John Victor Stoen – Chronology of Events


January 25, 1972:

John Victor Stoen born to Grace and Timothy Stoen in Santa Rosa, California, and raised in community of Peoples Temple.

July 1976:

Grace leaves Temple.

February 1977:

Timothy resigns position as Assistant District Attorney and Special Prosecutor for City of San Francisco to go to Peoples Temple Agricultural Mission in Guyana, South America.

June 1977:

Timothy quits Peoples Temple, leaving John Victor with his teachers in Guyana.

July 1977:

Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, is attacked in the Press. Jones resigns his position as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority and moves to the Mission, which is in a remote jungle area of Guyana.

August 1977:

The California Superior Court issues an ex-parte order giving custody of John Victor to Grace. Jones is notified but refuses to permit John to be returned.

September 6 and 10, 1977:

Habeas corpus proceedings are brought against Jones in the Supreme Court of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. A writ of habeas corpus is issued, making John Victor a ward of the court, and granting leave to commence contempt proceedings against Jones. Jones evades personal service. The court authorizes substituted service, which is made with the help of the Guyanese Army.

September (a few days later):

The Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana, the Hon. Dr. Ptolemy Reid, returns to Guyana from a trip abroad. All effective action in the “summary” habeas corpus proceedings stops.

November 18, 1977:

Timothy and Grace Stoen testify together in California Superior Court, and are awarded joint legal custody. The Superior Court determines that it has personal jurisdiction over Jones and that Jones has been properly served; the court determines that Jones is in violation of its order to appear.

The court orders:

a) “that Reverend Jim Jones…immediately deliver the minor, JOHN VICTOR STOEN, to the Petitioner.”

b) that the San Francisco District Attorney “take all action necessary…to secure Reverend Jim Jones’ compliance with this order.”

c) that petitioner “is granted leave to institute contempt proceedings against the Reverend Jim Jones.”

November 18, 1977:

The above-mentioned court order is served on Jones’ attorney of record in San Francisco. Jones does not comply.

November 25,1977:

The District Attorney of San Francisco, Joseph Freitas, Jr., sends an official letter to the following persons requesting each “to use whatever influence you have to help us obtain Reverend Jones’ compliance with the aforesaid order:”

a) United States officials: President Jimmy Carter; Secretary of State Cyrus Vance; Bay Area Congressional representatives;

b) Cooperative Republic of Guyana officials: Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ptolemy Reid, Foreign and Justice Minister Fred Wills.

December 16, 1977:

The U.S. Department of State writes a letter to District Attorney Freitas saying in effect that the State Department is unable to help and that the “question of John Victor Stoen’s custody will almost certainly be decided by the Guyanese court…on the basis of Guyanese law.” The Guyana officials do not respond to Freitas.

December 1977:

The Stoens are advised by their Guyanese lawyer that final argument on procedural objections to the habeas corpus writ will commence January 7, 1978.

January 4, 1978:

Stoens travel from San Francisco to Georgetown, Guyana.

January 7, 1978:

The Guyanese court hears argument in the habeas corpus proceeding. The Stoens are present. Jones appears by counsel.

January 10, 1978:

At the conclusion of argument, the court takes the matter “under submission.” The Stoens’ Guyanese lawyer advises that the outlook for a favorable order confirming habeas corpus against Jones is very positive and that a decision should be issued in matter of days.

January 13, 1978:

At 3:50 P.M. an official of the Guyana Immigration Office comes to the Tower Hotel and advises the Stoens that they must be out of the country before midnight the next day. No reason is given, although visas are good through January 19. Tim advises the U.S. Embassy in Guyana that the order is illegal and that he will stay but Grace will go to Trinidad. The next day while Grace is checking baggage at the airport, the Stoens are informed by a Guyanese Immigration official that the order has been rescinded. Though requested, no explanation is given.

January 17, 1978:

The Stoens are advised by their Guyanese lawyer that a decision may not be reached for a matter of weeks. The matter has now been pending since September.

January 18, 1978:

The Stoens decide to leave Guyana and to fly back when the court’s decision is imminent. At Guyana’s Timehri Airport, Tim is surrounded by three agents of Jones and the Peoples Temple who demand that they drop the court proceedings and verbally threaten their lives.

January 1978:

The Stoens remain married with a possibility of reconciliation and are in full agreement and harmony on all questions pertaining to the raising of John Victor.

For Further Information, contact:

Timothy Oliver Stoen

c/o Mayer, Brown & Platt
888 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Telephone: (202) 785-4443


c/o Jeffrey A. Haas
Attorney at Law
3609 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94188
Telephone: (415) 922-6200