Leslie Wagner-Wilson: Where is the Jonestown Survivor Now?

When Leslie Wagner-Wilson, a former member of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, realized that the entire Cult was heading towards annihilation, she was determined to get her son, Jakari, out of the mess. However, she knew such a task would not be easy as armed militia patrolled the walls of their Guyanan city, Jonestown, at all times, and if found, defectors were shamed or shot to death. ‘Mother Undercover: Mom vs. Cult’ as well as Hulu’s ‘Cult Massacre: One Day in Jonestown’ thus explore her struggle and portray how she escaped with her son just hours before the mass murder-suicide.

Leslie Wagner-Wilson Had Been Planned on Leaving For a While

Leslie Wagner-Wilson joined Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in the 1970s when the organization was still functioning out of California. Initially, the Cult appeared welcoming, and she loved how neither its leader nor its people discriminated between social standing or skin color. Shortly after joining Peoples Temple, she met and got closely acquainted with Joe Wilson, only for him to later become her husband. Jim himself blessed their marriage, and then they welcomed their son, Jakari.

Incidentally, Joe was close to Jim Jones and was occasionally in charge of his security. As a result, the Cult leader took a personal interest in his family and believed Jakari would grow up to be a Peoples Temple warrior. In fact, Leslie can still recall how he would often call the boy to the front during gatherings and praise him in front of everyone. The mood surrounding this sect was pretty joyous back then, with people having no idea about the tragedy to follow. So, of course, once Jim Jones decided to move his followers to Jonestown in 1977, Joe followed him without hesitation.

But alas, it turns out Leslie had already begun doubting if such an environment was good for Jakari and his emotional, mental, as well as physical development, just to ultimately decide to follow her husband. However, once in Jonestown, the atmosphere changed completely as Jim tried his best to separate the children from their parents before attempting to have them forgo the whole notion of a family. Moreover, he often talked of an approaching armageddon and claimed they might have to die for a greater cause, leading Leslie to realize they were part of a cult that was heading toward doomsday, and she became desperate to get her child out.

Nevertheless, doing so wasn’t easy, especially since Joe had become the head of the security team. On top of it, a letter Leslie wrote about her intentions to another woman in the cult was revealed to Jim Jones, who publicly shamed her before forcing her to work in a medical facility while being cut off from the rest of her family. While at the facility, Leslie met a group looking to flee the compound for a better life elsewhere. Thus, once they learned that US Republican Leo Ryan would be visiting Jonestown on November 17, 1978, they planned their escape around that date.

Leslie and the group slipped out when Jim Jones and his security were busy with the visitors. She recalled how they spent a few grueling hours trudging through fields until they reached the road and encountered a group of policemen. Thankfully, the police officers allowed them to continue on their way, and the group returned to the United States with the help of the US Embassy. Little did they know that mere hours following their escape from the compound, 913 Peoples Temple members died in a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown on the order of Jim Jones.

Leslie Wagner-Wilson is an Inspirational Public Speaker

Following her escape from Jonestown, Leslie Wagner-Wilson and her son, Jakari, settled in Columbus, Georgia. The mother of one even documented her Peoples Temple memories in the book ‘Slavery of Faith’ published in January 2009. In addition, she took up the mantle of educating others about cult manipulation and used her experience to become an inspirational public speaker of international repute. Furthermore, Leslie has been featured on numerous documentaries and TV shows as a survivor and an expert on Peoples Temple.

From the looks of it, Leslie is still based in Georgia, where she has built a quiet life surrounded by loved ones. Although reaching this point hasn’t been easy for her in any way since she has had to heal first, all the while battling post-traumatic stress disorder, survival guilt, drug addiction, as well as homelessness. It thus comes as no surprise she has since even established LifesCompanss LLC, an organization that facilitates healing and growth through conversation and love without passing any judgment over one’s past actions.

On the other hand, ‘Mother Undercover’ revealed that her son, Jakari, has a criminal history and is currently incarcerated in a California prison where he is serving a 105-year sentence after being convicted on two counts of attempted murder. Nevertheless, Leslie revealed that she still maintains an incredible bond with her son and is also a proud grandmother. So, we only wish her the best for the future.

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