[Editor’s note: One of the subjects of this serial whose name is deleted is former Temple member Jim Cobb. The deleted information from the memorandum – designated by brackets – which is known to the editor has been indicated by red type.]
[This section of Serial 1681 covers page 50-62 of the FBI Report of January 12, 1979.]
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Date of transcription 11/22/78
An individual, who identified himself as [name deleted] [Jim Cobb], was contacted as he departed Delta Flight 956 at the San Francisco International Airport. This flight had been diverted to Western Airlines gate number 67 for disembarkation and at this time [Cobb] was advised of the identities of the interviewing Agents and [name deleted], an investigator for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, who was present during the interview. It is noted that [name deleted] has had extensive contact with [Cobb] in the past regarding People’s Temple.
[Cobb] stated that he first became acquainted with the People’s Temple in [year deleted] while he and his family were residing in Indianapolis, Indiana. His mother, at that time, had become a member of the People’s Temple, whose leader was Reverend Jim Jones. [Cobb] noted that at the time his mother became affiliated with the Church, it was not the custom for members of the Church to give offerings or turn over goods and possessions other than the traditional passing of the plate. This was in Indianapolis. When [Cobb] came to California, there was no offering collection at all. [Cobb] identified his mother as [Elois Christine Cobb]. [Cobb] stated as far as he knows, she is still either at Jonestown, Guyana, or in the jungle outside of Jonestown.
[Cobb] stated that when the Church moved to California, Jones brought them out to Redwood Valley, which is in the northern part of California; this occurred in 1963. The reason, [Cobb]stated, that Jones moved the Church to the West Coast was due to harassment and the fact that in Redwood Valley there existed a cave which the Church could take refuge in, in the event of a nuclear holocaust. [Cobb] observed that his mother followed Jones with the rest of the family, in February, 1967. [Cobb]noted that his father was reluctant to come to California in that he would have to sacrifice his many years of service on his job; however, after tremendous pressure placed upon him by [Cobb’s] mother, he succumbed and journeyed to California with the family. [Cobb] stated that he came to Redwood Valley two or
three months after his family had come, and the reason that he came was due to letters he was receiving from his family that it was a paradise in that it was multiracial and there existed nothing but an atmosphere of love and kindness and equality.
[Cobb] noted that after his arrival, he was treated with such cordiality and kindness that he began to fall in love with the Church and its principles. He stated that the philosophy of the Church at that time as he could determine was one of sharing and welfare for all with equality in all things.
[Cobb] stated that he stayed with the Church and in 1968 Jones began a new type of preaching from the pulpit which was comprised of denunciation of other churches wherein Jones was throwing Bibles on the floor, spitting on the American flag and denouncing generally the United States. Jones compared the United States to Hitler’s Germany and stated that what happened to the Jews in Germany was certainly going to happen to the blacks in the United States.
[Cobb] stated that at first Jones did not take offerings in the Church, but that circa 1968, 1969, Jones stated that other churches were taking money from their members and that it was time for the membership to begin donating. Jones gave a figure of 25 percent as being representative of other churches and stated that it was a voluntary contribution. In 1969, Jones again changed the policy and it became mandatory to give 25 percent of everything you had in order to stay in the Church as an active member.
In the early seventies, circa 1971, [Cobb] began to notice irregularities in the Church. At this time, [Cobb] was engaged in the Youth Group Movement of the Church and as such he was [words deleted]. [Cobb] stated that in the late 1960s, he helped organize the youth indoctrination groups, which went on camping trips and generally taught Church doctrine. He had taken training classes in order to teach the young people, and that normally these classes would occur on Wednesday nights. The youth were also given books to read as recommended by Jones,
and [Cobb] stated that Jones stated, on many occasions, that the ends justify the means to any activity. Even though he was [position deleted] in the Youth group, he made a concerted effort at staying off of committees and out of Church organizations in the general politics of the Church. [Cobb] stated it was at this time that he noted that specific members of the staff surrounding Jones seemed to be privileged, and that it was not required for them to go to meetings on occasion. This seemed unfair to [Cobb], inasmuch as everyone else was required to be at all meetings in order to be in good standing. [Cobb] also noted that when many families were suffering from severe poverty and that they could not afford to send lunches to school with their children, Jones’ children would always appear with lunches comprised of excellent food and more than anybody else. [Cobb] stated at this time he began to become disenchanted with the Church.
[Cobb] stated that even though inequalities existed, no one ever dissented because Jones had stated from the pulpit on numerous occasions, as late as 1969, that anyone who left the Temple would be killed or if you disclose information regarding the People’s Temple you would be killed. It is noted that the word killed was specifically used.
