The Jonestown community experienced several deaths before the murder/suicides of 918 people on November 18, 1978. Eight people died of natural causes in Jonestown between August 1977 and November 1978. Seven of the deaths were of seniors, between the ages of 63 and 78; the eighth was an infant who lived 18 days.
These were not insignificant events, either: Lynetta Jones, the mother of Jim, in December 1977; Lisa Layton, the mother of Debby Layton Blakey (who defected the previous May) and Larry Layton (who was arrested and tried for his participation in the Port Kaituma airstrip shootings), about three weeks before Ryan’s arrival; and the death in early October 1978 of Pickards Norris, whose calls out to Jesus on his deathbed – as indicated here – served only to provide ammunition to Jim Jones’ assertion of his own divinity.
All eight bodies were buried in a small cemetery in Jonestown itself. The jungle has reclaimed the burial site – along with the rest of the Jonestown community – and the exact location of the cemetery is uncharted.
- ANDERSON, Vivian Ida, 69 (1/1/1909 – 09/09/1978)
- BUTLER, Chlotile, 78 (3/10/1900 – 6/10/1978)
- COBB, Marshawn, infant (5/7/1978 – 5/20/1978)
- GRIFFITH, Emmett Alexander, Sr. 66 (4/13/1911 – 11/5/1977)
- JONES, Lynetta 75 (4/16/1902 – 12/09/1977)
- LAYTON, Lisa 63 (7/14/1915 – 10/30/1978)
- MURPHY, Lela Loenma 79 (7/17/1897 – 3/30/1978)
- NORRIS, Plickards C. 72 (10/31/1905 -10/6/1978)
There are several sources which document these deaths, including Edith Roller’s diaries. The American Embassy also confirmed the information – at least for the seniors – on 25 November 1978 in RYMUR 89-4286-378.