More than 30 years after the tragic mass suicide that took the lives of 911 Bay Area residents at Jonestown, in Guyana, the cremated remains of nine of the dead turned up in storage at a defunct funeral home in Dover, Delaware. The reason they ended up there is because all the bodies of the dead originally arrived back in the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base, which is home to the nation's largest military mortuary, as the AP reports. These nine unclaimed cremains were clearly lost in the shuffle, and were among 38 containers of remains discovered at the former funeral home this week.
At the time, in November 1978, after multiple cemeteries refused to accept the remains of those unclaimed and/or unidentified victims (many of the bodies that came back to the States were badly decomposed), Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland accepted 406 of the bodies, many of them children. A memorial to the victims was unveiled there in 2008.
Per the AP:
The remains [found in Delaware] were clearly marked, with the names of the deceased included on death certificates, authorities said. But Kimberly Chandler, spokeswoman for the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, declined to release the names of the nine people to The Associated Press. Chandler said officials were working to notify relatives.
The massacre/suicide at Jonestown took place shortly after a visit from California Congressman Leo Ryan and his then aide Jackie Speier, along with a news crew from NBC, visited pastor Jim Jones and his flock of followers at the Peoples' Temple on November 17, 1978. Jones had relocated the Temple and many of his diverse group of parishioners to Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, after facing heightened media scrutiny in San Francisco and allegations of physical and sexual abuse from Temple members. While many joined the Temple for its radically integrationist, Christian, and Socialist values, they were ultimately caught up in Jones' drug- and ego-fueled delusion, and on November 18 were ordered to drink cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid grape punch, and to give it to their children first. The few members who managed to escape reported seeing anyone who resisted either get shot, or they were forced to consume the poison. It remains the largest mass suicide in human history.
Jones himself died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head and groin, most likely self-inflicted.
If you haven't seen it, the 2006 documentary below, produced and directed by Stanley Nelson, is a great one, and deals well with the nuances of the Jonestown tragedy beyond the suicide headline. Watch it.