The timeline below represents a compilation of documents which describe the movements and activities of Dr. Leslie Mootoo, Guyana’s chief pathologist, in the year following the events in Jonestown. It was prepared as part of the background of a larger analysis of Dr. Mootoo’s role in the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy. This study was conducted by Rebecca Moore and is original to this website. Please credit https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/ for any use of this material.
|11/20||RYMUR Report on Leo Ryan Post Mortem
|Autopsy performed by Dr. Leslie Mootoo; witnessed by James Schollaert, staff member of U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Time: 9:00 a.m.
|AP – reported in Oakland Tribune, “Mass Guyana Sect Suicides—Hundreds More Flee Into Jungle”||Page 1 story, jumps to Page 15
Quoting Shirley Field-Ridley, the government information officer: “‘A witness [probably Odell Rhodes] said that people in the area were having mass suicide,’ she told a news conference. “He said the poison was being administered to them, that they were lining up for it.’ It was not known what kind of poison, reportedly brewed in a tub, was used.”
Not attributed to Shirley Field-Ridley: “Guyanese doctors, with American physicians in attendance, were performing autopsies today on the bodies of Ryan and the other four slain Americans to comply with Guyanese law in cases involving homicide.”
|11/22||Washington Star – Jeremiah O’Leary, “U.S. Begins Airlift of Cultists’ Bodies”||Dateline: Georgetown, Guyana
“Autopsies performed by Guyanese medical examiners today revealed the mixture the Peoples Temple cultists willingly drank at Jones’ order was laced with a variety of depressants, tranquilizers and dealy poison. ¶The autopsies showed… [indicating autopsies had occurred]”
Page 6, Stephan Jones told reporters that about 900 people lived in Jonestown.
“The mass deaths leave mysteries that may never be solved. Among them: . . . Why some of the colonists drank the poison and others injected it into their bodies with hypodermic needles.”
“The stench [of decomposing bodies] is almost unbearable”
“The autopsies normally required by Guyana law were waived by the government after a U.S. toxicologist and a Guyanese doctor tested some of the bodies and determined that poison was present.”
|11/23||Los Angeles Times – Leonard Greenwood, “Airlift of 400 Bodies Begins”||Page 6
“But not all died by drinking the brew. Scattered among the bodies, many of them locked in a death embrace, were numerous hypodermic needles, indicating some chose injections as their way.”
|11/23||American Embassy to State Dept Cable||“SUBJECT: FINDINGS IN PARTIAL AUTOPSY ON BODY OF BISHOP JIM JONES
The official pathologist of the GOG [Government of Guyana], Dr. Leslie C. Mootoo, has furnished the following information: quote: Dr. Mootoo reported that he performed a partial autopsy on a body identified to him as being that of Bishop Jim Jones at Jonestown on Tuesday, November 21, 1978. He said there was a small bullet entry wound above the right ear, with a large, 4 centimeter exit wound behind the left ear. The wounds appeared to be self-inflicted, using a small pistol which was found lying on the victim’s chest. Dr. Mootoo said he also tested for poison and there was not evidence that he had taken any. A complete autopsy was not done as the cause of death was obvious. Unquote.
Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]”
|11/26||NYT – Lawrence Altman, “No Autopsies Done on Victims, Leaving Cause of Deaths Unclear,” p. 1, cont. on p. 21||U.S. says no autopsies done in Guyana by “American Doctors”
“Unconfirmed report” that autopsy was performed on Jim Jones in Guyana; “only autopsies can show if victims were coerced”
|11/27||NYT – Lawrence Altman, “Guyana Did Autopsies on Some Victims, U.S. Reports,” p. 14||Guyana did autopsies on five Jonestown victims + members of Ryan’s party; w/o autopsies cannot determine murder or suicide [Possibly meant autopsies on Patricia Parks, and on Sharon Amos and her family, since Mootoo did not report doing five autopsies in Jonestown]|
|11/29||State Dept to American Embassy Cable||Situation Report No. 24
“The GOG [Government of Guyana] has finally agreed to allow the legatt to photograph fingerprint cards under the supervision of the immigration authorities. The undeveloped film will be sent back to the United States with the consular officer returning tomorrow night. A Guyanese medical official [Leslie Mootoo] has agreed to provide death certificates on the basis of confirmed identifications from Dover. SCS has sent the first list of 33 names to the embassy.”
|12/12||NYT – Nicholas Horrock,
“Some in Cult Received Cyanide by Injection, Guyanese Sources Say,” p. A1
|Dateline Georgetown, Guyana, Dec 11
“At least 70 members of the People’s Temple, most of them adults, were given injections of cyanide at Jonestown instead of drinking it, well-placed Guyanese Government sources said today. ¶According to these sources, the findings raise the possibility that the victims were murdered. They said examinations of the bodies, shortly after the ritual in which more than 900 persons died at the cult commune, showed that many adults had fresh injection marks high on their upper arms, just below the shoulder. ¶The sources said that these were cyanide injections and indicated that these persons had not been willing to drink the fruit-flavored drink, laced with cyanide, that was handed out by the Rev. Jim Jones and his key assistants. ¶ The position of the needle marks on the upper outside portion of the arms, the Government sources said, virtually ruled out the possibility that the victims had administered the shots to theselves. The sources said it appeared to the authorities that many of the adults were sitting when the injections were given. ¶ These sources said that Christine Miller, the one woman, according to a survivors, who openly argued against the death plan, was one of the persons on whom authorities found the mark of a cyanide injection.”
|12/12||NYT, reprinted in SF Chronicle, “70 Cultists Got Injections Of Cyanide,” p. 1, jump to Back Page||“At least 70 members of the Peoples Temple, most of them adults, were given injections of cyanide at Jonestown instead of drinking it, suggesting they were murdered, Guyanese government sources said yesterday.” Injection marks on upper arms, just below the shoulder. [Sources, plural, not identified] Sources said “it had also not been established that Jones took his own life.” Authorities say only six fatal shots fired = Jim Jones, Ann Moore, 2 that killed Mr. Muggs, 2 for two dogs.|
|12/13||US Embassy to State Dept Cable||Subject: Pathologist
“1. Assistant Police Commissioner Cecil Roberts, who has been the [principal] GOG liaison officer with the FBI technical team, now informs us that GOG does not repeat not require the services of a pathologist at this time. Roberts indicates that GOG is grateful for the valuable assistance that technical team now in Guyana has provided to GOG.
“2. Embassy appreciative of efforts to locate pathologist but in view of Roberts’ statement it now appears further action on this request is not now required.”
[from Ambassador Burke]
|[12/13]||FBI Director to SF Field Office
Cable dated 7 Feb 1979
RYMUR 89-4286-1840 (excerpt)
|Transcript of Dr. Mootoo’s sworn statement before Guyana Inquest. Complete Guyana inquest appears here.|
|12/14||US Embassy to State Dept Cable
|Subject: Coroner’s Inquest into Jonestown mass death.
“Dr. Cyril Mootoo, GOG pathologist, testified that beginning on Nov 20 he conducted toxicological studies without vivesection [sic—probably means dissection] on thirty-nine bodies identified by Odell Rhodes [name withheld by FBI], and on twenty-five bodies, chosen at random, from those that had not then been identified. Results showed that all sixty-four died of ‘acute cyanide poisoning,’ according to the testimony of both Roberts and Mootoo[.] [They] saw only two bodies at Jonestown with evidence of ‘external wounds,’ those of Rev. Jim Jones and Ann [Elizabeth] Moore. Mootoo stated that on the basis of his examination, which included a postmortem vivesection [sic], Jones died as the result of a head wound caused by the ‘near discharge’ of a .38 caliber handgun. The wound, he continued, was located in one of the ‘suicide areas’ for a right-handed person. However, Mootoo said he could not tell from his examination whether the wound was self-inflicted. Mootoo added that there was no evidence of poison in Jones’ body. Mootoo testified that on the basis of his examination, which included a partial vivesection [sic], Annie Moore was murdered by means of a high velocity rifle. As in the case of Rev. Jones, there was no evidence of poison in Moore’s body.”
[from Ambassador Burke]
|12/14||NYT, Nicholas M. Horrock, “Cult Victim Slain, Guyana Jury Told,” p. A15||Dateline: Matthew Ridge, Guyana, Dec. 13: Dr. Mootoo gave testimony at inquest; said Annie was murdered. “Dr. Mootoo and police officials said in interviews that, in at least 70 of the bodies, the cyanide and fruit-flavored drink combination appeared to have been administered by injection.”|
|12/14||AP – reported in Los Angeles Times “Bullet Killed Jones, Doctor Tells Inquest,” p. D8||Dateline Matthews Ridge
Reports on Mootoo’s testimony on gunshot wound of Jim Jones; says bullet entered just above right ear, and came out just above left ear. “He did not say the wound was self-inflicted but said it was in an area traditionally used by right-handed suicides. Jones was right-handed.”
Mootoo said of the corpses he exmained, only those of Jones and Annie Moore had gunshot wounds. “However, he did not rule out the possibility that others had been shot.”
|12/14||FBI Transcription||Summary of interview with Dr. Mootoo conducted 12/14/1978 by Robert J. Oglesby Jr. in Georgetown, Guyana.|
||Autopsy Report – Ann Elizabeth Moore
“These items of evidence [regarding cause of death] include the listing of cyanide in the drug inventory of the Jonestown Medical Department, photographs in the media of bottles of cyanide and reports by the consultant forensic pathologist to the government of Guyana, Dr. Leslie Mootoo, that cyanide was recovered from syringes at the scene and from the stomach contents of 65 victims.”
“The shooting [of Ann] was surely not antecedent to the administration of cyanide. The possibilities then are a self-inflicted gunshot wound during an agonal period following cyanide ingestion/injection or a coup de grâce gunshot wound inflicted by another party. Incapacitation following cyanide poisoning is not necessarily immediate. The use of multiple modalities for effecting suicide is not uncommon.”
N.B. Report notes entrance wound to right temple, exit wound from left temple
|12/16||NYT – Lawrence K. Altman, “Autopsies Are Performed on Jones and 6 Followers,” p. 12||U.S. officials perform autopsies [yesterday] on Jim Jones and six followers|
|12/17||AP, reported in NYT, “Most Jonestown Deaths Not Suicide, Doctor Says,” p. 42
||Dateline Chicago, Dec 16
“The Guyana Government’s top pathologist says he believes murder, not suicide, claimed more than 700 of the 911 who died at the People’s Temple commune at Jonestown, Guyana. ¶“I do not believe there were ever more than 200 persons who died voluntarily,” Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, chief medical examiner and the first doctor to reach the scene of the Nov. 18 deaths, said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. ¶The pathologist said he suspected, but could not prove, that the Rev. Jim Jones, the cult’s leader, did not kill himself. He said he based his conclusions on 70 autopsies performed on victims, as well as his examination of other bodies and an inspection of the scene.”
|12/18||AP – reported in Los Angeles Times, “700 Jonestown Victims Were Murdered, Chief Pathologist Believes,” p. C9||Dateline Chicago [seems to be reworking of article from 12/16, since everything is the same but with the following additions]
“He noted that 260 of the victims were children. ‘I found a 2-year-old child with poison injected into an arm. Could a child that age take his life voluntarily in that way?” he asked. ¶He said that dozens of adult victims whose bodies he examined had died of poison injected into a portion of their upper arms. Mootoo said it is virtually impossible for a person to inject himself in that part of the upper arm. ¶He said the jungle heat and magnitude of the tragedy made it impossible conduct autopsies on all 911 bodies. But he said his extensive experience in determining causes of death made him certain of his conclusions at Jonestown.”
|12/19||NYT – Lawrence K. Altman, “Doctor Says Shots Fatal to Jones Indicate Either Murder or Suicide,” p. B17||Fatal shots to Jim Jones and Ann Moore consistent with murder or suicide, according to U.S. autopsies; “Dr. [Rudiger] Breitenecker said that the pathologists were hampered in their medical investigation by the lack of professional communications from forensic pathologists in Guyana. He said the Dover team had not received any written reports or photographs of Mr. Jones or the others at the time they were examined in Guyana.” Breitenecker criticized the incision made on Jones, as “totally meaningless.” Dr. Mootoo told reporters he performed an autopsy on Jones and “he suspected that Mr. Jones was murdered.” He also said “he found evidence of needle injections in the bodies of some cultists, indicating that they had been murder, and not suicide, victims.” No needle marks found on 7 bodies autopsied in U.S. but pathologist says they did not examine all 900 bodies. No blood or urine samples available, and stomach contents were drained or destroyed by decomposition or embalming needles.|
|12/25||NYT – Joseph B. Treaster, “Finding on Jonestown: Few Facts Emerged:
Jury’s Verdict is Departure Point for Question of Murder or Suicide,” p. 16
|Article discussing Guyana Inquest, which reached a verdict [Friday] December 22, 1978.|
Am Embassy to FBIHQ
|This is a miscellaneous listing of items recovered by the FBI in Jonestown. Of relevance = “On 12/27/78, Dr. Leslie Mootoo, Guyana Patolgist [Pathologist] furnished two samples of the Kool-Aid/poison. One sample, darker color, in smaller bottle, was taken from the cauldron by a syringe, and was stored in the syringe. The other sample, lighter color, in taller bottle, was taken from the cauldron in an open contailer [container], and has been stored in an open container. These samples have been placed inside crate number six.”|
FBI Director to San Francisco FBI Field Office
|Report on activities of legal attaché Robert Oglesby currently assigned American Embassy, Georgetown, Guyana.
“Oglesby stated during a recent conversation with Dr. Leslie Mootoo, who has handled the forensic and pathological aspects of this investigation for GOG, the doctor expressed the opinion which was based upon his analysis of the poisoned mixture taken by members of the PT subsequent to the assassination of Congressman Ryan at Jonestown, that the mixture was prepared the evening before the assassination and that PT members who had medical training of some type were probably involved in the preparation of the mixture. Dr. Mootoo further pointed out that survivor Julius Lee Evans reportedly was by occupation therapy technician and possibly was involved in the preparation of the poisoned mixture. “
The cable goes on to state that Julius Evans would be questioned about this.
|1/19||F. D. Silas Jr. to Mr. Herndon (at FBI)
|Reports that Dr. Mootoo, Skip Roberts and others took a helicopter flight to Port Kaituma airstrip on 6 December to check for shotgun shell casings there. “This search did recover additional ammunition components consisting of two bullet jackets, a lead core, several cartridge cases and two shotshell wads, but no shotshell casings.”|
|2/5||FBI Director to San Francisco FBI Office
|Communicating teletype from American Embassy regarding witnesses into death of Sharon Amos. Dr. Mootoo testified at the preliminary hearing, since he had performed the autopsies on Sharon and her family members.|
|2/5||U.S. Embassy to Department of State
|Further reporting on preliminary inquiry into Sharon Amos (et al.) deaths.
“After Senior Counsel Rex McKay cross-examined Dr. Mootoo, who originally gave testimony on Feb. 1, Magistrate Persaud announced, without explanation, that he had decided to admit the statement made by Beikman to the police on Nov. 23. The prosecution then called to testify the legal clerk who witnessed Stephan Jones’ signature on the deposition he made in court of Dec 18. The state’s final witness was Detective Assistant Supt. Lam, who was recalled to read Beikman’s statement into the record. Cross-examination of both witnesses was declined by the defense.”
|2/16||FBI HQ to San Francisco FBI Field Office Cable||Cable sent from Caracas to FBIHQ and forwarded to SF FBI
“Dr. Leslie Mootoo, Government of Guyana pathologist, contacted at Georgetown Airport February 10, 1979, while en route from Georgetown to Atlanta, Georgia, for forensic seminar. Dr. Mootoo indicated pathology report of examination made of bodies at Jonestown on November 20, was complete and he was carrying report with him as well as toxicology study for poison on unidentified bodies made at Jonestown. Dr. Mootoo will also have list of names of bodies identified by Odell Rhodes at Jonestown. ¶During visit of Dr. Mootoo at FBIHQ on February 20, 1979, Xeroxed copies of the above documents should be obtained for forwarding to the San Francisco office.”
|2/18||NYT – Lawrence K. Altman
“Official Of Guyana Tells Of Aid Offer,” p. 26
|Dateline Atlanta, February 17
Speaking at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Mootoo said Dr. Robert Stein, Chicago Medical Examiner offered help, but neither he nor Stein received word from Guyanese or American officials. Mootoo said he “did not know” if Guyanese officials asked for U.S. help or had declined it. (See Skip Roberts 12/13/78 statement above.) State Dept said it knew of no such request for help.
“His one-hour presentation stunned many in an audience of 800 experts, including members of a team from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington. . . Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker of Baltimore, a civilian pathologist who assisted the military team in [autopsies of seven bodies from Jonestown] said at the meeting that ‘those of us on the front line knew nothing’ about Dr. Mootoo’s scientific findings until today. Dr. Breitenecker also said that the seven autopsies were severely hampered by lack of crucial information that is routinely collected in medical-legal investigations but apparently was not collected by the American military team that removed the bodies from Guyana. . .”
Breitenecker said he did not know until meeting Dr. Mootoo that “the Guyanese doctor had given samples and specimens from Jonestown to a representative of the American Embassy.”
“Dr. Mootoo’s presentatation, an unusual one for a scientific meeting, included pictures of Jonestown and vivid descriptions of his personal reactions as the first doctor on the scene 48 hours after the deaths.
“He said in an interview that [he had] stopped working in Jonestown after 32 hours because of fatigue and insufficient supplies of equipment and food. He said he and his three Guyanese assistants ran out of water and could not drink from the Jonestown wells for fear of poison.
“Dr. Mootoo reported that tests of stomach contents from 81 bodies at Jonestown showed evidence of cyanide, and that additional tests showed another 83 people had been injected with cyanide. Circumstances did not permit more tests, he said.” [But see sworn testimony at inquest]
“Tests of syringes fitted with needles showed cyanide in large concentrations and also traces of Valium, a tranquilizer, he said. Tests on other syringes, without needles, showed far larger concentrations of cyanide.
“Witnesses have said that cyanide was squirted into the throats of some cult members. Dr. Mootoo said the amounts of cyanide detected indicated that ‘you just needed a taste or a sip to die’.”
|2/26||Airtel from SAC San Francisco to FBI Director||Serial 1894 has 174 pages, and includes documents from various dates in time. Contents of document are listed here.
Skip Roberts gave specific investigative files to Robert Oglesby and two unnamed Special Agents from the FBI, e.g. ballistic reports, autopsy reports, lists of checks, custody of death tape, Annie’s suicide note, etc.
See Autopsies in Guyana for reports of autopsies of Sharon, Christa, and Martin Amos, and Liane Harris, that occurred 22 November 1978 (pp. 109-113 of Serial 1894); and reports of autopsies of Ryan, Robinson, Brown, Harris, and Parks that occurred on 20 November 1978 (pp 114-124 of Serial 1894).
|3/14||FBI Director to Caracas Legal Attaché Cable||“For information legat Caracas, Dr. Leslie Mootoo, Government of Guyana pathologist, was to furnish a report as well as a toxicology study regarding his examinations of bodies involved in captioned matter [RYMUR]. Dr. Mootoo did not visit Washington as planned on February 20, 1979, due to a heavy snowstorm. Legat Caracas is therefore requested to obtain the above documents from Dr. Mootoo and forward to FBIHQ.|
|3/15||From Caracas to FBI Director||“Embassy at Georgetown has been requested to furnish copies of reports made by Dr. Leslie Mootoo, Govt. of Guyana (GOG) pathologist.
Embassy advises five cartons of xeroxed evidence transferred to GOG March 9, 1979, under terms of understanding with GOG that materials could be removed from Guyana as long as host govt. was furnished copies of the materials for use in connection with their own inquiry.
