Episode 20: Jonestown Survivor Capt. Yulanda Williams

December 15 Episode 20: Jonestown Survivor Capt. Yulanda Williams
Leah and Mike talk with Jonestown survivor and SFO PD Captain Yulanda Williams about her story, the parallels to scientology and how to better equip law enforcement to deal with cults.
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Capt. Yulanda Williams SFO PD
Jim Jones

Leader of the People’s Temple

Congressman Leo Ryan

Congressman Ryan traveled to Guyana to investigate Jonestown and was murdered by members of the People’s Temple


  • Angela T Trahan says:

    Captain Williams was amazing. She was so insightful and had such a healthy perspective on the events of her past.

  • Memi says:

    You are blaming the wrong group!! Law enforcement cannot investigate what is not allowed under church vs state. Blame your lawmakers & the IRS! I have dealt with law enforcement officers & they care. They can’t do shit if the laws of our country does not allow it!!!! If the USA tried to keep citizens from going to another country, they would be called communists.

  • Tracey Thomas says:

    Leah & Mike, this was an absolutely awesome episode. Loved Yulanda, from start to finish. Had a revelatory moment when she likened a variety of organizations/relationships to cults: abusive relationships, gangs, etc. Keep doing what you’re doing. We’re listening.

  • Deni Blackwell says:

    Wow! You know when you hear something and it is so familiar that your heart races and you feel sick to your stomach? That is what this episode was like for me.

    I went to high school in Lake Arrowhead and now live in San Luis Obispo. Scientology was somehow connected to both of those communities. I began listening to this podcast out of curiosity. I never dreamed that it would bring me to the realization that I was in a cult from age 9 to 16. Everything from school, friends, planning a community, reporting our concerns to leadership because we feel a fellow member was “backsliding”. Let me tell you, I have a lot to discuss with my psychiatrist next time!

    My parents (who were in leadership) took a step back and saw what was happening and left the church. They also had the foresight to move us 1.5hrs away. This meant a fresh start for my sister and I, who would not have been welcomed in our friends homes because we did not attend the church. I was a 16yr old whose best friend had also moved and was excited to start a public high school…I was clueless!

    Yulanda Williams really opened my eyes when she said that Trump makes her skin crawl because he is so much like Jim. I also have the same reaction to that man and it never occurred to me that it is because he reminds me of the pastor of the church. Even down to the motto, Trump had “MAGA” and Ty had “America shall be Saved”. What truly breaks my heart is that my parents have been drinking that juice and my sister and I are completely floored. This correlation may open their eyes.

  • Mary Louise Fazzano says:

    This was an amazing episode, thank you. To be sure the content was extremely important. It was her delivery that was 100% captivating. Could listen to the 3 of you for hours.
    Thank you for all you are doing.
    Wishing you blessed holidays and a less encumbered 2021.
    Sincerely, Mary Louise Fazzano de Garcia-Garcia (USA & UAE)

  • Stephanie says:

    I’m so curious if you think L. Ron Hubbard or other cult leaders are true believers in their own made-up “religions” or just narcissists who enjoy being worshipped? Love the podcast, keep up the good work!

  • Sky says:


    I’m not sure if you and Leah have addressed this or not but are scientologists at all concerned with the fact that the “inventor” of their “religion” was responsible for producing the highest volume of science fiction ever? When they finally reach the upper echelon of Scientology why are they so surprised at the bullshit they find? Thank you for what you guys are doing. Speaking about this and educating people especially vulnerable people as you and your team are doing will save a lot of lives. Stay strong and diligent. People are listening.

  • Shelly BouSamra says:

    My least favorite episode so far. Her story was interesting and sad, and I felt bad for her family falling victim to that crazy cult. But then she got all political and started her Trump-bashing, Leah and Mike sounded like they’re agreeing with her, and I turned it off. Hopefully future guests keep their personal political beliefs to themselves; nobody wants to hear it. We get enough of it EVERY. WHERE. ELSE. Give it a break. Keep it off the air unless you want half the country to tune you out.

