The story

Cyanide was being bought and shipped to the Rev. Jim Jones' jungle compound in South America for at least two years before 909 Americans died there at the command of their cult leader, CNN has learned.

Sources in Guyana said the Jonestown camp began obtaining shipments of cyanide -- about a quarter to a half-pound of the deadly poison each month -- as early as 1976, well before most of Jones' followers made the move there.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien tells the story of the last hours of Jonestown -- and the few who did survive out of desperation and daring -- as CNN Presents "Escape from Jonestown."

Jones led his followers to their death after his gunmen killed a visiting congressman, Rep. Leo Ryan, and four others, including an NBC News correspondent and his cameraman, on November 18, 1978.

Jones told the members of his Peoples Temple church that the Guyanese Army would invade their settlement after the murders. He demanded that parents kill their children first, then take their own lives, rather than face the authorities because of what Jones had done. Read full article »

Escape from Jonestown
Thirty years ago, more than 900 died by murder and suicide. Only 33 survived. Soledad O'Brien reports on their untold stories.
Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

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