The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:George Kuempel, Lee Hancock
About 40 cultists' bodies found in rubble
3 apparently shot, officials say; wounds reportedly noticed in children's bodies
WACO -- At least 41 bodies had been found in the rubble of the Branch Davidian compound by Wednesday night, and at least three appeared to have been shot, investigators said.
The bodies will be sent to Fort Worth for autopsies Thursday, said Texas Department of Public Safety officials.
One body found outside the complex already has been sent to Fort Worth.
It "is clearly a bullet-shot victim -- there's a bullet hole in his forehead and an exit wound in the back,' Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said in Washington.
Jeff Jamar, FBI special agent in charge of the Waco operation, said it is likely that other Branch Davidians also were shot -- possibly including children killed by adult cult members.
Later Wednesday, law enforcement sources said bullet holes were found in some of the bodies of children seen in the rubble.
FBI officials have said that federal agents did not fire any weapons Monday before the compound burned to the ground.
"Until the forensics are done, we won't know how many people died before the fires were set,' an official said.
Investigators said they would begin digging Thursday for the bodies of the other 45 cult members who apparently died in the fire that destroyed the compound.
Those bodies couldn't be removed Wednesday because ammunition and other explosives were still being set off by the intense heat, DPS officials said.
"It's a very gruesome scene,' said DPS spokesman Mike Cox. "There are bodies scattered all through that thing.'
DPS officials said the retrieved bodies are so badly burned that investigators can't tell their sex or age. Investigators also said they fear that some bodies -- especially those of children -- may never be found.
At least 86 people, including 17 children and cult leader David Koresh, were believed to have died in the blaze.
Medical examiners in Fort Worth will try to identify the victims and determine how each died.
Mr. Stern said two bodies found Wednesday apparently were gunshot victims because they were found on the perimeter of the buildings and "were singed, not burned.'
"One of whom, frankly, his head was blown off,' Mr. Stern said, "and the other one they didn't seem to know exactly where the wound was.'
DPS officials in Waco said they couldn't confirm or deny the Justice Department report.
Mr. Stern said he didn't know whether the gunshot wounds were self-inflicted or whether the three had been shot by other cult members or were hit by ammunition that exploded in the fire.
"Now they may have been self-inflicted, maybe somebody shot them, maybe a round (of ammunition) went off, nobody knows,' Mr. Stern said. "But three of the bodies found so far, they believed there were bullet wounds. It may turn out more than three.'
Mr. Stern said officials do not believe those three were victims of the Feb. 28 shootout with federal agents.
"Those bodies would have been decomposed after 51 days,' Mr. Stern said.
Another federal official said some bodies had bullet wounds that could not have been self-inflicted. "Some had gunshots in the back,' the official said.
Mr. Koresh and his followers had holed up in the compound for 51 days after a bloody shootout Feb. 28 with federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents. Four federal agents and an undetermined number of Branch Davidians died in the 45-minute gunfight. The officers were trying to serve a warrant for firearms violations that arose during an eight-month investigation of cult leaders.
The Clinton administration, meanwhile, said Wednesday that there was "overwhelming evidence' of child abuse at the compound.
But FBI officials conceded they had no specific proof that any abuse had continued during the 51-day siege.
"You had David Koresh marrying children. You had David Koresh sexually abusing children,' White House communications director George Stephanopolous said in explaining the decision to end the 51-day standoff. "You had kids being taught how to commit suicide. . . . There was also no expectation that it was going to get better.'
Federal investigators reiterated Wednesday that cult members set the fire, although some of the survivors disputed that assertion.
One survivor, Renos Avraam, told his attorney that the fire started accidentally after federal tanks knocked over kerosene lanterns, which cult members were using because they had no electricity.
Once the fire began, "it was a matter of a few seconds before the whole place was pitch black,' said Mr. Avraam's attorney, Dick Kettler of Waco.
Mr. Avraam, who was being held Wednesday in the McLennan County Jail as a material witness, escaped out the back of the compound, his attorney said.
Most of the cult members had crowded together near the front of the compound after tanks started ramming holes on all sides to pump in tear gas, Mr. Kettler said.
Attorney Dick DeGuerin, who according to court records is representing cult member Derek Love-lock, also denied that cult members set the fire.
