[Editor’s note: This FD-302 interview with Christopher O’Neal appears two different places, as Serial 1488 and as Part 11 of Serial 1681, the FBI’s 387-page report of January 12, 1979. While the earlier version of the interview had more deletions than the later – designated by blue type – in neither interview was the subject identified. The deleted information which is known to the editor is indicated by red type.]
Date Dec 29 1978
TO: DIRECTOR, FBI (89-4286)
FROM: SAC, BROOKLYN-QUEENS (89-495) (P)
ReNYtel to SF, 12/29/78.
Enclosed for SF are an original and two copies and for Bureau two copies of FD-302 of interview of [name deleted] conducted subsequent to his arrival at JFKIA, Pan American Airlines flight 228 on 12/21/78.
Armed and dangerous. Suicidal tendencies.
[photocopy of outside of manila envelope]
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Date of transcription 12/26/78
[name deleted] [Christopher O’Neal] was contacted at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFKIA) subsequent to his arrival aboard Pan American Airlines flight number 228. [O’Neal] was advised of the identity of [name deleted] as a Special Agent (SA) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the identity of [name deleted] as an agent of the United States Secret Service (USSS). It was explained to [O’Neal] by Agent [name deleted] that the FBI and the USSS were conducting a joint interview as a result of the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan in Guyana on November 18, 1978.
[O’Neal] advised that prior to his departure from Guyana on this date, he and the other returnees were told that they would be represented by an attorney upon their arrival at JFKIA whom he identified as [name deleted] (phonetic). [O’Neal] stated that he desired to contact the attorney or speak to a fellow returnee whom he identified as Dale Parks before making any statement to the interviewing agents. [O’Neal] stated that he was willing to cooperate with the US Government, but however desired to contact either Parks or the attorney prior to furnishing any information.
SA [name deleted] advised [O’Neal] that his request would be honored and asked [O’Neal] if at this point he would have any objection to furnishing background and descriptive data concerning himself. [O’Neal] stated that he did not have any objection and descriptive data was obtained which is hereinafter set forth at the end of this [word missing].
[Page 2 of FD-302]
Subsequent to obtaining the descriptive data, Dale Parks met with [O’Neal] and in the presence of the interviewing agents advised [O’Neal] that he (Parks) had discussed the nature of the interview with the attorney and that [O’Neal], if he desired, should offer his cooperation to the interviewing agents. [O’Neal] stated at this point, that he consented to be interviewed and furnished the following information.
[O’Neal] advised that he first became acquainted with the Peoples Temple (PT) church in late 1977 through [name deleted] [Released in Serial 1681] his girlfriend [Brenda Parks] whom he knew when he was residing in Ukiah, California. He stated that the Parks family was involved in the PT church for several years. According to [Brenda Parks], Dale Parks, had been in the PT church for several years prior and that he had left the church some time in the middle part of 1977. He advised that Dale Parks was persuaded by Marceline Jones, wife of PT church leader Jim Jones, to rejoin the church in late 1977. It was at this point, according to [O’Neal] that he decided to join the church with the Parks family and in the beginning of 1978, he made his first visit to the PT headquarters in San Francisco, California. [O’Neal] related that on one such visit, which he described as a recruiting effort, a black male he named as Hugh Forstson [Hue Fortson] made a presentation to a group of approximately 100 to 200 potential new members and described the church program. [O’Neal] said that after 2 to 3 more visits to the San Francisco church, he decided to join the church movement when [Brenda Parks] advised that she and her family were leaving for the PT settlement in Jonestown, Guyana.
[O’Neal] advised that in early 1978, he furnished to the church approximately $450, which he stated was his
[Page 3 of FD-302]
Internal Revenue Service refund for the year and in turn was provided transportation to Jonestown, Guyana by the church.
[O’Neal] said that he arrived in Guyana in early April 1978 with [Brenda Parks] and several other members of her family. He stated that upon his arrival in Guyana, he resided for approximately one week at a church facility in Georgetown. Approximately one week later, he and other members of the Parks family departed Georgetown for Jonestown aboard the church vessel the “Cudjole” [“Cudjoe”].
