The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Bruce Tomaso, Lee Hancock

Koresh refuses lawyer's call But attorney appears hopeful siege will end soon

WACO -- David Koresh's lawyer said Tuesday that he hopes the cult leader is coming out soon.

The FBI said he'd better.

Although Dick DeGuerin, an attorney representing Mr. Koresh, was rebuffed Tuesday night by his client -- with whom he had hoped to speak by telephone -- he nonetheless expressed guarded optimism that the 45-day-old siege at the Branch Davidian compound will end quickly and peacefully.

Mr. DeGuerin spoke twice by phone with Steve Schneider, Mr. Koresh's chief lieutenant -- once at midday and once Tuesday night, when the lawyer was supposed to confer with his client.

But the cult leader refused to take the call.

"He was busy writing or doing a message,' said Mr. DeGuerin. He said their talk was put off until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Mr. DeGuerin said he did not know the content or purpose of Mr. Koresh's latest message. Since Friday, the leader of the Branch Davidians has sent to authorities two letters, purportedly written in the voice of God, citing biblical passages and threatening to rain destruction on anyone who harms him.

"I'm a little disappointed,' said Mr. DeGuerin, appearing discouraged when he and Jack Zimmermann, the lawyer for Mr. Schneider, met with reporters Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day, FBI Agent Bob Ricks warned that "the FBI's patience is not inexhaustible' and that "more than likely, unless David Koresh agrees to surrender, we will turn up the heat.'

That shouldn't be necessary, Mr. DeGuerin maintained after his initial call to Mr. Schneider, which lasted 90 minutes.

"Mr. Schneider spoke in a very positive tone, was glad to hear from us again . . . and making some final plans for getting this over with,' the lawyer said.

It was the lawyers' first contact with the Branch Davidians since sect members began their observance of Passover last week. The observance ended at sundown Tuesday.

Neither lawyer, however, would say when they expect Mr. Koresh and his armed followers to leave the barricaded quarters where they've been holed up since a Feb. 28 shootout with agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"My crystal ball is out of warranty,' said Mr. Zimmermann. He added, however, that he's confident the end will be peaceful. "There will be no suicides, there will be no shootout.'

Four ATF agents were killed when the raid, launched to serve arrest and search warrants, went awry. Sect members have said at least six of their colleagues also were killed. There are 96 people -- including 17 children -- inside the compound.

In the past seven weeks, Mr. Koresh has repeatedly indicated to authorities or to his attorneys that he's ready to give up, only to renege later on. The sect leader has said he's awaiting divine instruction to surrender.

That hasn't changed, said Agent Ricks, looking and sounding haggard during the daily press briefing.

FBI negotiators spoke for more than five hours with Mr. Koresh on Tuesday, and "he said he is coming out of the compound only when God directs him to do so,' the agent reported, adding, "No new ground was broken.'

The wide-ranging talk, Agent Ricks said, touched on the Bible, on Mr. Koresh's prized black Camaro, on the sect leader's view of traditional religions, on his difficult upbringing and on his predicament.

Even if it is God's will, Mr. Koresh "bemoaned his fate in life, that he is stuck in this stinking compound,' the agent said.

Agent Ricks declined, as FBI officials have steadfastly done, to discuss the tactics that might be employed to jar the cult leader and his followers from their fortress. He did indicate, however, that authorities aren't contemplating the use of force.

"David Koresh knows that those children are probably his ace in the hole,' Agent Ricks said.

So far, authorities have cut power to the compound, surrounded it with tanks and sharp wire fencing, severed communication between Mr. Koresh and the outside world, bathed the buildings nightly in floodlights and bombarded those inside with cacophonous music and other sounds -- including, Agent Ricks disclosed Tuesday, recordings of rabbits being slaughtered, dentists' drills and locomotives roaring through buildings.

"We are in charge, and we can turn up the screws again if we want to,' he said.