[Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at http://www.maebrussell.com/Jonestown/Beating%2C%20threats%20reported%20by%20reporter.html.]
Monterey Peninsula Herald – Nov. 20, 1978, front page
Los Angeles Times Service
LOS ANGELES — Mysterious visitors, assaults in her home and threats against her family have haunted freelance reporter Kathy Hunter since she returned from a futile attempt to interview the Rev. Jim Jones at his Peoples Temple settlement in the Guyana jungle.
Her trek to the tropics last May turned into a bizarre nightmare, she said, when fires were set three times in rooms adjoining her quarters. Mrs Hunter, who shifted suites after each blaze, said the fires started after an argument with Peoples Temple aides.
Mrs. Hunter, 58, of Ukiah, spent 11 days in Georgetown under government protection from Peoples Temple, she said.
“The temple members are paranoid,” she said in a telephone interview Sunday. “They have a thing about conspiracies. They feel everyone who asks about them is against them.”
Beaten Three Times
In the five months since she returned, Mrs. Hunter said she has been beaten three times, the last incident occurring in October.
“Three men jumped me in my living room. I’ll never forget their faces,” she said. The intruders repeatedly warned her not to write anything more about Peoples Temple, she said.
Earlier, a lone assailant grabbed her when she went into her backyard one night to see why her dog was barking.
“I was pulled into my garage, choked and told that if I kept investigating the temple, the next time I would be killed,” she said.
When she flew to Los Angeles to supply information about Peoples Temple to the district attorney’s major frauds unit, two men confronted Mrs. Hunter in her hotel room.
Threatened Husband, Son
“They said they wanted to talk about Peoples Temple. I don’t know how they found me, but they threatened my husband and my son,” Mrs. Hunter said, her voice faltering. “You couldn’t print the things they said they would do to my family.
“They said I would have to live with it, that they wouldn’t touch me,” she recalled.
Mrs. Hunter went to Guyana on assignment for several newspapers in the Ukiah area in northern California, where the temple once had a branch. She wanted to interview Jones and temple members who had relatives in Northern California.
A San Francisco temple administrator told her she would be welcome in Guyana, so Mrs. Hunter flew to South America on May 17.
“The afternoon after I arrived, the temple people called. We had a pleasant talk. I invited them over to my hotel,” she said.
Three of Jones’ aides met with Mrs. Hunter in the hotel restaurant.
“At first everything was lovey-dovey, but when I told them I wanted to interview Reverend Jones alone and in person, the chill set in,” Mrs. Hunter remarked.
“Then I said I wanted to talk to each of the relatives alone and outside — where we couldn’t be overheard,” she said.
The conversation became heated, with one of the temple men saying that “all newspaper and television reporters were bad,” Mrs. Hunter said.
After that interview, the fires were set in rooms adjoining Mrs. Hunter’s hotel suites.
“My visa was cut to one day from the original 11, and I was told to leave the country on the next plane,” she said. “Apparently, the temple is in contact with Guyanese immigration officials.”
Mrs. Hunter stayed on, missing the flight. She later found out from Guyanese friends that temple members were waiting for her on the airport road. She believes they planned to kill her.
“The government gave me an armed guard after the second day. I got an escort to the airport when I finally did leave,” she said.
In addition to the attacks and threats since her return, which she believes have come from Peoples Temple, she said attorney Mark Lane visited her home and tried to link her to a conspiracy against the group. Lane is a lawyer for Jones.
Will the threats keep her from writing more about Peoples Temple?
“No,” Mrs. Hunter said. “I’m Irish. They can’t stop me.”