Serial 2447 (post)

[Page 1 is an article from the Washington Post, 5/23/80, “Guyanese Jury Acquits People’s Temple Member”]

[Page 2]

Georgetown, Guyana (UPI) – Guyana may drop murder charges against a People’s Temple fanatic in the butcher-knife slayings of a family of four if the suspect gets a heavy sentence next week on a charge of attempted murder to which he pleaded guilty.

Although there is officially no such thing as plea-bargaining in Guyana, Charles Beikman’s guilty plea Monday to a single count of attempted murder against a 9-year-old adopted granddaughter of self-appointed Bishop Jim Jones, Stephanie Jones, appeared to be a deal.

Beikman pleaded innocent to charges of murdering the Temple’s spokeswoman in the Guyana capital, Sharon Amos, and her three children.

Prosecutors said later if Beikman gets the maximum sentence of life imprisonment next Tuesday from High Court Judge Ceci [Cecil] Kennard, they will drop the murder charges.

[Page 3]


Georgetown, Guyana (AP) – One of the two persons charged in connection with the People’s Temple tragedy pleaded guilty today to a charge of attempted murder. On a separate charge, he said he was innocent of slaying a top cult member and her three children here in 1978.

Authorities said Charles Beikman, 44, a cook and shoemaker for the Jonestown community, was likely to be sentenced later today or Wednesday for the attempted murder of Stephanie Jones, a nine-year-old girl and no relation to cult leader Jim Jones.

Beikman also was charged with murder in the death of Sharon Amos, a top Temple official, and her three children at the cult’s Georgetown headquarters on the night of the mass-suicide of more than 900 persons in Jonestown on Nov. 18, 1978.

Guyana criminal court officials said that the trial for the second person charged in the tragedy, scheduled for today in another court room, was postponed until May 5.

Defense attorney Rex McKay, who represented Larry Layton, 33, a former Marine, won a postponement when McKay argued that he planned to represent the Government of Guyana in an arbitration case in Washington, DC, shortly.

Layton is charged with the murder of Rep. Leo Ryan, D.-Calif., three journalists and a People’s Temple defector.

[Page 4]


Georgetown, Guyana (UPI) – A People’s Temple cultist was sentenced to five years today for the attempted murder of a 9-year-old child in a throat-slashing spree that claimed four other lives on the night of the Jonestown massacre.

Prosecutors said Charles E. Beikman, 47, a husky former Marine from Indianapolis, may be offered a plea-bargaining deal to spare him further punishment on the four remaining murder counts.

A murder conviction could carry a sentence of death by hanging.

Beikman, who cannot read or write and served as the commune’s shoemaker and cook, stood passively when Guyana High Court Judge Cecil Kennard passed sentence.

Beikman pleaded guilty to attempting to kill Stephanie Jones, an adopted granddaughter of self-styled Bishop Jim Jones, the night of Nov. 18, 1978, in Georgetown at about the same time Jones led 911 of his followers into a mass murderer-suicide at the Jonestown jungle outpost.

The Jones girl was the only one of five persons who survived a bloody throat-cutting attack with an 18-inch butcher knife and a kitchen knife in the bathroom of the Temple’s headquarters in the Guyanese capital.

The Temple’s spokeswoman in Georgetown, Sharon Amos, and her three children, Lain [Liane] Harris, Christa and Martin, were killed.

The prosecution did not immediately indicate after the sentencing whether murder convictions will still be sought against Beikman.

But prosecutor said they may press for a plea bargaining deal in which Beikman, while pleading guilty to lesser charges of manslaughter, would not receive additional jail time. Instead, the sentences would run concurrently with the five-year term imposed today.

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Prosecutors said [they were] waiting for Beikman’s chief defense attorney, Rex McKay, to return from United States to start negotiations.

In imposing a relatively lenient sentence, Judge Kennard said he had considered the fact that Beikman, unable to get bail, has already spent almost two years in jail in the South American nation.

“You are a person away from the United States where you live and it must have been a nerve-wrecking experience to be in prison in the country not your own,” Kennard said.

He said he also took into account evidence that the Jones girl’s cut on the neck was superficial and probably had been caused not with a butcher knife but with a kitchen knife.

He said he also accepted Beikman’s explanation that Mrs. Amos herself told Beikman to help her cut her own throat and those of the children. But the judge said Beikman was still “lucky” not to be facing the more serious murder charges.

A second People’s Temple suspect still in jail, Larry Layton, 34, is scheduled to go on trial May 5 for the murder of California Congressman Leo Ryan, three newsmen and a Temple defector, but all indications are that Layton, a former San Francisco resident, also will be permitted to plea bargain.

[Page 6]


Georgetown, Guyana (AP) – One of two persons charged in connection with the People’s Temple tragedy was sentenced today to five years hard labor for the attempted murder of a 9-year-old girl.

Charles Edward Beikman, 44, a cook and shoemaker for the Jonestown community, had pleaded guilty to that charge but innocent of slaying a top cult member and her three children on Nov. 18, 1978.

Court sources said the state is not expected to pursue charges that Beikman murdered Sharon Amos, an aide to cult leader Jim Jones and public relations officer for the People’s Temple.

On the same night that Mrs. Amos and three of her children died in Georgetown, their throat slashed ear-to-ear, Jones led more than 900 of his followers to their deaths in a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, 150 miles to the northwest.

The mass killings followed the slaying by cult members of Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., three journalists and a defecting cult member on a jungle airstrip near Jonestown.

Another cult member, Larry Layton, 33, a former Marine, is charged with the murder of Ryan and the others. His trial has been delayed until May 5.

Beikman had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Stephanie Jones, no relation to the cult leader, who was in a bathroom of the house where the Amos family died.

The five-year sentence means Beikman could be out of prison three and a half years from now, with time off for good behavior. The maximum sentence for attempted murder is life imprisonment.

In passing sentence, Judge Cecil Kennard said he took into account that Beikman had been in custody since Nov. 23, 1978 and has shown some contrition by pleading guilty in the Stephanie Jones case. The judge also said the girl had suffered only a superficial wound with a kitchen knife – not with the butcher’s knife used in the murders.