    • Rae says:

      The documented increasing amount of religious and right wing domestic terrorism is on the rise in the US, and it is happening on the Trump Administration’s watch. One can almost hear Timmothy McVeigh and David Koresh giggling, in Hell. What’s more concerning is Trump claimed to be in support for revoking Scientology’s tax exempt status; so what’s happed with that? Just saying it for opportunism? Does the “church” have compromising information on him or members of his cabinet? Or, is the “church” big donors with their billions in tax-exempt cash or PPP loans? Still can’t get my senators or rep to answer that flip flop in calls for accountability, but it’s not surprising. Political agendas that spout “religious freedom” without limits or accountability don’t seem to realize they embolden fringe sets, cults, and abusive behavior by religious institutions. If the GOP/Trump administration and their supporters cannot handle legitimate criticisms from a cult victim and accomplished law enforcement officer, thicker skins are required and those pearl-clutching politicians need to vamoose outta those positions, right quick.

      If “half” the listeners will tune out because they hear a legitimate complaints about their political affiliations, better they take the time to read Dr. Steve Hassan’s latest book and take it to heart. People are suffering and, literally, dying from fringe religious and cult abuse; deflecting from their pain and struggle with political self-victimization cause opposing views make some feel uncomfortable is counterproductive and solipsistic. All this coming from a resident of a state redder than Satan’s period.

    • Dee says:

      I completely agree with you Shelly. I was completely and utterly turned off by the political discussion. Unfortunately, there is no escape and the shouts for unity while at the same time calling conservatives cult followers is ridiculous! I decided to give the podcast one more shot as I found the topic interesting, informative, and wished to learn ways to help others. However, I was disappointed that they delved back into politics again! I will not be following this podcast going forward due to this and the feeling of being attacked for my views by people who don’t want to have a civil conversation, see Rae’s post below, or attempt to understand the other side of the issue. Obviously that individual has not felt the hate filled speech and actions of the ‘liberals’ who claim to be the party of tolerance and acceptance.
      As a former IRS agent I am greatly disstrested by your podcasts and apparent followers bashing of the worker bees who have NO power to make the changes you want. YOU need to gather your base and lobby congress as THAT is the only way to make these changes happen. The higher levels of IRS are a political game just as ALL government agencies are. I am not trying to say its impossible because that is erroneous. You just need to educate yourselves on how to operate within the system or learn how to try to change it.
      Also of note is the government does not provide financial or physical security to the IRS employees for attacks such as Scientology conducts…the employees are on their own.
      I wish Mike and Leah the best with their fight against this cult.

      • Mike Rinder says:

        Sorry you feel this way.

        If the comments of someone we interview are distressing to you, I think that is unfortunate. Who are you saying doesnt want to have a civil conversation? Yulanda Williams? Because she has a differing view than you and expressed it? You expressed your view here, nobody is trashing you?

        It is sad that if anyone comments these days, especially about politics, it is taken so personally. I believe this is reflection of the echo chamber society we live in. I really recommend watching the Social Dilemma on Netflix. No need to feel personally attacked because someone expresses a political view different from yours.

        And what “worker bees” are being “bashed”? Are you equating saying the IRS needs to get off their butts and do something about scientology’s tax exemption with bashing “worker bees”? Maybe some people think the decision not to act is made by “worker bees” — I certainly don’t. And I have made that clear dozens if not hundreds of times. Political pressure on the top of the IRS is the only thing that will get them to act.

  • Kaitlyn says:

    Loved this Episode with Yulanda and hearing her story fully, after seeing her episode on the Aftermath and wishing there could have been more.

