Who was Paula Adams? What was her relationship to Laurence Mann? Were their deaths connected to Peoples Temple?

Paula Adams was a member of Peoples Temple who went to Guyana on one of the first trips to that country in 1974 and did not return to the U.S. until after the deaths of November 1978. During those four years, she worked principally in the Temple headquarters in Georgetown, acting as a liaison between the group and the Guyanese government, and rarely went to Jonestown.

One of the rumors reported in the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy was that Jim Jones had assigned any number of young attractive women to seduce Guyanese officials, initially to get inside information on how the local government perceived the Temple, later to compromise those officials should they turn against the Temple. There is only one known case of such a relationship, and even the motivations behind that one goes counter to the rumot: Paula Adams ended up having a long-standing affair with Laurence Mann, the Guyanese ambassador to the United States, but even from the start, as she herself later said, the two were genuinely in love with each other. As Laura Kohl wrote in 2012:

For the next several years, [Paula] had to continually prove her allegiance to Jim, while maintaining her other relationship. Jim obviously sanctioned the liaison – which is surprising enough – but somehow Paula was able to hide the depths of her commitment to her lover even while making Jim feel that he was the man who was really in charge.

The relationship was nevertheless tumultuous from its beginning, as were Paula’s ultimate loyalties. She secretly recorded a number of Mann’s telephone conversations – some with her, some with Guyanese officials – transcripts of which ended up in Jonestown.

Paula survived the Jonestown deaths because – not surprisingly – she was in Georgetown on November 18. She appeared alongside several other survivors in post-tragedy interviews, then quietly returned to the United States.

Mann eventually joined her there, and the two of them had a child together. Eventually, though, the two became estranged from each other. In October 1983, during what Bethesda, Maryland police described as a domestic dispute between the two over custody and visitation rights, Mann shot and killed Paula and their son before turning the gun on himself.

Press reports following the murder-suicide suggest that Paula Adams had a two-year-old daughter in Jonestown whom “Jones had used … as his tool to keep her in the country.” The veracity of this report is disputed, however. “I don’t know of any Temple child that was directly connected to Paula,” said one. “Paula was rarely in Jonestown and, when she was, not once did I see her with a child.” In addition, the parentage of all 19 children who were born in 1975 and 1976, and who died in Jonestown, is known, and Paula’s name does not appear among them.

Originally posted on March 27th, 2021.

Skip to main content