A U.S. military airlift brought out the first bodies of dead Americans from Jonestown in remote northwestern Guyana to Timehri international airport here last night for shipment back to the United States.
The first several dozen badly decomposed bodies which had lain under the tropical sun for four days since the forced mass suicide of more than 400 members of the Peoples Temple were put into plastic body bags and flown here in huge MC-130 Super Jolly Green Giant military helicopters like those used to airlift the American dead and wounded in Vietnam.
They are among nearly 200 bodies that have been identified at Jonestown during the last three days by a team of U.S. and Guyanese officials with the help of a dozen people who had left Jonestown shortly before the deranged leader of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, ordered them all to take Poison. Jones himself died of gunshot wounds.
Cardboard name tags wer tied with string on the wrists of bloated, rotting bodies that had been identified, including those of Jones, his wife, his mistress and at least two children he was believed to have fathered.
While the military team worked on the bodies in Jonestown, Guyana, defense force officers continued to search the surrounding forest for 300 to 400 others were forced to commit suicide.
About 30 of them have found their way out of the rain forest and are now in Georgetown making statements to the police and receiving medical treatment, according to informed sources here. Another 46 of the cultists who were at their Georgetown headquarters at the time of the killings remain under police guard.
Neither Guyanese authorities nor officials in the small U.S. mission here have provided identities of the survivors from the jungle. Nor have they said were they are now. The whereabouts of the rest remained a mystery and questions whether they fled or were pursued out of Jonestown or whether most of them are now dead or alive, remained unanswered.
One Jonestown survivor, 32-year-old Larry Layton, was arrigned in court here this afternoon and charged with murder in connection with the killing of Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.: and four others in a congressional factfinding mission that was ambushed by gunmen after leaving Jonestown on Saturday, shortly before the mass suicide.
As about 1,000 Guyanese waited in the steamy heatoutside for a glimpse of him, Layton was brought before a magistrate in a crowded courtroom where the hot, humid air was barely stirred by a slowly whirling ceiling fan. The magistrate informed Layton that he was charged with five counts of murder, three more counts of attempted murder and one count of discharging a loaded firearm.
The penalty for first-degree murder in Guyana is death.
When asked is he wanted a lawyer, Layton said, "I would like to." These were the only words that Layton, an American whose place of origin in the United States is not known here, uttered during the hearing.
The magistrate ordered Layton held without bail in the central jail here. If he does not hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for him by the court.
After the hearing, Layton was led past 60 or 70 reporters and court employes in the courtroom and through a crowd outside by a phalanx of police. He refused to answer questions shouted at him by reporters.
Layton has been identified by several survivors of the airstrip ambush as a trusted follower of Jones who pretended to be among the defectors that Ryan was taking with him from Jonestown.
Layton went inside the smaller of the two charter planes and began firing at the others on board, wounding several. A Jonestown defector aboard the plane, Gail Parks, wrestled the gun from Layton, who then ran out of the plane, according to the witnesses.
Other gunmen from Jonestown, some of whom have been identified by the other defectors, then rode up in a tractor-pulled trailer, spraying everyone with bullets and killing Ryan, three Americans newsman and other Jonestown defector and wounding several others.Police are checking among the dead in Jonestown and searching in the rain forest for these other gunmen.
After the shooting ended at the airstrip, according to witnesses, Layton turned up among them, again posing as one of the defectors.He was spotted, however, by those who saw him shooting in the small plane and was grabbed and held for Guyanese police.
Police also have under arrest two of Jones' top lieutenants, Mike Prokes and Tim Carter. They are being held, without formal charges, as "prime suspects" in connection with the violence at the airstrip and in Jonestown after being arrested in Port Kaituma not far from the airstrip, where police found them carrying guns and more than $1,000 in cash.
Among those in the cult's Georgetown headquarters is Jones' son Steve, of the Jonestown basketball team, which had played the Guyanese national team Friday night before the violence in Jonestown.
At a heavily guarded press conference here Tuesday morning, the young Jones denied accusations by former Peoples Temple members and survivors from Jonestown that members of the basketball team were trained sharpshooters who frequently practiced with guns in the forest around Jonestown.
Guyanese authorities have given no indication whether any of the 46 in the house are suspects in any crimes, are considered undesirable in Guyana or are being held for their own protection.
After three days of indecision, and some disagreement between the governments of Guyana and the United States, the U.S. military moved quickly today to set up the airlift of bodies out of Jonestown for shipment back to the United States. The military task force, under the commands of Army Col. William I. Gordon, the director of operations for the U.S. Southern Command in the Canal Zone, has established a command post, barracks and medical center at Matthews Ridge, 20 miles from Jonestown, which is 120 miles west of here.
Technicians are working during the day at Jonestown and spending the night at Matthews Ridge. After they tag and pack the bodies in body bags in Jonestown, an ugly task at this point, the helicopters ferry the corpses to Timehri.
At the airport is a "holding area" where the bodies are being taken until they are put on military cargo planes for the journey to a military base in the eastern United States.
"There is very little we can do to preserve the bodies," acknowledged the U.S. military spokesman on the scene here, Air Force Capt. John Moscatelli. "We are placing them in body bags" which he said are then sealed. "But it's still not going to be a pleasant operation."
Bodies not identified in Jonestown will be examined again by an Army graves registration unit at the Timehri holding area and again when they arrive in the United States, Moscatelli said.
He also said it was not part of the military task force's mission here to help Guyanese authorities search for the hundreds of Americans missing in the dense rain forests surrounding Jonestown.
"Our major mission right now," Moscatelli said, "is to assist the Guyanese government and the U.S. Embassy here in removing the bodies from Jonestown."
The military task force is accompanied by security personnel, he said, who carry side arms to protect U.S. personnel and property.