Any activities that were conducted by any members of the People’s Temple were conducted with total emphasis on the fact that anything that was done by the members was done for the betterment of the Church. In this regard, [Cobb] stated that people were instructed not to go to college unless they intended to stay with the group afterwards, because to go to college and break away from the Church was to rob the people of the money they had expended for your college.
[Cobb] stated that it was his desire to go to dental school and so he proceeded to San Francisco to attend the dental school at University of California at San Francisco. [Cobb] stated that he “ran himself ragged” trying to serve the People’s Temple as a janitor at night and go to college in the day.
[Cobb] stated that circa 1968, Jones made the members of the Church write things on paper of an incriminating nature to the member himself. These statements could range from
statements such as, “I’m a violent revolutionary,” or, “I’m a homosexual,” or statements which would threaten the life of the then-President, President Nixon. [Cobb] observed that each different group of people, that is men and women, would sign different statements incriminating themselves based upon what their position was. These statements were then given to Jones which Jones would then use as leverage, should the individuals attempt to defect from the Church.
[Cobb] decided to disassociate himself with the Church. The first time that he attempted to do this was in January of 1973. [Cobb] proceeded to San Francisco where he stayed in his car and made it a practice to carry a .38 revolver for his protection. [Cobb] stated that he was indeed fearful for his life, as it was a known fact among Church members that anyone who defected would be killed eventually.
[Cobb] stated that in the ensuing months, even after Jones had told [Cobb’s] mother not to have further conversations with him, [Cobb’s] mother came to him and stated that it was not good that he had left the Church and that it was a bad example for his brothers and sisters. Based upon this and the persuasion that his mother had with him, he rejoined the Church a couple of months later.
[Cobb] stated that prior to September 1, 1973, in discussions with certain individuals, it was felt by him and his peers that there were problems with the Church which caused them not to want to be associated with the Church any longer. Based upon their feelings, on September 1, 1973, [Cobb] along with [listing of the Eight Revolutionaries who also included Mickey Touchette (name released), as well as John Biddulph, Vera Biddulph, Wayne Pietila, Lena M. Flowers, Tom Podgorski and Terri Cobb Pietela], left the Church compound in Redwood Valley with the intent not to return. They were leaving the area in three separate vehicles and upon their departure, Tom Kice, who had a house on a ridge overlooking the valley, noted that they were leaving. This individual was the [half line deleted] a member of the group which was leaving, and so while that individual distracted his [words deleted], the rest of the group proceeded to the back of the house where they severed communication lines to the house so that this individual could not call the rest of the Church staff and
advise them of their departure. These individuals then left the area and proceeded north into the states of Oregon, Washington, and on into the Canadian territories.
[Cobb] noted that the following members who escaped with him were members of the Planning Commission for the Church:
[Names of several of the Eight Revolutionaries deleted]
[Cobb] also stated that [name deleted] was a leader in the Youth Group.
[Cobb] stated that in December of 1973, he proceeded to San Francisco and on the way visited his father in [location deleted], California. [Cobb] observed that his father is an ex-member. From there, he went back to school in San Francisco. [Cobb] stated that intermittently between this time, in order to get funds to go to school, he worked in a [several words deleted]. This was in the summer of 1974. At the end of his employment in the summer of 1974, he proceeded to San Francisco and obtained an apartment located at [location deleted].
[Cobb] stated that it was at this time that he began to be harassed. These telephone calls consisted of threats against [Cobb] and later against his son by [name deleted] who was a muscleman for Jones, and other unidentified individuals. [Name deleted] told [Cobb] that he was going to take care of him and then stated that they were going to take care of his son, [several works deleted]. [Cobb] noted that based upon these threats, he began to miss classes trying to protect his family. [Cobb] also noted that it was at this time when he began associating with other individuals his head began to clear regarding his association with the Church.
[Cobb] stated that while he was around the Church and participating with it, he recalled occasions when Jones would talk about mass suicide. He recalled Jones talked about mass suicide the first time that he can remember in 1971. Jones
told the Church that due to harassment, if the Church was unable to reach the Promised Land or its objectives then would become incumbent on the Church members to kill themselves and this would include Jones. Jones asked for a demonstration of anybody who opposed this principle and [Cobb] stated no one opposed because the people were too fearful to dissent. [Cobb] also noted that Jones made great efforts to befriend local government and police individuals. [Cobb] stated that he understood that the intercom system that is currently in use by the Ukiah Police Department was funded by Jones. [Cobb] stated that from the pulpit Jones would denounce government and police and frequently said that the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) were fascist pigs.
