The affidavit in which Tim Stoen ascribes paternity of his son John Victor Stoen to Jim Jones represents the first fateful step towards the end of the Peoples Temple movement almost seven years after he signed it. But was it credible?
The following are excerpts from A Sympathetic History of Jonestown: The Moore Family Involvement in the Peoples Temple by Rebecca Moore (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985).
Like most of the confessions signed by Peoples Temple members, the affidavit probably was contrived to prove Tim’s loyalty to Jim Jones. Tim said that, “Jim asked it as a proof of faith.” Grace added, “There was no suggestion that they [the confessions] were truthful.”
Even if the affidavit were false, however, it’s still possible that Jim was, in fact, John Victor’s father. Many remarked on John Victor’s likeness to Jim, saying the child was “the spittin’ image” of him. But, as Temple lawyer Charles Garry remembers, John Victor also looked like his mother, Grace.
Jim asserted to San Francisco Examiner reporter Tim Reiterman in February 1978 that: “I am the father… I challenge him [Tim Stoen] to take all the blood tests – all the sophisticated blood tests available – and compare them to the child and myself. I challenge him to take a polygraph and truth serum.”
Reiterman asked Jones why he hadn’t made a legal claim to John Victor. Jim replied that he’d followed the advice of his lawyer.
“I could have done so earlier, but I did not want to cause embarrassment to a little child. I had assurances from them, their full word, witnessed publicly and privately (that is, Mr. and Mrs. Stoen) that they would allow my wife and I to continue to rear my child as we have for several years, who looks exactly like a replica of my childhood pictures.”
Jim had no need to make a legal claim until Grace tried to get her son back (pp. 229-230).
Tim Stoen Affidavit of February 6, 1972, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-31-a-24
The importance of this document in the Temple’s sense of its own history is reflected in the number of times it was reproduced within its records. Other copies appear at RYMUR 89-4286-FF-8-34.