The Embassy at Georgetown advises that the Foreign Ministry has asked when remaining materials might be expected.”
|3/26||U.S. Embassy Georgetown to U.S. Embassy Caracas Cable||Subject: Pathologist Report
“1. Dr. Leslie Mootoo, GOG pathologist, believes there has been some misunderstanding as he had no formal report to present to FBI HGS and had intended to only make an informal oral report.
“2. Mootoo states also that he did not make any toxicology studies of those assassinated at Port Kaituma airstrip as all victims died of gunshot wounds.
“3. Finally, with reference to press reports that he had given American Embassy Georgetown samples, Dr. Mootoo stated that this referred to vials of poisonous drink that he had given Asst Legatt Garrettson.”
[from Ambassador Burke]
|4/10||From Caracas to FBI Director||Cable relaying information from 4/9/1979
“During coordination of proposed message by FBIHQ with State Dept. it might be well advised to mention that no active investigation is anticipated and that liaison is to be made to review entire investigation and that meetings will be specifically desired with Consul Douglas B. Ellice, DCM Richard M. Dwyer, Skip Roberts and Dr. Mootoo. SA Hale will also travel to Port Kaituma accompanied by DCM. Courtesy call will be requested with American ambassador.”
|4/16||From Secretary of State Wash DC to U.S. Embassy Georgetown||[Editor’s note: This document was released in full by the State Department. The deleted material from the FBI serial is notated in red type.]
Cable discussing upcoming trip of Special Agent Donald R. Hale and Legal Attaché Robert Oglesby to Guyana
“1. FBI desires to send Legal Attache Robert J. Oglesby, Caracas, and Special Agent Donald R. Hale of its San Francisco Office to Georgetown for meetings with Embassy officials and Guyanese police on/or about April 21 in connection with the Ryan murder case. FBI has stressed that no active investigation is contemplated but that purpose of meetings will be for consultations and review of entire investigation to date. Those with whom FBI representatives desire to meet are Consul Douglas Ellice and DCM Richard Dwyer, and Guyanese officials [Guyana Assistant Police Commissioner Cecil] “Skip” Roberts and Doctor [Leslie] Mootoo.”
|5/1||From San Francisco Office to FBI Director||Cable reporting on activities of Special Agent Donald R. Hale and Legal Attaché Robert Oglesby on their April visit to Guyana.
“Numerous attempts were made to meet with Dr. [Leslie] Mootoo, with no success.”
|5/7||From W. D. Gow To Mr. D. W. Moore, Jr.||FBI Memorandum on Autopsy Reports
“In a general summation, two deaths were due to gunshot wounds to the head at close range and cannot be further defined as to the mode of infliction. In two of the autopsies cyanide was identified, one of the two also having a gunshot wound of the head. Various other drugs and non-lethal amounts were determined. With no other demonstrable cause, coupled with Dr. Mootoo’s (the Medical Examiner for Guyana) demonstration of cyanide in the stomach contents of 65 victims on site, it must be presumed that cyanide poisoning is the mode of death in the other individuals whether through coercion or self ingestion. Cyanide is a very transient drug at best and under the circumstances may have volatilized even without the further complication of embalming prior to toxicology analysis. Extensive efforts to demonstrate cyanide, its byproducts or expected compound as a result of interaction with embalming fluid, were to no avail in a definitive cause of death.”
|11/8||From U.S. Embassy Georgetown to Secretary of State||Cable describing the Second Preliminary Inquiry by Guyana Courts into Leo Ryan’s death [focusing on Larry Layton]
“1. The November 8 session of the second preliminary inquiry into the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan and five others at the Port Kaituma airstrip was taken up with testimony from three witnesses. Dr. Cyril Leslie Mootoo, government pathologist and bacteriologist, reported on his postmortem examination of the five Port Kaituma murder victims. Eustance Kendall, a US-trained firearms and ballistics expert with the Guyanese police, positively identified the bullets extracted from Monica Bagby as having come from the revolver allegedly in USC [US citizen] Lawrence [Laurence] Layton’s possession. Mortimer Kansikally, a brad constable in the Port Kaituma-Jonestown area, testified he had heard Layton confess to shooting someone. During Kansinally’s testimony Layton kept shaking his head in denial.”