[Cobb] stated that while he was in [deleted word, likely “dental”] school at San Francisco, he filed a lawsuit against Jones in order to expose him. [Cobb] took the position that if they were going to kill him, then regardless of what his actions were he would be killed; so it was his intention to expose Jones as best he could before anything of that nature were to occur to him.
[Cobb] at this point, was asked various specific questions and provided the responses which will follow. [Cobb] was asked if he had any specific knowledge of acquisition, licensing, or shipment of any weapons by People’s Temple members. [Cobb] stated that he really knows nothing about the weapons other than he knew that they had guns. [Cobb] identified Tom Kice as having had guns, in addition, [Cobb] said Bob Crabtree also was a possessor of weapons. [Cobb] was told on many occasions by Jones that the Temple had enough weapons to defend itself. [Cobb] stated that he believes the guns that were shipped to Guyana were shipped in the containers which went to Guyana from the People’s Temple in San Francisco. [Cobb] knows that M-1 Rifles were purchased by Kice and Rick Stahl. These guns were purchased at the San Francisco Gun Exchange on Third Street, San Francisco, California. [Cobb] observed that he currently has one of the M1 Rifles at his home address on [location deleted]. He stated he would make that rifle available at a later date. [Cobb] stated that they had a varied amount and varied inventory of rifles and that there was no one consistent weapon available.
[Cobb] was asked if he had any specific knowledge of firearms training received by People’s Temple members including specific dates, places, and trainers. [Cobb]stated that the rumor at the time was that members were trying to get access to the Ukiah Police Department gun vaults. [Cobb] stated on one occasion he proceeded to Jim Randolph’s place in Willits, California, where Bob Kice and a few others were shooting M-1s. At this time, [Cobb] had an opportunity to fire the weapon but stated that he did not go with individuals handling guns again as he did not like this type of activity. [Cobb] stated that the individuals present at the time they proceeded to the ranch were Mike Cartmell, who is now an ex-member; [name deleted]; Rick Stahl; and [name deleted].
[Cobb] was asked if he had any direct knowledge of threats to harm any public officials or current or former People’s Temple members as result of persons attempting to expose the People’s Temple; infiltrate the People’s Temple or inducing a member to leave the People’s Temple. [Cobb] stated that threats the detectors were going to get killed were frequently made and it was the understanding of everyone in the Church that this, in fact, was what was going to occur. [Cobb] stated that no one could expose the Church without having a threat on his life. [Cobb] stated that he was not familiar with any overt acts; however, the understanding of the membership of the Church was a concrete situation.
[Cobb] was asked if he was aware of any caching of weapons or monies by Jones. [Cobb] stated that he was familiar that Jones would hide money and weapons, but [Cobb] had no idea as to where. [Cobb] stated that Jones told [Cobb] that he did indeed hide weapons and money. [Cobb] stated that it was a rumor in the Church that Jones had money hidden away in Swiss banks, but that he was not familiar how much or in what banks. [Cobb] stated that the money that Jones transported to Guyana was taken into Jonestown, glued to the bodies of members so as to avoid any customs problems.
[Cobb] was then asked if he had any knowledge of discussions or copies of a contingency plan reportedly espoused by Reverend Jones as a means of retaliation against any persons
attempting to arrest or capture Reverend Jones. [Cobb] stated that Jones, on many occasions, stated that if he was put in jail that the members were not to stand still. The Planning Commission, according to [Cobb], was responsible for actions to be taken by the group in securing the release of Jones. Beyond the Planning Commission there was the inner core. This group had specific instructions as to what actions they should take. [Cobb] was not familiar with their instructions. It was the intent that the Planning Commission would target the responsible interfering individual who was responsible for incarceration and in some fashion place a threat to that individual which would secure Jones’ release.
[Cobb] was asked if he had any knowledge of the conspiracy or discussion by members of a specific federal official as a target. [Cobb] stated no specific allegations were made towards any specific individual except to coerce individuals who were responsible for interference in the Church or the incarceration of Jones.
[Cobb] was asked if he had any specific knowledge regarding hitmen or angels who were the inner core of the elite Planning Commission members who were utilized as bodyguards and reported hitmen by Jones. [Cobb] stated that individuals who met this criteria were Chris Lewis, who is now dead; Jack Beam, Sr., who [Cobb] states is purported to be in Guyana and who is a known hitman for Jones; Bob Kice; Bonnie Beck; Sandy Bradshaw (Ingram); Guy Young; Don Sly; Andrew Silver; Tom Adams; Terry [Terri] Buford; Jean Brown: June Crym; and Leona Collier.
