Jeannie Mills

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Jeannie Mills (July 2, 1939 – February 27, 1980), born Deanna Mertle, née Gustafson,[1][2] was an early defector from the Peoples Temple cult, author of the book Six Years with God (A&W Publishers: New York, 1979), and co-founder of the Concerned Relatives of Peoples Temple Members organization.[3]

She and her family joined the Peoples Temple in 1969; as Deanna and Elmer Mertle, she served as head of the Temple's publications office while her husband Al was the official photographer.[4] They left the group with their five children in 1975 after Jones beat their daughter Linda 70 times with a paddle for a minor infraction. The family also changed their names to "Mills" to void the power of attorney they had given Jones.[5]

After their defection, Mills published a memoir, Six Years with God: Life inside Rev. Jim Jones's Peoples Temple, established a center in Berkeley to deprogram ex-cultists, and persuaded Rep. Leo Ryan to undertake the fact-finding mission to Guyana that led to the Jonestown massacre and Ryan's death. She also co-founded the Concerned Relatives, a support group for Jonestown defectors and their families. The Mills family initially holed up with other defectors in the protective custody of a police SWAT team, but eventually decided to resume normal life.


Mills, along with her husband Al and their 15-year-old daughter Daphene, were murdered execution-style in their Berkeley home on February 26, 1980, just over a year after the Jonestown massacre.[2][6] Their 17-year-old son Eddie was home at the time, but was left unharmed.[7] There was no forced entry, and burglary was quickly ruled out as a motive.[5] Eddie claimed he was unaware that the killings had taken place, even though police found gunshot residue on his hands.[8]

The Mills murders raised the fear that Temple "hit squads" (ex-members who would "avenge" the Jonestown deaths) were involved. However, the theory was never substantiated. With no leads, the investigation was eventually shelved and the case went cold. In 2005, police re-interviewed several surviving members of the Mills family. On December 3, 2005, 43-year-old Eddie Mills was arrested at the San Francisco airport after returning to the U.S. for the first time in several years. However, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence.[9] Eddie Mills returned to Japan, where he lives with his wife and two children.[7] The murders remain unsolved.


  1. ^ Find a Grave, Deanna "Jeannie Mills" Gustafson Mertle
  2. ^ a b Loren L Coleman, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. Simon and Schuster, 2004, p. 71. Author identifies the couple as Elmer and Deanna Mertle.
  3. ^ Neva Sly Hargrave, “A Story of Deprogramming”
  4. ^ Eric W. Hickey, Encyclopedia of murder and violent crime. SAGE, 2003, p. 109.
  5. ^ a b The Mills Family Murders: Could It Be Jim Jones' Last Revenge?, People Magazine, Clare Crawford-Mason and Nancy Faber, March 17, 1980
  6. ^ "No charges filed against son in 1980 murders" on The Rick A. Ross Institute
  7. ^ a b "Who Murdered Al and Jeannie Mills?", Jonestown Project
  8. ^ Ex-Berkeley man held in family slayings,, Henry K. Lee, December 7, 2005
  9. ^ Retired officer works old cases - to no avail, San Francisco Chronicle, Henry K. Lee, December 10, 2005

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