Scoop: ABC News' 'Truth and Lies: Jonestown, Paradise Lost,' Airs Today

By: Sep. 28, 2018
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Scoop: ABC News' 'Truth and Lies: Jonestown, Paradise Lost,' Airs Today

ABC News presents a documentary on the 40 th anniversary of the largest murder-suicide in American history when over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, living in what was known as the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, consumed a deadly cyanide-laced drink on the orders of leader Jim Jones. The special documents the tragedy through the lens of Jones' two surviving sons, Jim Jones Jr. and Stephan Jones, featuring new interviews in which they open up about their father, regrets and forgiveness. By piecing together rare video, audiotapes and FBI documents - declassified in just the past decade - diaries and letters from those who died in the murder-suicide, and archival footage, ABC News explores the lingering questions about Jones, his religious and social justice movement, and the horrific events that unfolded on Nov. 18, 1978. "Truth and Lies: Jonestown, Paradise Lost" airs Friday, Sept. 28 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC.

The special includes new interviews with former members including Deborah Layton, a defector who wrote "Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple"; Leslie Wagner-Wilson, who fled through the jungle with her young child the morning the massacre happened; Yulanda Williams, who discusses how Jonestown was not THE PARADISE she was promised; and Laura Johnston Kohl, who explains how she was able to overlook red flags within the group. The documentary also reports on the shocking murder of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan who came to Jonestown the day before the massacre with a news crew in an attempt to assist people who may have been held against their will.

In 1955, the Peoples Temple was founded by Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana. After undergoing significant criticism, the organization relocated to San Francisco where Jones became a political
force. However, after allegations of abuse were raised about the organization, Jones once again moved the group, this time to the jungles of Guyana. He preached to his followers that they would build a UTOPIA - known as Jonestown - that would be free of violence, racism and oppression from the U.S. government.

Jonestown turned out to be the exact opposite of paradise. Members were forced to work in fields and were harshly punished if they questioned Jones. Over time, Jones began to compare himself to
Jesus and became paranoid that the media, government and others were out to get him. The day of the massacre, Jones ordered his followers to commit a "revolutionary act" in an attempt to convince
everyone that consuming the poisonous mixture wasn't suicide and instead had a greater, more profound meaning. Jones was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head, most likely self- inflicted.

The documentary on Jonestown is the seventh installment of the No. 1-rated "Truth and Lies" series. Launched by ABC News in 2017, the first six specials were on the Menendez brothers, Charles
Manson, Watergate, Laci Peterson, WACO and Tonya Harding.

The special is produced by ABC News. David Sloan is senior executive producer. Muriel Pearson is executive producer.