DOVER, Del. – A California man said Friday he was shocked to learn that his wife’s cremated remains had been found inside a decrepit former funeral home, 35 years after she and more than 900 others died in a suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana.
Maud Ester Perkins was 28 when she and her then-7-year-old son died in 1978 at the Peoples Temple settlement led by Jim Jones. Her husband, Irvin Ray Perkins, of Antioch, California, told the Associated Press on Friday that at the time he had tried to determine what happened to his wife’s remains without success.
All 911 bodies had been taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, home to the U.S. military’s largest mortuary. About a half-dozen local funeral homes helped prepare the bodies and return them to relatives over the course of several months, though many remains were never claimed. More than 400 were buried in a mass grave at a California cemetery, while the rest were either cremated or buried in family cemeteries.
“There was so much chaos. … I never got a chance to get hold of anybody who knew anything exactly, so I just sort of backed off,” said Perkins, who recalled being told that somebody would get back with him.
“Somebody just got back to me 37 years later,” said Perkins, now 64.
Perkins still doesn’t know what happened to the remains of his son but suspects they may have been among the unidentified remains buried at the California cemetery in 1979.