[O’Neal] said that the “Cudjole” group consisted of the captain, Tim Sweeney, David Solomon, and Don Sly. Aboard the “Cudjole” were two Russian nationals who were husband and wife. [O’Neal] was advised that the male was a correspondent for the Soviet news agency Tass. The two Russians stayed in Jonestown for a period of two or three days after their initial arrival. [O’Neal] said that he was housed in cottage number [deleted] at Jonestown and was immediately assigned to making bricks at the Jonestown facility.
[O’Neal] advised that shortly after his arrival in Jonestown, he noticed the presence of individuals who were armed with shotguns and rifles walking around the Jonestown camp. It was initially explained to [O’Neal] that these individuals were the Jonestown security force who were guarding the members from outside invaders. [O’Neal] advised that Jim Jones continually told the Jonestown residents that the security force was needed to protect Jones and the PT followers from mercenaries employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI.
[Page 4 of FD-302]
[O’Neal] advised that two members of the security force were Tim Jones, white male and adopted son of Jim Jones, and Calvin Douglas, black male. [O’Neal] stated that the members of the security force seem[ed] to have certain privileges not afforded other members of the Jonestown camp, explaining that they were not forced to do any menial labor and existed primarily to discipline other Jonestown members. [O’Neal] stated that the security force administered beatings to other Jonestown members for such infractions as not working or expressing displeasure with the unfavorable living conditions in Jonestown. [O’Neal] stated that the term “Angels” had no significant meaning to him.
[O’Neal] stated that Jonestown was a structured environment wherein most of the church members were forced to do hard physical labor and a few select individuals close to Jim Jones lived rather well and were excused from the hard physical labor forced upon the other members. [O’Neal] identified the following individuals as being close to Jim Jones and whom he considered to be Jones’ privileged few:
Steven [Stephan] Jones
Jim Jones, Jr.
[Page 5 of FD-302]
[O’Neal] stated that he had heard from other individuals at Jonestown that a few of the female members of Jones’ advisory staff who included Sharon Amos, Paula Adams, and Debbie Touchet [Touchette] had compromised local Guyanese government officials. He said that he had heard that the above individuals had granted sexual favors to these government officials and that they in turn were indebted to Jones. [O’Neal] stated that it was also alleged that various members of the US Embassy in Guyana were also under Jones’ control and the allegation was that they too had been compromised by the use of sexual favors or financial gain. [O’Neal] stated that Jim Jones at one of his frequent talks to the entire Jonestown community once advised them that if any member of the Jonestown camp attempted to escape and leave the country, that an official from the US Embassy in Guyana would immediately notify Jones. [O’Neal] related that Jim Jones would often brag about the influence that he had and that one of the officials whom Jones was in good standing with, was Lieutenant Governor DiMalley [Mervyn Dymally] (phonetic) of California.
[O’Neal] stated from the day he arrived in Jonestown, the living conditions were terrible. He said that he lived with 14 other people in a wood building, approximately 12 feet by 20 feet, barracks style. He said that the food fed to the Jonestown community was extremely bad and consisted primarily of rice and gravy at each meal. He said that the only exception to the adverse living conditions came about when the camp would house visitors. According to [O’Neal], Jim Jones put on a propaganda effort and that the living conditions, being shorter work
[Page 6 of FD-302]
hours and better food, would last for the duration of the visitor’s stay. [O’Neal] stated that throughout his stay in Jonestown, the presence of the Jonestown security force was a governing factor in his desire to keep his feelings to himself.
[O’Neal] advised that in September of 1978, Jonestown was visited by officials from the Soviet Embassy in Guyana. He stated that one of these visitors was a Soviet physician. [O’Neal] related that Jim Jones, at this time, was talking about moving everybody in the PT church to the Soviet Union. [O’Neal], however, was of the opinion that Jones had no intention to do so.
