The Defection of Deborah Layton Blakey

In May 1978, Deborah Layton Blakey, a Temple financial secretary and one of Jim Jones’ most trusted aides, traveled from Jonestown to Georgetown, Guyana and went to the American Embassy, where an airline ticket from her family was waiting for her. Blakey gave a short statement to Embassy Consul Richard McCoy about her reasons for wanting to leave Jonestown, principally because over fears of Jim Jones’ plans for mass suicide. She then spoke to him at greater length when they found themselves on the same plane flight headed back to the United States. According to McCoy, he advised her to take some of her concerns about the weapons she claimed to have seen to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) within the Treasury Department and the U.S. Customs Service.

About a month later, she issued a lengthy affidavit to the press with details on her earlier allegations about plans for mass death and about conditions in the Jonestown community.

The affidavit became an important document in the campaign of the Concerned Relatives to bring attention to their cause and helped Congressman Leo Ryan in his decision to go to Guyana six months later. For the same reason, the affidavit – and its author – became anathema in the Jonestown community. A number of handwritten notes recovered in Jonestown following the deaths in November 1978 detail violent fantasies of killing Blakey, and several Jonestown tapes – including Q 279, Q 359, and Q 284 – reflect the impact of the defection upon the Jonestown community.

In early December 1978, three weeks after the deaths in Jonestown, Richard McCoy – the former Consul to the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown and then the Guyana Desk Officer at the State Department – wrote a memo “to the files” summarizing his interactions on the defection of Deborah Layton Blakey. The memo notes McCoy’s recommendation that Blakey write and file the affidavit that she ended up doing.

Statement of Deborah Layton Blakey

Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakey, RYMUR 89-4286-B-2-d-3

Richard McCoy memo “to the files”