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Remains of California victim of Jonestown Massacre found in Delaware

36 years after the Jonestown Massacre, a Northern California man will receive his wife's remains
Calif. victim's remains from Jonestown Massacre are among remains found in Delaware

A Northern California man says his wife was one of the nine victims of the Jonestown Massacre whose remains were recovered in Delaware earlier this week.

Irvin Ray Perkins, 64, of Antioch, told the Los Angeles Times that Delaware officials have confirmed his wife, Maud, was one of the nine victims whose cremated remains were among those discovered in an abandoned Dover funeral home.

“That was some shock, that it took [so long] for them to contact me," Perkins said in a brief phone interview. The massacre, in which more than 900 people died after consuming cyanide-laced drinks, happened nearly 36 years ago at the Jonestown complex in Guyana.

On Thursday, the Delaware Division of Forensic Science said an examination of the Minus Funeral Home in Dover resulted in the discovery of 38 urns on the property. The property had closed in 2012 after the owner died, said Kimberly Chandler, a spokeswoman with the state division of forensic science.

Thirty-three of the urns were clearly marked, and investigators also found matching death certificates, allowing them to cross-reference the names with a list of Jonestown Massacre victims.

Maud Perkins appears to be the first of the nine victims to be publicly identified. She was living in San Francisco with her husband before traveling to Guyana, according to Perkins.

While he declined to discuss her reason for leaving, Perkins did say he had almost given up hope of ever finding his wife's remains.

"I had called, right after that, to find out what I needed to do," he said. "I could never get anywhere with the phone calls, so I just left it be. Until I got the phone call yesterday.”

Chandler declined to comment on Friday, saying only that the identities of the victims could be made public within the next two weeks. 

On Nov. 18, 1978, the Rev. Jim Jones ordered hundreds of members of his People's Temple cult to consume a soft drink laced with cyanide. Jones and his followers also shot and killed five people, including California Congressman Leo Ryan, near an air strip prior to the suicides. U.S. Rep Jackie Speier and former Los Angeles Times reporter Tim Reiterman were also wounded, but survived.

On Thursday, Dover Police said many of the victims of the massacre were flown back into the U.S. through Dover Air Force Base, though it was unclear how the nine sets of remains wound up inside the funeral home.

It is unclear if the funeral director knew he had the urns, but Delaware officials are not pursuing a criminal investigation.

“For us it’s simply a case of unclaimed remains, and our primary focus right now is to identify family members,” Chandler told The Times on Thursday. 

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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