Two former members of the People's Temple, who have publicly opposed the controversial cult since defecting from it in 1975, were found slain in their house here Tuesday night, the victims of gunshot wounds to the head.
The bodies of Al Mills, 51, and his wife Jeannie, 40, were discovered in the bedroom of their cottage on a quiet residential street in Berkeley. Their 16-year-old daughter, Daphne, who was also shot, was hospitalized in critical condition with a head wound.
The Mills family, who quit Jim Jone's Peoples Temple after spending five years with the congregation, engaged in a bitter word war over the past several years with Jones and his supporters. The millses were involved in numerous efforts to expose the temple's reported voilence and authoritarianism, and last year Jeannie Mills published a book on her experiences in the cult.
Thus far, no evidence has surfaced linking the couple's slaying to their anti-temple activties, however, and Berkeley police refused to speculate on the killings.
City police provided the Millses with protection for several days in November 1978 after Jim Jones and over 900 members of the temple died in a mass murder-suicide in Guyana. The Millses and other former temple members charged then that Jones had set up a "hit squad" to seek retribution against temple critics and others Jones considered "traitors."
"As soon as you left the church," Jeannie Mills said at the time, "you were on a list to be killed.'"
The alleged hit squad, according to former temple members, was composed of several of Jones' most trusted aides ordered to slay temple critics after the suicides. Local law enforcement officials and the FBI investigated the existence of the alleged hit squad, but no arrests or indictments were made.
Temple spokesmen denied at the time that any hit squad had been set up.
More recently the Millses had expressed hope that their temple ordeal was behind them and they could return to a normal life. Last year, for example, the couple resigned from the staff of a Berkeley counseling center for former members of the Peoples Temple and other cults.
"We very seldom even think about [the temple] now." Jeannie Mills said in an interview last November. "We're just running a [rest] home next door, writing and lecturing." She added that their previous concern over a temple death squad was now "completely gone."
Others familiar with the couple, however, argued that the Millses did continue to fear for their safety, and felt they were living on "borrowed time."
Several former temple members expressed shock and disbelief over the slayings. They said that most survivors of the Guyana holocaust no longer sought revenge against the "defectors," and were trying, like the Millses, to put the experience behind them.
Strong feelings still exist among a few former members, they add, particularly between those critical of the temple and Jones loyalists.
Berkeley police inspector Jay Downing says that as yet there is "no indication" that the killing of the Millses is linked to the temple or any of its surviving members.
The Millses' bodies were discovered by their son and Al Mills' mother late Tuesday night, according to police. Apparently neither heard or saw the murders take place.