr. Hardat Sukhdeo, a self-described “anti-cult activist” who both offered psychiatric services to Jonestown survivors and who consulted extensively with the FBI about the anticipated behavior of Temple members returning from Guyana, died on April 14, 2014. His obituary is here.