With respect to the weapons seen at Jonestown by [O’Neal], he advised he saw only shotguns, rifles, and cross bows. He said that it was his belief that the weapons were stored in the cottage where Jim Jones, Jr. resided.
Concerning any contingency plans made by Jim Jones in the event that the PT church was attacked, [O’Neal] related that meetings held by Jones known as “white night” consisting of the entire Jonestown community were held. Jones would advise his followers that should the government invasion of the PT church take place, mass suicide would be the response of the community.
[O’Neal] advised that such a “white night” was called by Jim Jones during the period that Congressman Leo Ryan’s party was in Guyana in November of 1978. At this “white night”, Ryan advised the Jonestown assembly that Jonestown was in imminent danger of being invaded and at the meeting had a number of Jonestown individuals and security force on constant alert for these outside invaders. [O’Neal] advised that the only other
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“white night” that he attended during the duration of his Jonestown stay occurred in May of 1978, when a former Jonestown member, Debbie Blakely [Blakey], defected from the church. At this “white night”, Jones denounced Blakely and accused the FBI and the US Government as being responsible for her defection and transportation out of Guyana. [O’Neal] furnished the following information concerning the events of November 18, 1978 and the shooting at the Port Kaituma airstrip where Congressman Ryan and others were killed or wounded:
[O’Neal] advised that he and the Parks family had told a female aide of Congressman Ryan, Jackie Spier [Speier] (phonetic), that they wanted to leave Jonestown. Spier made arrangements for the Parks family and himself to leave and they departed Jonestown for the Port Kaituma airstrip in a dump truck driven by Ed Crenchaw [Crenshaw]. [O’Neal] advised that one Larry Layton had accompanied them as defectors and that almost all of the Jonestown party warned Spier and the other individuals traveling to Port Kaituma that Layton was a close associate of Jim Jones and should not be trusted. [O’Neal] advised that some of the individuals traveling to Port Kaituma were all of the Parks family, the Bogue family, Vernon Gosby [Gosney], Harold Cordell, and Jim Cobb. According to [O’Neal], Cobb had come down with the Ryan contingent in an unsuccessful effort to persuade members of his family at Jonestown to leave the PT church movement.
When the defectors and the Ryan party arrived at the Port Kaituma airstrip, they began to board one of two aircraft. One of the aircraft was a small plane that carried six passengers, the other a larger aircraft which was owned by the Guyanese Government. During this period, Larry Layton kept insisting that he wanted to board one of the aircraft first. [O’Neal] advised
[Page 8 of FD-302]
that he and the Parks started to board the larger aircraft and when he got seated, he observed that the Jonestown dump truck and the trailer pulled by a tractor which had brought them to Port Kaituma had reappeared and were heading towards the aircraft.
[O’Neal] advised that in the trailer, he saw the following individuals:
Ronny [Ronnie] James
([O’Neal] described him as a black male)
He stated that he saw the above individuals pick up rifles and begin to fire at the Ryan party and the defectors. He stated that Pat Parks, [words deleted, likely related to Patty Parks’ relationship to Brenda Parks], was seated next to [words deleted, likely related to Patty Parks’ relationship to Brenda Parks] when she suffered a head wound and was killed instantly. He advised that Pat Parks was shot in the head and stated that “her brains were blown all over the plane and himself.” He stated that the other passengers in the plane lied down on the floor and when the opportunity presented itself, they departed the plane and ran into the jungle where they stayed for approximately three days.
[O’Neal] advised that it was his opinion that the following surviving members of the PT church are capable of carrying out any contingency plan of Jones if in fact one does exist to include the assassination of public officials or church defectors:
[Page 9 of FD-302]
Jimmy Jones, Jr.
Concerning Eugene Smith, [O’Neal] advised that prior to his departure from Guyana on this date, he and other returnees had heard that Smith allegedly had the responsibility of killing himself and the other returnees and therefore did not want Smith returning aboard flight 228 with them.
