News Americas, DOVER, Delaware, Fri. Aug. 8, 2014: The cremated remains of several victims of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, South America have been found in a former funeral home in Dover, Delaware.
The ‘cremains” were found among 38 small containers of ashes found inside the former Minus Funeral Home at 222 North Queen Street in Dover, Delaware, according to Dover police.
Of the 38 containers, 33 were clearly marked and identified, police said. Nine of the 33 containers of unclaimed ashes were identified as victims of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre.
The marked containers of cremains spanned a period from approximately 1970 through the 1990s. The funeral home’s owner, Edward Minus, died in 2012 and the funeral home was foreclosed on in October 2013 after his son, Edward Jr., was unable to take the business over. The building is now bank-owned, according to property records.
“It was definitely a shock when we found out exactly what we had,” said Dover police spokesman Mark Hoffman. “Obviously, it’s an intriguing story and a tragic story, and to think this was found right here in our jurisdiction, about six blocks from the police department, makes it very compelling to us.”
Documentation found in the funeral home, including death certificates, helped forensic investigators tied the nine remains to the Jonestown Massacre, police said. State forensic investigators have taken possession of the remains and are continuing to identify them and make notifications to family members.
The Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Division of Forensic Science (DFS) and the Dover Police Department conducted an exploratory excavation on the property.
On Nov. 18, 1978, gunmen from the Peoples Temple cult founded by Jim Jones, ambushed and killed U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California, three newsmen and a defector from the group at Port Kaituma airstrip in Guyana as they visited on a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of abuses of members.
A total of 913 body boxes – more than 900 victims of the shocking mass killing and a handful of others, including leaders of the Peoples Temple – were flown from Guyana to the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies were identified and prepared for burial, according to articles published at the time in The News Journal.
Doretha Minus, who co-owned the former funeral home with her husband Edward Sr., who is now deceased, told the Dover Post that family members at the time would call and arrange to have their loved ones ashes flown home. Some couldn’t afford it, others never called, the paper quoted her as saying.
At least 29 of the Jonestown victims were cremated in New Jersey before the practice was temporarily halted because the six Delaware morticians who brought the bodies across the state line weren’t licensed to do so. Delaware initially barred the cremation or burial of the Jonestown dead in the state because death certificates weren’t immediately available.
Meanwhile, several bronze gravesite markers for deceased veterans who served in World War I through the Vietnam War were also located in the facility during the initial DFS check. These markers will be presented to family members if they can be located or returned to the Veterans Administration.