    I gotta say, I bumped on her calling Seventh Day Adventism a cult. Though fairly lapsed now, I grew up Adventist, going both to SDA schools and church. I was very aware of the cults that broke off from Adventism, i.e., David Koresh with the Branch Davidians (and the subsequent Waco Massacre) as well as other sects. My parents remember Koresh and his followers coming to major church events, trying to spread their beliefs. It wasn’t always huge, but it was knowledge looming in the background of the dangers and misfortunes of falling prey to a cult.

    I won’t sugarcoat it, there are issues within the SDA church. There’s still struggle over whether women can be fully fledged pastors (extra hard eye-roll from me) with basically half the global church saying yes and the other half saying no. Though less common now, depending on the area in the world, disfellowships still happen but that means lose your “membership” and not complete disconnection. And just like many denominations, the SDA church has not been handling abuse cases with the goal of justice and fairness to the victims, but instead trying not to tarnish the name of the church.

    There is a strong culture of Adventism, but that’s been waning over the decades and much debate internationally about our definitive beliefs/culture and what they means. Some still feel strongly about the importance of sharing the message of Jesus’ second coming (and the end times), many of us don’t. It’s a fairly conservative denomination with the idea that it has the absolute “Truth”, though many within the church now balk at that absolutism. There are many in Adventism, and I have known many church leaders as well as lay people, who are actively trying to keep the church relevant and make real contributions to the world.

    I guess I balked at SDA being listed as a cult, because though I know there have been and are still toxic issues in the church, it’s not been to the extreme levels of Scientology or People’s Temple. There are religious/cultural issues, but not the absolute authoritarianism, exploitation of members, or charismatic leader (at least anymore, the church is intimately linked to the writings and teachings of Ellen White (1827-1915), who is seen by many as a prophet.) And there are also charities associated with the church making real impacts, such as ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

    But perhaps if I’m being too defensive, shrug it off and tell me I shouldn’t jump at one person loosely sharing an idea. Its definitely a thought I’ll be pondering for a few days.

  • Bertha Najera says:

    Capt. Williams mentioned that Jim Jones asked her “How was I unable to break your family unit?” Her response was great! They still believed in a higher power and still assembled. If that doesn’t hit us in our 2020 gut then I don’t know what does.
    Hearing this has caused me to want to be that much more creative in checking in on family. Can’t give in now.


    Loved this (and all) the episodes.

  • Heddy says:

    Hi…I have enjoyed listening to the podcast despite how shocking it all is to me. I have a question. On a number of episodes you talk about the members of the Sea Org and how they work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week for little pay. What I want to know is what are they actually doing for all this time? What does this work involve? Thanks.

    Love what you do but Leah sometimes you have to let people talk 😊…thanks for exposing all the craziness that is this criminal organization and cult.

  • Laura says:

    This story had me on the edge of my seat. How wonderful to see how far Yulanda has come after being in the horrendous cult. Great episode.

  • Liz says:

    First time commenter. I truly love and appreciate everything that you two are doing, and have learned so much about Scientology both from your show and podcast. I have done a lot of research on Jonestown, and this was such a compelling story. I was riveted for the nearly 2 hours she told it (I was actually on a plane and sat in my seat with a mask on waiting for the plane to clear just so I could hear the end!).

    Just a comment/idea—would love to have you do a show on any kind of college recruitment efforts Scientology may be doing? My daughters are of that age and while their religion classes (they attended parochial school) do a good job of educating about cults (and as a family we watch a lot of documentaries on the topic), I think a lot of parents out there need to know what might be happening on college campuses.

  • Mm says:

    As a survivor of domestic violence, I agree wholeheartedly that it’s like a cult. I couldn’t have said it better and now understand why the podcast has been triggering at times. Thank you for all that you do. The podcast reaches far beyond and touches many, even those unrelated to Scientology.

  • ND says:

    What an amazing episode this is. Yulanda’s story is fascinating, and she was very lucky to escape. I was totally absorbed by it.

    I totally agree with the call for educating the police in the culture of cults and how they operate.

    Is this something that is being looked into?

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