Malcolm Carter was the son of Tim Carter and Gloria Rodriguez, members of the Peoples Temple, led by the Reverend Jim Jones. They lived in Jonetown, a special compound in Guyana to which Jones had led his followers to escape unwanted media attention in the US. A number of former cult members had given extensive interviews to the media about some of the weird things going on in the group.
The weirdness came from Jim Jones. Charismatic (obviously) and passionate about issues relating to social justice, Jones attracted a large following of idealistic, educated, hard working people who believed in creating a better world, one without racism, greed, and social injustice. As his following grew, Jones relied more and more on underhanded methods of social control such as faking "healings", controlling the sexual lives of his followers, and extreme social censure, even punishment, for people who stepped out of line. Personally he relied more and more on drugs and alcohol to maintain the level of energy needed to control such large numbers of people and to feed his own delusions.
After a disasterous visit by a US Senator that ended in a shootout on the tarmac of the airport as the Congressional party was leaving, Jones persuaded his entire congregation to commit "revolutionary suicide" as a protest against the inhumane world. Most of them did. This was done by drinking a flavoured drink laced with cyanide. The children were dispatched first, some by their own parents. Infants like baby Malcolm were given the drink with a needle-less syringe in the mouth.
Malcolm's father, Tim Carter, was paralysed with shock as he saw his baby dead in his wife's arms, and then felt his wife die in his arms. Carter himself did not die. He was given a special job to do that took him out of the compound. In his own words:
It was about this time that Christy Miller is standing up and saying, "You know, I don't want to die." I'm just thinking, "Buy time, buy time, buy time." Then Maria Katsaris approached me from the radio room, and she said, "Come here. I think I have something for you to do." She said, "Mike Prokes has a mission. He has some suitcases that have to be delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown, but they're too heavy. He can't take them all by himself." It turned out to be a million and a half dollars.
She said, "If you make it that far," she goes, "Take what you need to live on, and have a good life." She says, "But under no circumstances are you to be caught." She goes, "If you are caught, then you are to kill yourself." Mike Prokes said, "You need to go ask Jim if he wants the truck to take us to the front gate."
As I walked up to the back of the pavilion, I looked to my right, and I saw my wife with our son in her arms, and poison being injected into his mouth. I felt, "This isn't happening. This can't be happening. This is unreal. I don't know to how to even process this. They're murdering my son."
And I took a step up on stage, and I asked the question that I was supposed to ask, "Do you want the truck to take us to the front gate?" I had a gun. I thought about shooting Jim Jones. He might die. I definitely will die. Will it stop everything that's going on?
And I just thought of Gloria and Malcolm. I stepped off the stage, and she was kneeling down. Malcolm was dead, and I held her and said, "I love you. I love you. I love you so much. I love you so much. I love you so much." And she died in my arms. And after she died, I really didn't care about anything at all, except I wasn't going to die there.
When I left Jonestown with those suitcases, my only goal was to get out alive. We dumped the money on the way to Port Kaituma. My days with Peoples Temple and Jim Jones were done. I wasn't going to carry out any mission.
More than 900 people, including Malcolm and his mother, died in the "revolutionary suicide". Most died of poisioning but some of gunshots, including Jim Jones, who was found dead of a single gunshot wound. It is not known whether he shot himself or not. Because of the unusual circumstances, most of the deaths were ruled murder, not suicides.
Click here to read some perspectives from Jonestown survivors. This is an extremely interesting and worthwhile site to visit as it seems to reflect in part the ongoing healing process of many of the survivors.
Click here for a YouTube excerpt from a PBS documentary about the cult. There are 5 parts uploaded on YouTube; this is Part 1. I encourage you to watch all 5 parts. You can see and hear Tim Carter speaking about his family's death in Part 5, but I suggest you watch the other parts first in order to have a larger sense of the story.
Sources: Wikipedia, NPR, PBS site about the documentary, ReligiousTolerance.org, Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple