Materials Gathered by FBI RYMUR Investigation: Is there more? by Donald Beck
Today the Guyanese jungle has reclaimed Jonestown. The “forest canopy” of rain forest trees has not grown back, but other details – buildings, signs, roads, roofs of corrugated metal, power poles, the machinery – are gone. Some of it has decomposed. Some has been “liberated” by people over the years. Whatever is left is hidden under almost 32 years of growth.
Photographs of Jonestown taken at the end of November 1978 show that the grounds had been bulldozed, removing almost all the greenery, plantings, and walkways, leaving a uniform muddy look to a once-verdant and colorful central area. The photos of the interiors of buildings show how they’d been ransacked as well, everything in shambles. At the time, the only people who’d officially gone through the compound had been the Guyanese Defense forces, several PT members identifying bodies, American soldiers removing the remains, and various police, embassy and FBI people gathering materials to learn more about PT and what happened on November 18. Rumors linger that more items were taken than were officially logged, and these stories are borne out by “mementos” that surface from time to time on eBay.
Documents released by the FBI to this website under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) include accounts of the collection of material objects and what was then done with them. These accounts raise as many questions as they answer, since they seem to indicate that much more was gathered than has been released.
The FBI’s files of its investigation into the assassination of Leo Ryan and the deaths in Jonestown were known by their codename RYMUR, or Ryan Murder. Below are some of those accounts covering what was gathered, when and by whom and – for some of it – where it went. People were interviewed. Tapes were listened to, duplicated and transcribed. Papers were gathered, sorted, and read. Materials were shipped to the States for copying and returned to Guyana. Eventually, materials gathered in Georgetown were stored in a Consulate building, which burned down in 1980. In light of that, what is left is whatever was gathered and stored stateside by the FBI. But perhaps some things are still being held by the Guyanese Police.
Exactly what materials did the FBI find / keep?
• RYMUR materials were shipped from Guyana to the US for copying and returned to Guyana. In San Francisco the boxes of originals were examined to determine the relevant materials to copy. Multiple copies were made. The “boxes” of RYMUR materials were then returned to Guyana, where they were stored in the Consulate. Sadly, these 26+ boxes and more are no longer available, reported lost in the 1980 fire. We might have found more materials, i.e. those not initially copied.
• Apparently what remains are only RYMUR material copies kept in the States. FOIA materials give some accounting: (1) notes about “sets of copies” being distributed and (2) notes indicating FBI HQ received its copy of everything collected. It is unknown what, if any, undocumented materials were kept.
• The FBI has released 3 CDs of documents under FOIA. Much of this material was unreadable. Part of it was subsequently recopied. The FBI reading room index of FOIA materials has two listings under Jonestown: (1) Jonestown – 48,738 pages (which comprise three CDs released to this site and are available here upon request and (2) Summary – 365 pages (whichcan be downloaded from the FBI’s website.
• The FBI has not released any kind of index of the RYMUR materials. There are two indices that refer to the PT documents which the FBI recovered in Jonestown after November 18. These indices are cursory at best, organized into such broad categories – “Legal,” “Financial,” “Administrative Functions” – that they don’t even help the FBI find details for their own investigation.
• Some materials were put on computer. FOIA materials indicate time and personnel were freed for this to be done, to gain better access to details. Where is all this information? When will it be available?
What Materials are of most interest?
Releasing any of these materials (still withheld or copied and never released or kept but not copied) would let us all see more of what was happening in the Temple in Guyana.
• Edith Roller’s Journals. Where are the rest of Edith Roller’s journals? Of the final year, July 78 and Sept-November 78 are missing. What was her account of those last months?
• Department/Committee meeting notes. By the summer of 1978, a departmental structure was in place to run Jonestown. Departments held committee meetings, with weekly minutes of reports and plans. Some have been found; the release of more would give deeper insights of how Jonestown operated. At the very least, they would show that the people were planning for much more activity, not for an ending.
• Photographs. Any and all photographs – especially from before November 18, 1978. The FOIA CDs have b/w photos that are hardly recognizable. These should be in color, to a high resolution for clearer viewing. All pictures from the news crew, color or b/w, should be in high resolution for clearer viewing. Photos taken by the FBI should be released. Some photos are emerging now, but it is a random and haphazard release.
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Chronology of Gathering and Assembling Materials
The following is a chronology of what materials were gathered and where they went, as revealed in RYMUR documents. The source RYMUR reference numbers are listed by volume, page and serial on which the document appears. The document and page numbers show where the document appears in the FOIA release. The serial number is that assigned by the FBI and always follows the code reference “RYMUR 89-4286-.” Note: marked-out text is indicated with
On November 23, 1978, Richard Martin Vice Consul of USA, assigned to Caracas on temporary duty in Guyana, went to Jonestown and “gathered tapes, papers and other items he felt would be of interest.” On November 24, he “went from house to house in Jonestown gathering additional tapes, papers and personal identifications.” All items gathered transported by US helicopter to Georgetown. All but 2 small packets of paper and one reel of tape were placed in a room in the US Consulate. The two small packets of paper were turned over to U.S. Ambassador John Burke. Tape placed in Ambassador’s safe. (vol 28, p 393-96, part of RYMUR 89-4286-1894)
On December 2, 1978, Richard Martin made a memorandum of the record, with “a brief description of the types of property collected and the locations where found.”
Passports (64) – Office
Treasury Checks – Office
Costume Jewelry – Office
Letters – Houses and Offices
Photographs – Houses and Offices
Files – Houses and Offices
Forms – Houses and Offices
Memos and Notes – Houses and Offices
Maps and Diagrams – Houses and Offices
Commnications Equipment – Office
Recording Tapes – Houses, Office, Community Areas
(vol 30, p 128, part of RYMUR 89-4286-2016)
On December 2, 1978 of Guyana Police Photographic Laboratory and ,Police Dept Photographer, made available their 33mm b/w negative of the Port Kaituma airstrip and JT crime scenes. With assistance of and using the Guyana facilities three copies of each exposure were printed. … Also furnished with roll of 120 size b/w negatives of scenes at Lamaha Gardens, in Georgetown, the location where Sharon Amos and her three children were murdered. Printed three copies of these and returned all original negatives to and [assumed to be Guyanese police photographer, etc] (vol 28, p 407, RYMUR 89-4286-1894)
On December 4 through December 12, 1978, SA Robert J Oglesby, Jr & reviewed 26 wooden boxes, various cardboard boxes, suitcases, foot lockers and plastic bags. All were in locked room in American Consulate in custody of Doug Ellice, Consul of the USA, placed there by Richard Martin, Vice Consul USA from Caracas, Venezuela on temporary duty in Georgetown. All above materials was removed from Jonestown on November 24, 1978, under Martin’s direction… After reviewing all the material, 11 wooden boxes approximately 2 ft by 2 ft by 3.5 feet were set aside for transport material of interest to the FBI.
“… Special Agents (SAs) and Robert Oglesby, Jr. and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reviewed material contained in a locked room at the United States Consulate in Georgetown, Guyana. Below is a listing of all video and audio recordings located by the above Agents:”
417 seven-inch reels (audio recording)
247 cassettes (audio recordings)
8 five-inch reels (audio recordings)
14 micro cassettes (audio recordings)
1 two-inch reel (audio recording)
2 eight-track cartridges (audio recording)
44 video cassettes
19 super-eight movie reels
4 super-eight sound cartridges
1 ten-inch super-eight reel
2 16mm print reels
1 plastic bag of miscellaneous audio tape
(vol 28, p 405-406; RYMUR 89-4286-1894)
On December 5, 1978, “SA made three cassette copies of a seven-inch reel of tape identified as the ‘LAST HOUR.’ On 12/6/78 was given one of the above copies for transporting to FBIHQ, Washington DC. On 12/6/78 SA transported the other two cassette copies of this tape to FBIHQ, Washington, DC.” (vol 28, p 386, part of RYMUR 89-4286-1894, labeled “13”)
On December 5, 1978, from Guyana Police photographer, 18 rolls of 35mm b/w negatives identified as recovered from the body of a newsman killed at the Port Kaituma airstrip. Prints were made and negatives returned to Cecil A Roberts, Asst. Comm. in charge of Criminal Investigation Division, Police of Guyana December 11,1978. (vol 28, p 408, RYMUR 89-4286-1894)
On December 6, 1978, “Technical team transported to Port Kaituma and Jonestown by 2 US Army helicopters. At Port Kaituma, conducted a crime scene search and photographed bullet holes and physical damage done to the twin Otter Guyanese airplanes which at the time were being repaired. At Jonestown I took aerial photographs as well as overall scenes.” (vol 28, p 409, RYMUR 89-4286-1894)
On December 7, 1978, “...SA and Detective Criminal Intelligence Division (CID), Guyana National Police (GNP), traveled to Jonestown, via United States Army Helicopter. SA and Detective conducted search of the “pavilion area” for any and all audio and video recordings. … Also conducted a search for similar material in and around all other buildings at Jonestown for which access could be gained. ... On Dec 7, 1978 SA and Detective removed from Jonestown five wooden crates approximately two feet by two feet by three and a half feet containing approximately 200 video cassettes, 11 reels and 12 cassettes of audio recordings... immediately transported to CID headquarters in Georgetown.” (vol 30, p 118, RYMUR 89-4286-2016)
On December 11, 1978, Legat Robert Oglesby examined items identified as radio equipment: tuners, power supplies, receiver, film strip reviewer, phone patch, reel-to reel-recorder, short wave radio, etc. An itemized list of what they reviewed brought from Jonestown to the American Consulate in Georgetown. (vol 30, pp. 119-121, part of RYMUR 89-4286-2016; pp 118-122 lists items taken)
On December 12, 1978, 2 copies of index of Guyana evidence, “… 7 crates received in initial shipment have been categorized by San Francisco and separated in to portfolios. … Bureau is being furnished 2 complete copies, one copy for Bureau to disseminate to Department of Justice. For information, Bureau evidence is being shipped in 12 separate packages marked 1-6 and second copy is contained in packages marked 7-12.” (vol 30, pp. 132-137, RYMUR 89-4286-2018)
On December 27, 1978, 11 wooden boxes of materials taken from Jonestown (probably the wooden foot lockers made for people who went to Guyana as they were readily available) were assembled.
7 boxes contained:
1) Financial and property records
2) Activities in the USA
3) Contacts with Guyana citizens/ govt officials
4) List of PT members
5) Possible bondage/restrictions of members, including children
6) Foreign contacts
7) FBI records
11) Miscellaneous court cases
12) Miscellaneous sampling of PT activities.
4 boxes contained:
video tapes, audio tapes, super eight and 16 mm prints.
(vol 30, p 122, RYMUR 89-4286-2016)
On December 27, 1978, “Seven cases of documents shipped from Georgetown to San Francisco and four cases of tapes shipped from Georgetown to Washington, DC.” (vol 30, pp. 266-67, RYMUR 89-4286-2050)
On January 19, 1979, “Fifteen cases of documents shipped from Georgetown to San Francisco.” (vol 30, pp. 266-67, RYMUR 89-4286-2050)
On January 30, 1979, “Seven cases of tapes were shipped from Georgetown to Washington, DC.” (vol 30, pp. 266-67, RYMUR 89-4286-2050)
On February 9, 1979, American Ambassador in Guyana requested “prompt return of some of items previously sent to US.” Then referred to seven crates of video tapes to be processed promptly and returned to American Embassy, Georgetown “[t]o indicate to American Ambassador and Government of Guyana our [FBI] spirit of cooperation in this very important case.” (vol 28, pp. 213-214, RYMUR 89-4286-1885)
On February 22, 1979, San Francisco forwarded 5 parcels containing xerox copies of the PT evidence obtained from Jonestown. Documents represent more than half of the xeroxing to be done concerning the evidence in the first seven crates received in SF, Dec 29, 1978. Parcels via United Airlines to JFK on February 23, 1979. Parcels placed in “Hold for Pickup by SA , FBI BQMRA (Brooklyn Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency). … Per telephone with BQMRA, SA will personally receive and place parcels on Pan Am flight 2/26/79 to Legal Attaché Robert Olgelsby, ℅ US Embassy, Georgetown. Legat (Legal Attaché) should ensure prompt delivery to GOG [Government of Guyana] (vol 28, pp. 410-411, RYMUR 89-4286-1895)
On February 23, 1979. Being forwarded are 2 sets of Alpha listings (Vol 1-4) on the referenced case. These current volumes contain all records submitted to date including additions, changes and deletion since the last printing. All previous listings maybe destroyed. (vol 28, p 413, RYMUR 89-4286-1897)
February 23, 1979, “Brooklyn-Queens forwarding five parcels containing copies of Peoples Temple
evidence received from Government of Guyana to the United States Embassy, this
date. Parcels shipped aboard Pan Am flight #227, accompanied by US Sky marshal,
On March 10, 1979, teletype read: “San Francisco has completed review of original shipment of seven crates from Guyana… San Francisco is currently conducting initial review of second shipment of Guyana Records, consisting of fifteen crates.” (vol 29, p 104, RYMUR 89-4286-1935)
