Original Air Date:
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Oprah spoke with Jim Jones Jr., son of cult leader Jim Jones, and Karen, the sister of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
After reading about the tragedy of the Jonestown Massacre or John Wayne Gacy's notorious murders, have you ever wondered what Jim Jones or Gacy were like as men from a different perspective? Oprah spoke with Jim Jones Jr., the son of the leader of the Peoples Temple and one of few survivors of the mass suicide, and Karen, sister of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The experience of a son and sister is very unique and different to that of and outside viewer looking in, and as horrific as these events are, at one point in time these men were viewed by their family member as a beloved father and brother.
This episode featured the following highlights:
- The 1978 mass murder/suicide at Jonestown is notorious for deaths occurring by "drinking the kool-aid" that was laced with cyanide and the sea of bodies, including mothers and babies, clustered together.
- Jim Jones Jr. was one of few to survive as he was away from the compound. Losing his family, including wife and unborn child, Jones, 18 at the time, did not follow his father's phone orders to die with the group.
- After hitting a low in the mid 90s, Jones worked to be a good husband and father to his 3 sons while finding pride in his history, despite the tragic ending.
- In his mid 20s, then a husband, father and businessman, John Wayne Gacy was sent to prison for abusing a boy. Never faltering in his innocence, Gacy was released on good behavior after serving only 18 months of his 10 year sentence.
- Losing his wife and children because of the crime, Gacy went on to remarry. It has been reported that after the failure of his second marriage, Gacy snapped and began abducting, raping, and murdering young men and boys.
- Believing his innocence until he admitted guilt to her, Karen was shocked by her older brother's actions, but still loved and visited Gacy until his execution in 94.
What to Take Away from the Show:
With knowledge of the Jonestown Massacre and the serial murders of John Wayne Gacy strictly from reports prior to watching this episode, it was easy to see only monsters and not the men and family behind the horrific events. Listing to Jim Jones Jr. and Karen describe their experiences sharing a life with their loved ones, it is evident that darkness and untreated mental illness was present in both men and is often overlooked considering the tragic outcomes of their choices. I walked away from this episode with greater knowledge and a new perspective on these events and the men who committed them.