The state’s Division of Forensic Science ordered an excavation at the old Minus Funeral Home in Dover where a stash of 38 ashes were found by a representative with a bank on July 30 after the property foreclosed, Cpl. Mark Hoffman, a Dover Police spokesman, told the Daily News.
It’s not known how the nine victims from the mass cult suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana wound up at the funeral home and stayed there for more than 30 years after being transported to Dover Air Force Base.
The nine victims were never shipped to their next of kin for burial.
Hoffman said the base does not typically work with civilians except on a contract basis, but there’s no telling why the remains were brought there.
Most of the containers were clearly marked — including those of the Jonestown victims — but there was no sign of corpse abuse or improper storage, Hoffman said.
More than 900 American bodies died in the mass suicide ritual in the jungles of Guyana after drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and were transported by military cargo planes to Dover Air Force Base during Thanksgiving weekend of 1978.
The bodies sat for months waiting for the People’s Temple to arrange for the bodies to be shipped back to California on trucks because state politicians did not want a mass burial anywhere near Dover out of fear of attracting more cultists, wire reports from 1978 and ’79 show.
In the meantime, 10 funeral homes in Dover handled the cremation of some bodies by request of their families. It’s not known if the Minus Funeral Home was one of the homes asked to handle the bodies.
The last of the bodies to leave the Dover base were children and unidentified victims.
The cult’s leader, Jim Jones, was cremated in New Jersey to avoid Delaware’s legal problems. Cremations required a death certification to bury or cremate a body, reports said.
It’s estimated the U.S. government spent $4.4 million recovering the bodies.
Other victims of the massacre included Rep. Leo Ryan of California, three journalists, Bob Brown, Greg Robinson and Don Harris, and a defector, Patricia Parks, who were shot to death boarding a plane from the Port Kaituma airstrip near Jonestown to Georgetown.
The Delaware forensic team has collected all the found cremains and will seek out the next of kin for burial arrangements.
Dover investigators also dug up animal bones, oyster shells and charcoals outside the funeral home dating back to the building’s time as a church with occasional clam bakes, Hoffman added.
They also found arrowheads and gravestones for military veterans from World War I to the Vietnam War.
The property was previously owned by Edward G. Minus who died in 2012.