As life in Jonestown became more difficult in its final weeks – with perceived threats from the outside world competing with increasing problems within the community – the sense of persecution which had characterized Jim Jones for months began to infect his leadership as well. In an isolated settlement hundreds of miles from Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown and thousands of miles from their homes in the U.S., Jones’ lieutenants seemingly began to believe his – and their – own rhetoric; and with a man suffering from both physical and mental deterioration still nominally in charge, chains of command became increasingly arbitrary, and the community’s functioning became increasingly compromised.
Annie Moore’s memo of November 5, 1978 – written less than two weeks before the arrival of Rep. Leo Ryan and the deaths in Jonestown – is one illustration of this. Addressed to Jim Jones, but intended as well for two of his top aides – Annie’s sister Carolyn Layton and Maria Katsaris – the memo reports on a poisoning plot against the Temple leader. The perpetrator is Joyce Touchette, who had been with the Temple since its early days in Indiana and who – like Annie – was a nurse in Jonestown. Annie has been watching Joyce for a while, and lists 20 observed behaviors which convinces Annie of Joyce’s guilt, beginning with: “Each time the poisoning was obvious she [Joyce] had an excuse already prepared, showing total denial that there was even a poisoning – a cover.” Beyond that, Joyce has “shifty eyes when talking about poisoning – looks guilty” (5) and her “handwriting reveals schizophrenia and disintegrated personality” (7). She quotes Jones’ wife Marceline and Jones himself in noting Joyce’s ability to engage in such an act.
As for Joyce’s reasons, the memo speculates that she might have followed the example of her husband Charlie who “turned us into the FBI” – a charge which is written as if it’s common knowledge, even if it has not been mentioned elsewhere – and that Joyce could be a CIA agent. Or, the memo continues, she could be schizophrenic or “totally lesbian.”
“She is clever,” the memo concludes, “but not enough to fool us.”