Peoples Temple and Joseph Mazor

Joseph A. Mazor was both an ex-convict and a licensed private investigator in the State of California. The former should have disqualified him from the latter, and he boasted that he was the first and only person – as of 1977 – to have that distinction. It is also emblematic of the many contradictions in his relationship with Peoples Temple.

It is unknown when he started looking into the Temple: Mazor himself said it was in late 1976 at the request of a friend on the San Francisco police force, although elsewhere he said New West magazine referred ex-members to him for help in early 1977. By August, according to his own count, he was working for 18 families, many of them connected to the Concerned Relatives, in a campaign to retrieve Jonestown residents, by kidnapping if necessary.

It is also unknown when (or even if) Mazor jumped the fence and became an ally of the Temple. According to Mazor – again – he made a secret trip in September 1977 to spy on the Jonestown community. When he found that the conditions were not as Temple defectors had told him, he became disenchanted with the Concerned Relatives’ message and eventually switched his allegiance to side with Peoples Temple. The 1977 trip was so secret, however, that U.S. Embassy records show his first trip to Guyana wasn’t for another year, in September 1978. On that occasion, he went to Jonestown at the invitation of the project’s leadership.

The invitation was not completely open. Jim Jones was suspicious of his new ally, in part because of what the Temple had learned – and what Mazor had acknowledged – about his own past. In various tapes from September 1978, Jones describes the investigator as “the former conspirator who is now an informer” and as a possible “double agent” or a “provocateur,” and warns Jonestown residents not to volunteer any information to the man during his visit. Indeed, no one really trusted Mazor – neither the Concerned Relatives nor the Temple – yet each side depended upon him for information about the other. And he may have had a third client: law enforcement.

Joe Mazor died in November 1985 under circumstances which were as mysterious as his life. According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, a domestic dispute with his wife ended up with him being shot to death. The wife was taken into custody, but was released within days after her attorney – Temple lawyer Charles Garry – posted bail. There are no other public records as to the disposition of charges against Mazor’s wife.

  1. Temple Flyer Charges Joe Mazor as INTERPOL Agent
  2. Joseph Mazor Letter to Charles Garry
  3. Carol McCoy Interview with Joe Mazor
Originally posted on April 26th, 2016.

Last modified on June 26th, 2017.
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