In his ruling of January 26, 1979, which ordered the dissolution of Peoples Temple, Superior Court Judge Ira Brown also named local attorney Robert Fabian to act as Receiver of Temple assets. A week later, on February 1, 1979, the judge gave Fabian his marching orders.
The attorney had three main tasks. The most immediate task was the help the families of the Jonestown dead – and the Guyana Emergency Relief Committee, representing those who had no families – to bury the bodies. In addition to allowing immediate reimbursements and claims for burial expenses at the rate of $540 per decedent, Fabian tried to assist families in locating funeral directors and in providing cremation services.
His second task was to locate the assets of Peoples Temple. There were rumors of untold millions scattered in numbered bank accounts around the world – and Fabian undoubtedly missed a few – but by the time he proposed his disbursements to settle the claims, he had located $9.5 million in assets, including sales of the Temple’s real estate and personal property.
His third task was to establish a mechanism whereby creditors could file those claims against the Temple’s estate – more than 700 such claims poured in – and to establish criteria to determine which claims would be honored, which reduced and which dismissed. Most of the money went to settle wrongful death suits and to reimburse medical expenses of those people wounded at the Port Kaituma airstrip; previously-incurred debts, claims raised in previously-filed lawsuits, and reminders of the lifetime care contracts that the Temple had given its members were uniformly dismissed.