On March 23, 1979, “On February 23, 1979, San Francisco forwarded 2 parcels containing xerox copies of the Peoples Temple evidence obtained from Jonestown. Documents represent conclusion of the xeroxing to be done concerning the evidence in the first 7 crates received San Francisco, December.” (vol 30, p 155, RYMUR 89-4286-2026)
On March 23, 1979, refers to: “…index of xeroxed evidence received from Guyana at San Francisco on 12/29/78.” “…7 crates received San Francisco from Guyana 12/29/78, separated into portfolios. On 2/21/79, Legat was furnished 5 parcels with index. Above 2 packages represent the remainder of evidence received in the initial 7 crates…” “San Francisco is at this time continuing to process second shipment of 15 crates and will furnish same on completion. Bureau is being furnished under separate cover letter, 2 copies of all evidence and 2 copies of index. (vol 30, p 164, RYMUR 89-4286-2028)
On April 3, 1979, a memo (DOJ, FBI communication message form) “Computer submissions in captioned matter have not been received at FBIHQ from the San Francisco Office. In view of anticipated future congressional inquiry into the handling of this matter, it is imperative that the results of all investigation be retrievable by computer assistance. San Francisco is therefore requested to bring its serials current and forward same to FBIHQ for computerization. (vol 30, p 313, RYMUR 89-4286-2075)
On April 16, 1979, an AIRTEL memo read: “There are approximately 7,000 documents in the RYMUR case which must be reviewed and entered into the Investigative Support System (ISS). It is estimated that it will take ten employees approximately ten weeks to bring this project into current status. To accomplish this task SF contacted your office concerning possible help and was advised that trained ISIS* operator was scheduled to report to FBIHQ on 4/30/79…temporary assignment to SF for a one-month period…” (vol 31, p 69, RYMUR 89-4286-2110)
* ISIS = FBI computer system, Investigative Support Information System. Used to provide support for major investigations that require handling of a large volume of complex information.
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Organization of RYMUR Materials Released Under FOIA
The first release of FOIA was on 3 CDs containing a total of 175 volumes or sections (both names seem used interchangeably), a total of about 49,600 pdf pages -- the vast majority of which are of “written pages,” front and back as necessary.
(A) The pdf sections were organized and form the following groups:
1) Section 1 to 41: Chronologically collected/arranged, includes memorandums, letters, communiqués, notes about the FBI’s work in investigating the death of Congressman Ryan, circumstances, and the aftermath of removal of the bodies, return of those surviving members to the US, the investigation and trial afterwards. Timeline from 11/18/78 to 9/13/88. (RYMUR-89-4286-X1 to X3 & 1 to 2750)
2) Section 42: Lab evidence. Listed as “bulky,” as it included scraps of paper, items and things included in large envelopes, rather than stacks of paper. (RYMUR-89-4286-1286- Lab Evidence pt 1 to 3)
3) Section 43 to 107: Included all the pdfs of materials organized under the A to Y Index listing. (RYMUR-89-4286-2018- A to Y)
4) Section 108 to 160: Included all the pdfs of materials organized under the AA to SS Index listing. (RYMUR-89-4286-2233- AA to SS)
5) Section 161 to 163: Includes all the pdfs of Audio Tape Summaries. (RYMUR-89-4286-2465- Summary 1-10)
6) Section 164: Includes pdfs of photos from Ryan’s trip. (RYMUR-89-4286-2592- Lab File)
7) Section 165 to 174: Includes pdfs of news clippings pertaining to PT, Jonestown and after apparently gathered by FBI offices throughout the US. (RYMUR-89-4286-881- Vol 1 to 10)
8) Section 175: Includes the seven autopsy reports made at Dover. No other full autopsies were done. (There is no RYMUR-89 number listed.)
(B) Interpreting statements about materials collected and handled:
• The “two alpha indexes” mentioned in memos probably refer to the A-Z Index under serial 2018 and AA-SS Index under serial 2233.
• Packages 1-6 are probably Index A-Z [89-4286-2018- ]
• Packages 7-12 are probably Index AA-SS [89-4286-2233- ]
• The packages shipped from SF seem to indicate “packages of xeroxed materials.”
• Reading the distribution of the alpha indexes seems to indicate distribution of evidence. As well, it mentions “SF has furnished remainder of evidence not previously furnished through reference communication.” [vol 30, p 132, RYMUR 89-4286-2018].
(C) About organizing the materials copied and tapes duplicated:
Index A - Z: (Source: Vol 30, pp 132-137, RYMUR 89-4286-2018) March 23, 1979.