[Cobb] was asked if he had any knowledge of specific People’s Temple members being utilized to compromise public officials for the furtherance of People’s Temple objectives. [Cobb] stated that he was aware that Paula Adams, a member of the People’s Temple, was giving sex to [Laurence Mann], a member of the United States Embassy to Guyana [Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States]. [Cobb] stated that these incidents were being taped and were being held for blackmail against individuals in the United States Embassy.
At this time, [Cobb] was asked to discuss his recent trip to Guyana. [Cobb] related that he had become aware of the fact that Congressman Leo Ryan was planning to make a trip from
New York City to Jonestown to investigate the People’s Temple in Jonestown and allegations that various members mistreated and were denied the right to leave the compound. According to [Cobb], his mother, who he identified as [Elois Christine Cobb], was living in the compound in Jonestown along with [name deleted]; Sandy Cobb, age 22; Brenda Cobb, age 15; Joel Cobb, age 13; [Johnny Cobb], age 18, and Ava Brown, also [name deleted, likely Ava’s other name as Ava Cobb or Ava Jones], age 27.
[Cobb] related that on Monday, November 13, 1978, at approximately 10:00 p.m., he left San Francisco, California, and took a flight to New York, New York, where he met Congressman Ryan. While in New York, he told Congressman Ryan that it was his intention to travel to Jonestown because he was concerned for the safety and welfare of his family members there. According to [Cobb], Congressman Ryan told him that he had no objections to his accompanying their group to the compound in Jonestown.
On November 14, 1978, he, along with the entourage of Congressman Ryan, arrived in Georgetown, Guyana. [Cobb] stated that he stayed at the Pegasus Hotel.
On Friday, November 17, 1978, he, along with [name deleted], Beverly Oliver, [name deleted, likely Anthony Katsaris], and camera crew reporters from the San Francisco “Chronicle”, the Washington “Post”, Congressman Leo Ryan, Congressional Aide [Jackie Speier] and Attorneys [Mark Lane and Charles Garry] took a flight to Jonestown. There were 18 total members in the plane. At approximately 4:00 PM, they arrived at Port Kaituma, which is the airport located outside of the Jonestown compound. According to [Cobb], the pilot radioed to determine if they could land at the airport and were advised that it was too muddy; however, the pilot flew down and observed that the airport was safe to land and, therefore, landed at Port Kaituma. Upon disembarking, various Jonestown people were observed in the immediate vicinity and appeared to be hostile. One person was carrying a shotgun at that time. So at that time, the only individuals who disembarked were Congressman Leo Ryan, along with Attorneys Gary and Layne [Lane]. Also allowed to disembark was Congressional Aid Jackie Spieir.
At approximately 6:00 PM, a yellow pickup truck came back and took everyone into the compound with the exception of a freelance reporter named Gordon Lindsay.
According to [Cobb], it is approximately three and one half miles from the airport to the entrance to Jonestown, and an additional three miles to the actual compound. Upon arriving at the compound, [Cobb] saw [name deleted], who made no effort to associate with him. According to [Cobb], it appeared to him that all the individuals at the Jonestown compound appeared to be putting on a show for the people who are visiting. The whole act appeared to be a façade to show that all the individuals in the compound were extremely happy, free, well fed, and all had adequate housing. According to [Cobb], that night none of the visitors were allowed to stay in the compound; however, Congressman Ryan and his aide Spieir did, in fact, stay at the compound. According to [Cobb], he and other individuals stayed the night at Mike & Son’s Disco in Port Kaituma.
According to [Cobb], the following day he saw his family, and they appeared to be all malnourished and were residing in a small hut which is approximately 15 feet by 15 feet. There are five people living in this hut, and according to [Cobb], Jones had promised to build his mother a large house; however, evidently failed to do so. According to [Cobb], most of the people were residing in the small cottages or huts. [Cobb] related that he got the feeling as they were walking around the compound, that he and the other individuals should not be there.
According to [Cobb], at one point he observed an unknown female blankly staring at a wall in some type of stupor.
According to [Cobb], it appeared that all the people at the Jonestown compound were putting on a show for NBC and refuted the statements of dissenters. NBC talked to [Cobb], and he told them that if his family were happy he would leave them there.
