DOVER, Del. — Nine unclaimed containers found inside a funeral home contain the ashes of victims of the 1978 mass cult Jonestown Massacre, according to police.
The discovery was among 38 small containers of ashes found inside the former Minus Funeral by state forensic investigators last week. It prompted authorities to dig outside the building Wednesday to look for other remains. None was found, according to a joint release from Dover police and the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Division of Forensic Science.
The containers of ashes, 33 of which were marked and identified, were dated from a period spanning from approximately 1970 through the 1990s.
"It was definitely a shock when we found out exactly what we had," said Dover police spokesman Mark Hoffman. "Obviously it's an intriguing story and a tragic story, and to think this was found right here in our jurisdiction, about six blocks from the police department, makes it very compelling to us."
Documentation found in the bank-owned funeral home, including death certificates, helped forensic investigators tie the nine remains to the Jonestown Massacre, said Kimberly Chandler, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. State forensic investigators have taken possession of the remains and are continuing to identify them and make notifications to family members.
"We don't know why they were unclaimed," she said. "What we intend to do is identify family members, reach out to them and make them aware that the remains are available to them."
The discovery inside the building prompted authorities to dig outside on Wednesday to check for any other unclaimed remains. None was found. During the dig, authorities found an arrowhead, two animal bones, oyster shells and charcoal, according to the release.
Several bronze gravesite markers for deceased veterans serving in World War I, through the Vietnam War, were also located inside the facility during the initial check by state forensic investigators. Officials plan to present the markers to family members if they can be located or returned to the Veterans Administration, according to the release.
Bodies of 911 victims who died in the mass suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, under the leadership of Peoples Temple sect leader Jim Jones, were brought to Dover Air Force Base, home to the U.S. military's largest mortuary.
Contributing: The Associated Press