7 crates received12/29/8.
Bureau furnished with 2 complete copies of xeroxing.
Bureau evidence is being shipped in 12 separate packages, one complete set marked 1-6 and second copy in packages 7-12
One copy to Secret Service locally.
Bureau requested to furnish one complete set with index to DOJ
Index AA - SS: (source: Vol 33 pp 9 to 16; 89-4286-2233) July 7, 1979:
One complete set in packages marked one throughout
Second copy contained in packages
One complete copy is being furnished to Secret Service, Calif State Attorney General and USA locally.
Portions significant being furnished to IRS and HEW locally.
Bureau is requested to furnish one complete set with index to DOJ
Bureau to obtain permission from DOJ to disseminate to Calif court-ordered receiver, portions KK, QQ, RR and advise SF.
Video Tapes & Film Index: (source: Vol 31 pp 27 to 42; 89-4286-2096) April 4,1979
Q57 - 100 part of 267 videocassettes listed in Vol 31 p 29 - 42
Q101 - 122 16 & 18mm film Q103 is 8mm with sound.
Q123 - 125 unused/unexposed film
Q126 Super 8 color sound film of Ryan at Jonestown
Q1060 - 1285 part of the 267 video cassettes listed Vol 31 p 29-42
Q1286 16mm movie JJ in a TV show “Church In the Home”
Q1287 16mm film, The Social Body, duplicates of Q101 & 102
One copy for Bureau of inventory evidence - video material.
Two copies for Embassy GT of inventory evidence - video material.
SF shipped 6 crates of video material set forth in inventory to be delivered to Embassy in Georgetown to deliver to GOG
Apparently materials were returned to Guyana’s government.
Audio Tapes Index: (assembled from: vols 34 & 35 as both contain lists, handwritten as well as typed lists from the handwritten ones)
Q1 - 19 (cassettes) Vol 28, pp193-195
Q20 - 30 (7” reels) Vol 28, pp193-195
Q31 - 32 (5” reels) Vol 28, pp193-195
Q33 ?? [where listed]
Q34 -37 (cassette) Vol 29, p 193
Q38 ?? [where listed]
Q39 (cassette) Vol 29, p 193
Q40 - 56 ?? [where listed]
Q57 - 126 video tape and film described in section above
Q127 - 143 (8-track & micro cassette) Vol 34 pp 104-113
Q144 - 151 (5” reels) Vol 34 pp 46-59
Q152 - 567 (7” reels) Vol 34 pp 46-59
Q568 - 815 (cassettes) Vol 34 p 104-113
Q816 - 859 (7” reels) Vol 34 pp 46-59
Q860 - 865 ?? [where listed]
Q866 (micro-cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q867 - 879 (cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q880 no audio info, no copies made (per vol 35 p 22)
Q881 - 912 (cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q913 no tape - number never used (per vol 35 p16)
Q914 - 923 (cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q924 no audio info, no copies made (per vol 35 p 21)
Q925 - 999 (cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q1000 - 1006 no tapes - numbers never used (per vol 35 p16)
Q1007 - 1029 (cassette) Vol 35 pp 16-22
Q1030 - 1050 no audio info, no copies made (per vol 35 p 21)
Q1051 - 1052 no tapes - numbers never used (per vol 35 p16)
Q1053 - 1059 14” reels, each copied to 2 10” reels for SF to process
Q1060 - 1287 video tape and film described in section above
Q1288 - 1290 referred to in Vol 35 pp 62-65
Qc42 Marked “Last Hour” Maxell C90 magnetic tape cassette.
FBI transcript 12/16/78: vol 35, pp. 141-173, RYMUR 89-4286-2374
Electronic Equipment: shortwave radios, recorders, etc.
Items reviewed at American Consulate were identified as radio equipment: tuners, power supplies, receiver, film strip reviewer, phone patch, reel to reel recorder, short wave radio, etc. An itemized list of what they listed is at: vol 30, pp 119-121, part of RYMUR 89-4286-2016
News Clippings: (source: Vol 165 - 175, RYMUR 89-4286-881 vol 1 to 10)
Mostly collected after November 18, 1978, by FBI offices across the country. Each category has many subsections.
(Don Beck is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. His other articles in this edition include Eva and Jim Pugh, Remembrance of Alice and Ava Inghram, What I Still Carry With Me, and Presentations of Roller Journals Complete. His earlier articles appear here. He is also the principal researcher and writer for the link at Jonestown Research. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .)