On August 26, 1977, the California Superior Court awarded Grace Stoen preliminary custody of John Victor Stoen, and issued orders for both Tim Stoen and Jim Jones – the latter with John Victor in tow – to appear before the court on October 6 to show cause why she should not be awarded permanent custody. (A revised order was published as a legal notice on October 14, 1977.)
It was the first of two court decisions in late 1977 to go against Jones, but – like the later decision of November 18, 1977 awarding permanent custody to both Grace and Tim – it was on its face unenforceable in Guyana. Nevertheless, it represented a foundation upon which to argue for legal action against the Temple leader, and demonstrated how serious the battle was to become, beginning with the habeas corpus petition filed by the Stoens’ attorney Jeffrey Haas in as Guyana court two weeks later.
The decision also removed whatever doubt there might have been that Tim had in fact defected from Peoples Temple, that he had been in communication with his estranged wife, and moreover, that he would re-unite with her at least for the purposes of returning John Victor to the United States.