Cult bodies flown out, cholera is in area


GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov. 23, 1978 (UPI) -- U.S. forces in gas masks braved the growing danger of a cholera outbreak and flew out by helicopter the first 40 bodies from the remote jungle commune where 409 members of a California sect committed mass suicide four days ago.

U.S. spokesman John Moscatelli said Jolly Green Giant helicopters landed at the capital's Timehi airport and transferred the bodies to aluminum caskets. They were then being transferred to giant transport planes for a flight to Dover AFB in Delaware.


Moscatelli said the U.S. military teams would be working through the night to process other bodies at the jungle commune of Jonestown but that no more would be flown out until this afternoon.

At the same time the Guyanese government charged Larry Layton, a 32-year-old member of the sect, with five counts of murder in shooting deaths of Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., and four other Americans in the airstrip massacre that triggered the mass suicide.


Layton, who appeared in court barefoot, sullen and with glazed eyes, was arraigned on charges of murdering Ryan, NBC newsman Don Harris, NBC cameraman Bob Brown, San Francisco Examiner photographer Gregory Robinson and Patricia Parks, a defector from the sect.

He also was charged on three counts of attempted murder of three other persons at the airstrip at the time - Dale Parks, Monica Bagey and Berne Godsey, also defectors.

Another 30 survivors of the bizarre death rite Saturday at the Rev Jim Jones People's Temple at Jonestown, 150 miles northwest of Georgetown, emerged from the jungle and were returned to Georgetown yesterday and placed under house arrest.

There were growing fears for the safety of 400 to 600 other American sect members who fled into the jungle bush to escape the suicide ritual. Helicopters with loudspeakers flew over the area during the day urging them to return to civilization, but the U.S. government gave no indication it would send out search teams as the Guyanese army has done.

The 30 new survivors who reached Georgetown were placed under house arrest at the People's Temple headquarters in the Guyanese capital. Newsmen who tried to interview them were turned away from the temple at gunpoint by Guyanese guards.


U.S. graves registration teams were defying the fetid stench to ferry the bodies from the commune's banana and beans plantation to Georgetown's Timehi airport for transport to Dover AFB, Del., by giant transport planes. The Pentagon said the bodies were expected today.

American authorities said they planned to get all 409 bodies out, but that appeared increasingly questionable. The threat of cholera was so great that by late yesterday the Guyanese government ordered all schools in the Jonestown area closed "indefinitely."

Layton was ordered held in prison until Jan. 15, when a hearing will be held in Matthew's Ridge court, a small settlement 10 miles from the Jonestown Commune where the mass suicide followed the airstrip massacre.

Layton made no comment at any time during the 20 minute proceedings.

U.S. sources said American authorities were considering extraditing Layton on a federal charge of killing a U.S. congressman but there was no confirmation of this. The FBI was reported investigating this aspect of the case.

Some 300 to 400 Guyanese people, including children in kneepants, were clustered outside the courtroom during the brief hearing.

By midafternoon, six others accused in the air strip massacre, including Michael Prokes, 31, of Stockton. Calif., had not been formally charged.


State Department officials said in Washington "it looks quite clear" that the figure 1,100 mentioned earlier as the number of people at Jonestown last Saturday may have been exaggerated.

That number was based on Guyana immigration records, "but I suspect that a substantial number of that 1,100 decided later to leave and were not at Jonestown at the time of the incident," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Bushnell.

He said that as of yesterday, some 72 survivors had been located, most of them in the Georgetown area.

The mass suicide was carried out with meticulous precision, including the brew. According to autopsy reports, the drink included thorazine and largactil (sedatives), Valium (a tranquilizer), Demerol (a pain killer), haloperidol (a sedative sometimes used to calm down violent people) and phaerengen (an antihistamine that promotes absorption of substances into the blood stream.)

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.

Others apparently took their poison in the form of capsules which also were found about the settlement.

Guyanese authorities said the death drugs apparently were the work of Temple Doctor Larry Schacht of Houston, Tex., who left behind detailed charts spelling out various dosages and dose variations.


Schacht himself gained fame of a more enviable kind early this year when he used a radio network to contact a doctor in Maryland, 2,000 miles away, for instructions on how to perform his first Caesarian section -- an operation that resulted in the birth of twin girls.

The twins were believed to have died with the others in the death rite.

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