According to [Cobb], he got ready to leave in a dump truck on Saturday, November 17 [November 18], 1978, at approximately 2:00 PM. The truck was to take the visitors back to Port Kaituma,
including various defectors who wanted to leave the compound. At that time, [Cobb] stated that he heard that someone had tried to stab Congressman Ryan and that Attorneys Gary and Layne subdued the assailant. At that time, everyone got onto the dump truck, including one of the close followers and alleged hitman of Reverend Jim Jones, Larry Layton. Layton evidently told the individuals that he wanted to leave the compound, stating that it was a hellhole. At that time, [Cobb] stated that Dale Parks and Jerry Parks, who were defectors from the compound, said that it was bad, that Layton was a plant and should not be trusted. [Cobb] stated that at hearing this he told Bob Flick and Tim Reitterman [Reiterman], who are with the news media, to watch Layton. [Cobb] stated that he was very uneasy and things began to drag. When they got to the gate of the compound, he observed Joe Wilson standing by the gate and as the truck arrived Wilson asked everyone to spread out so he could see who was in the truck. [Cobb] related that he was in a hurry to get to the airstrip and he was afraid something was going to happen. He advised that at various times he bumped up against Layton to determine if Layton had a gun; however, he did not believe Layton had one at that time. Parks stated that he had heard that Layton had asked Jones if there was anything he could do and Jones put him on the truck.
According to [Cobb], when they got to the airstrip at Port Kaituma, Layton wanted to be put on the first plane to leave and was adamant about his desire to leave first.
According to [Cobb], when they first got to the airstrip, there was only a small plane which could only carry five passengers. Various individuals of the entourage got on the small plane. The larger plane was now coming in for a landing and was five minutes late. It landed on the strip and parked with one engine running. At this time, [Cobb] stated that he then observed that a tractor pulling a trailer with People’s Temple individuals on the trailer had pulled onto the edge of the clearing at the far end of the runway. [Cobb] stated at this point he told Congressman Leo Ryan to hurry up, as he felt fearful that something was about to happen. At this point, Congressman Ryan was searching the individuals getting onto the plane and his aid [aide] was taking a list of names for boarding.
According to [Cobb], the individuals whom he knew personally and identified as being on the trailer are as follows:
Eddy [Eddie] Crenshaw
Wesley (last name unknown) [Breidenbach]
Ron Tally [Talley] (phonetic)
[Cobb] stated that while the tractor and trailer were a distance away from the airplane, he was able to identify certain individuals as hitman for the People’s Temple. Because of this he urged Ryan to hurry operations to depart the airfield. [Cobb] stated that at this time he noticed that local Guyanese natives were being pushed back into the brush by People’s Temple representatives. After seeing this, he tried to warn everyone he felt were in immediate danger. [Cobb] stated he then attempted to help people get on the plane, and at this time, [Cobb] stated he noticed that Greg Robertson [Robinson] was on the far side of the plane near the wheel. [Cobb]] stated that he came around the tail of the aircraft to assist Greg Robertson. The engines of the aircraft were drowning out all other noise on the airfield. [Cobb] stated that he turned around and then observed that the tractor and trailer had approached to approximately 30 feet from the aircraft and at that time he heard the first shooting. He immediately observed that Congressman Ryan fell to the ground. It seemed to [Cobb] that people were just hitting the dirt all over the airfield. Don Harris then fell at approximately the same time as Congressman Ryan. [Cobb] stated that he saw some of the guns that the individuals on the trailer were carrying and thought that someone was aiming at him. At this time, [Cobb] related that he then observed another individual fall down and at this point he sprinted for the jungle which was approximately 50 yards away from the aircraft. Upon arriving at the edge of the clearing, he looked back and observed that Tom Kice shot Don Harris in the head at point-blank range with what appeared to be a shotgun. He stated that he observed
Tom Kice, Bob Kice, Joe Wilson, and Albert Touchette shooting the victims in the head at point-blank range. At this point, [Cobb] stated that he dove into the jungle and ran for approximately two hours into the against jungle and swamp. He then climbed a tree where he stayed until approximately 9:30 AM the next day, when he went back to the airport. Upon arriving at the airport, he observed what he hoped to be Guyanese soldiers checking the bodies lying on the airstrip. At that point, he decided that he would take the chance that the individuals he observed were indeed Guyanese soldiers and not followers of the People’s Temple, as he was totally exhausted and demoralized from the ordeal. These individuals were determined to be Guyanese soldiers and he was offered protective custody at that time.
At this point, the interview with [Cobb] was terminated. He advised that he could be contacted at telephone number [deleted] for additional interview.
The following description was obtained during the interview:
Name: [deleted] [Jim Cobb]
Date of Birth: [deleted]
Place of Birth: Indianapolis, Indiana
Residence: [deleted], San Francisco, California