$3 million for hit list,
says ex-Jones aide
San Francisco Sunday Chronicle & Examiner - 12/10/78, front page
Defectors: Temple leader
bragged of Mafia contacts
By W.E. Barnes
Examiner Staff Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Peoples Temple leader the Rev. Jim Jones planned that the $3 million cash found at the Guyana jungle mission would be used to pay for death contracts on his enemies, according to a top aide Terri Buford.
In an interview, she also claimed there was a plan for followers at the San Francisco temple "to stay alive at all costs and carry out the assassinations in the event of Jones' death.
"I was told the money found in the jungle was to be used for putting out contracts on people."
In Berkeley, temple defectors Wanda Johnson and Al Mills confirmed that Jones used to brag about his Mafia connections.
"He used to say that if anybody gave him trouble, he had that wonderful Mafia contact. We didn't know if Jones was serious or not," said Mills, a temple follower for six years who later helped to found the Human Freedom Center, a halfway house for former members.
"There are still people alive who could be members of a hit squad," Buford said. She added, however, she is not aware of the existence of a "hit list."
"Years ago . . . there was a physical hit list," she said. "I don't know if one was maintained over the years. But Jones would say of his enemies, 'These are people to be remembered.' And I took this to mean they were to be killed."
Buford, who left the Guyana commune last Sept. 16 and later claimed she had defected, was probably Jones' closest aide, according to other members.
Among other things, she is believed to have had over-all responsibility for temple finances. It was the first time she had talked to the press since the Guyana murders and mass suicides three weeks ago.
She and temple attorney Mark Lane held a secret meeting in San Jose Wednesday with U.S. Attorney William Hunter, San Francisco FBI chief Roy McKinnon and other federal officials.
Lane said yesterday he had asked for immunity from prosecution for Buford. But the attorney said Hunter indicated it would not be necessary.
Buford put the total cash assets of the temple at $11 million, most of it in numbered bank accounts in Panama and Zurich, Switzerland. Estimates by other former temple higher-ups had placed the total at around $10 million.
Before she left Guyana, Buford said she signed over all but $2 million to an elderly white woman who died in the Jonestown suicides. (Interviews with other temple leaders indicate Buford was one of three women whose names were on foreign accounts. Anyone to whom she "signed over" accounts, probably replaced her as one of three with withdrawal rights.)
Before fleeing the San Francisco temple Nov. 27, she said she also signed documents transferring the remaining $2 million.
She said she was able to leave Jonestown because she convinced Jones she could be of more use at the San Francisco temple, helping to prepare defenses against pending lawsuits.
But other temple defectors were scornful of her story.
"I think she's trying to cover herself," Berkeley former member Johnson said yesterday. "This is just phase one of her plan to carry out Jones' orders."
Mills said, "Terri's very inventive. But she's just as hateful of traitors as Jim Jones was."
And Tim Stoen, a former Jones aide and former assistant district attorney in Mendocino County and San Francisco said of her:
"She's Jones' top avenger. No person in the church had a greater loyalty to him personally. That loyalty would have been enhanced, not destroyed, by his death."
In Georgetown, Paula Adams, a Temple member whose job it was to keep in touch with Guyanese officials, said Buford "was a right-arm woman to Jim. No one knew his thinking better than Terri."
Adams said she didn't believe Buford's claims about putting contracts out on people. "If so, why would the money be found there (in Jonestown)? It sounds like an after-the-fact explanation," said Adams.
"I think she's got plenty to hide -- if anybody."
Buford is said to be the person most familiar with the complex web of temple bank accounts in Switzerland, Panama and perhaps other countries, with the exception of Carolyn Layton, who died at Jonestown.
Former associates of Buford, 26, have described trips led by her to deposit funds in various banks in Europe and South America under a plan set up by Stoen before his defection from the temple.
Buford claimed some of the money stashed by the temple in foreign bank accounts had been carried out of the Untied States by Stoen himself.
She said she had witnessed, about two or three years ago, Stoen concealing more than $500,000 to be deposited in a Panama bank by taping a large part of the money to his body.
She said she had given the name of the Panama bank to the authorities in the San Jose meeting.
Stoen yesterday ridiculed Buford's tale of the money.
"I set up the first two accounts in Panama, then turned them over to Terri because Jones didn't trust my emotional state.
"But I never smuggled any money out. That's absurd. There was nothing to gain by taking that risk. The money was transferred by bank transfer. It's perfectly legal to set up a church corporation in Panama."
Buford also accused Stoen, whom Jones later accused of being a traitor in a bitter paternity dispute, of plotting with Jones to kill former Examiner religion writer Lester Kinsolving.
Kinsolving wrote the first critical press stories about Jones' activities as an alleged faith healer in Mendocino County.
Buford said the reporter's stories "drove Jones and Stoen wild," and she claimed the pair researched poisons which could be used to kill Kinsolving.
She said documentation of the plot against Kinsolving is contained in an affidavit given by San Francisco temple member Sandy Bradshaw to attorney Charles Garry. Buford said she saw the affidavit at the Geary Boulevard Temple between Sept. 18 and Oct. 26.
Stoen denied Buford's allegation about a murder plot. "Jones was angry about Kinsolving, but he never threatened to kill him as far as I know. It's absurd for her to suggest I knew anything about it."
Attorney Garry was not available for comment.
Berkeley defectors Mills and Johnson agreed, however, with Buford's story of a possible hit squad.