When asked specifically about the original source of the allegations concerning Smith, [O’Neal] advised that he could not furnish any further information, but that the word was that Smith was given the responsibility of killing himself and other church defectors.
[O’Neal] furnished the following information concerning other PT church members or individuals affiliated with the PT church:
Tim Jones – A leader of the Jonestown security force.
[Page 10 of FD-302]
Jimmy Jones, Jr. – Member of the Jonestown security force.
Ed Crenshaw – Driver of the dump truck that took Ryan party and Jonestown defectors to the Port Kaituma airstrip.
Johnny Jones – A close confident of the late Rev. Jim Jones.
Mark Cordell – Worked as a kitchen helper in Jonestown and was a member of the basketball team.
Jim MacElvane [McElvane] – Black male, head of PT security in the US.
Billy Oliver – Black male, member of the security force.
Steven Jones – Son of the late Rev. Jim Jones, picked members of the Jonestown basketball team and according to [O’Neal] more dangerous than his late father. Currently being held by Guyanese officials in Georgetown, Guyana.
Tim Tupper Jones – Member of the Jonestown security force.
Lee Ingram – Black male, Jonestown basketball coach, close confidant of Jim Jones, did a lot of speaking at meetings to assembled Jonestown members.
[Page 11 of FD-302]
Calvin Douglas – Black male, member of Jonestown security force.
Mike Prokes– White male, described by [O’Neal] as a public relations man for Jim Jones.
Tim Carter – White male, according to [O’Neal] Carter returned to the US from Jonestown investigating the activities of concerned relatives of Jonestown members two months prior to the mass suicide in Jonestown.
Sandra Bradshaw – White female, close advisor to Jim Jones.
Claire Janaro – White female. This individual may have come down to Georgetown looking for any surviving family members after the mass suicide.
Richard Janaro – Crew member aboard the PT church vessel “Albatross” located in Barbados.
Chuck Beikman – White male, resided in the same college with [O’Neal] described as not too smart. Beikman sold the possessions of Jonestown members that were confiscated upon their arrival. The profits realized by Beikman were turned over to the PT church movement.
[Page 12 of FD-302]
Charlie Touchette – Crew member on the “Albatross”.
Mike Touchette – Operating bulldozer at Jonestown.
Stanley Clayton – Worked in the Jonestown kitchen, lived in cottage number 45.
Odell Rhodes – Black male, present at Jonestown during the mass suicides, escaped, currently in Georgetown, Guyana.
Tim [likely Mike] Carter – Described as public relations man for Jim Jones, operated the radio facility.
Jim Cobb – Former PT church member who defected approximately five years ago, member of the Ryan party who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade remaining members of his family to leave Jonestown. Present at Port Kaituma airstrip at time of shooting, escaped with other defectors.
Mark Lane – [O’Neal] advised that Mark Lane was present in Jonestown on at least two occasions where he stayed for more than a day or two as a guest of Jones since April of 1978. According to [O’Neal], the first visit that he knew about concerning Lane was one where the food and living conditions got better during Lane’s stay. However,
[Page 13 of FD-302]
according to [O’Neal] at a later visit of Lane to Jonestown, the food and living conditions did not improve. According to [O’Neal], he ascertained that Lane was introduced to Jim Jones by Lane’s former publisher, Donald Freid [Freed]. It is the oppression of [O’Neal] that Lane knew about the suicide drills and was close to Jones’ attorney, Charles Garry.
An examination of personal papers found on [O’Neal] prior to his interview, noted the following names and addresses:
James Reston, Jr.
[2 lines deleted]
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Observed in the possession of [O’Neal] was a letter addressed to [name deleted] and signed by [name deleted] (above apparently is a Guyanese address).
The following descriptive data concerning [O’Neal] was obtained through observation and interview:
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[Most information relating to physical description, occupation, education, and relatives deleted.]
Subsequent to the completion of the above interview, [O’Neal] was photographed and fingerprinted by personnel of the FBI at JFKIA.