How Jim Jones’ Son Survived The Jonestown Tragedy


While religious leader Jim Jones has historically been blamed for the tragedy that occurred at his Guyana compound, the A&E special Jonestown: The Women Behind The Massacre argues that the women closest to Jones were also partially responsible. One of the female subjects of the documentary is Marceline Jones, who was Jim's wife. Marceline and Jim had one biological child together, and Stephan Jones appears in Jonestown: The Women Behind The Massacre. Despite his unconventional upbringing and the horrific tragedy brought about by his father's religious group, the Peoples Temple, Stephan speaks candidly about his experience in the documentary. And based on what Stephan Jones is doing now, it seems he has tried to live his life as normally as anyone who has gone through what he has possibly could.

When more than 900 people were killed at Jonestown by consuming punch laced with cyanide on Nov. 18, 1978, Stephan was not at the settlement founded by his father. Instead, The Washington Post reported that Stephan escaped death with the Jonestown basketball team. They were playing in a tournament in Georgetown, Guyana — about 150 miles from Jonestown and were still in Guyana's capital when the murder-suicide occurred. Afterwards, the 19-year-old Stephan was put in jail for three months in the South American nation before the case against him was thrown out. "I think I'd probably be pretty messed up if I hadn't lost everybody I had and hadn't gone through the prison experience," Stephan told The Washington Post in 1983. "I mellowed out."

Throughout the 40 years since the deaths at Jonestown, Stephan has been willing to give media interviews. As outlined in the above video, he was featured in the History Channel's 2007 documentary Jonestown: Paradise Lost and has written for the website Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, which is run by San Diego State University. Many of his previous interviews echo what he discusses in Jonestown: The Women Behind The Massacre, but he has an intimate perspective to give when it comes to his father and mother, who both died during the event. (As PEOPLE reported a year after the deaths, two of Stephan's adopted siblings also died at Jonestown.)

In a 2007 interview with Religion News Service published by Dallas News, Stephan said that he struggled with drug addiction after Jonestown, but that he's sober now. "I'm blessed to have hit enough of a bottom and to have been surrounded by amazing, wonderful, honest, compassionate and challenging people to see me through that," Stephan said.


As for those people in his life, NBC reported in a 2008 article that Stephan has three daughters and there's a photo of Stephan presumably with one of his daughters on the Alternative Considerations website. It's unclear if he is currently married or if he retains a relationship with his surviving siblings.

NBC reported that Stephan Jones was the vice president for an office installation company in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008. His LinkedIn profile indicates that he still has the position of vice president of operations at MB Contract Furniture. According to his 1983 interview with The Washington Post, he was in this line of work even back then. Outside of his career, he has discussed how he is spiritual in his personal life in interviews, like a 2007 one with Canada's The Globe and Mail — though his beliefs are different than the fringe Christian ones his father once preached about.

While Jonestown: The Women Behind The Massacre focuses on the women who were involved with Jim Jones, Stephan continues to have empathy and love for his mother, who apparently struggled with her husband's affairs. And as the years go on, Stephan is still willing to talk about his connection to one of the biggest tragedies in American history — even as he tries to live a peaceful life far removed from Jonestown.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.