"We've been confirming information that I received late yesterday that the fire at the Mount Carmel center was not intentionally set by David (Koresh) or anyone else in there,' he said.
"It was an accident. . . . It was not a suicide pact. It's a terrible, terrible tragedy. No one was forced to stay. No one was killed intentionally by anyone on the inside. No one was forced to commit suicide. This was not suicide. It was a tragedy.'
The attorney, however, would not say how the fire started.
Mr. DeGuerin also denied that cult members fired a volley of shots at armored vehicles that punched holes in the compound's buildings Monday.
One injured cult member, 29-year-old Ruth Ottman Riddle, was released Wednesday morning from Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco. She suffered burns and a broken ankle in Monday's blaze. She was ordered held as a material witness until a detention hearing next week.
Three Branch Davidians remained at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. They are:
* Misty Ferguson, 17, in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns on 25 percent of her body, including her right arm and face.
* Marjorie Thomas, 30, in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns over half her body, including her neck, face and from her buttocks to her feet.
* Clive Joseph Doyle, 52, in good condition with second- and third-degree burns on about 5 percent of his body.
Officials said Wednesday that their investigation of the compound scene is at "absolutely its most critical point.'
"We are building a foundation today for the entire investigation,' said Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for Gov. Ann Richards. Mr. McDonald has been assigned to assist the DPS.
Texas Rangers are conducting the investigation. They are gathering and processing the evidence and will send it to the FBI's lab in Washington for analysis.
Investigators are photographing and videotaping the scene from the ground and air.
The resulting map -- which will show the location of each body -- will allow investigators to "develop a complete historical record' of the scene, officials said.
Mr. Cox of the DPS said 32 Rangers and 26 to 30 DPS lab technicians are at the scene. Two employees of the Tarrant County medical examiner's office were there Wednesday.
The investigators will work at the site during daylight hours only, Mr. Cox said.
Mr. McDonald, who visited the scene Wednesday, said he was struck by an overwhelming sence of "emptiness.'
"You can see very little. It's burned all the way down. There is some debris. There are some charred bodies,' he said. "You would have no way of knowing that was the site of what was on TV for 50 days.'
He said he could see bodies in the rubble from his vantage point about 500 feet away.
Bodies of small children may have been incinerated in the fire, which burned as hot as 1,000 degrees, officials said. Many of the dead children were believed to have been buried beneath layers of fiery rubble.
A bloodhound trained to find human remains -- even ashes -- is on standby.
A federal official added, however, that finding the bodies may take weeks because ATF bomb and explosives experts are still looking for any unexploded booby traps, homemade grenades or other ordnance that may be in the rubble.
The official said the three ATF experts will probably have to sweep the ruined compound as Texas Rangers dig into the three-story compound's wreckage.
Reporters have not been allowed within about two miles of the compound.
The spokesmen said a photographer from The Associated Press and another from the Houston Chronicle were arrested and jailed Wednesday on a charge of interfering with the duty of a police officer, a misdemeanor, for trying to sneak into the compound grounds. Officials said the photographers got within 3,000 yards of the burned buildings.
Rick Bowmer, 37, an AP photographer based in Houston, and Kerwin Plevka, 42, of the Houston Chronicle were released on $1,200 bond. Police confiscated their film.
Tony Pederson, managing editor of the Chronicle, said he has protested to Ms. Richards' office.
John Lumpkin, chief of the Dallas AP bureau, said he also would protest the arrests.
Waco Mayor Bob Sheehy declared Friday a day of healing. He called on the city's churches and synagogues to open their doors and ring their bells at noon that day.
Staff writers Anne Marie Kilday in Washington; Jennifer Files and Nora Lopez in Waco; and Gayle Reaves in Dallas contributed to this report.
The Dallas Morning News
About 40 cultists' bodies found in rubble
Report given to FBI predicted `fiery ending' to cult standoff
David Koresh was obsessed by prophecy, but he never read this foretelling of how his life would end:
"The standoff . . . will end after Sunday, April 18th. . . . It must be a fiery ending, and David and a number of his followers must die.
"There will be some aggressive action by the federal law enforcement officials. . . . Even if the final conflagration is caused internally, it must be because of some act of the law enforcement officials.'
Those predictions come from a document written by Frank X. Leahy, an independent religious researcher in Waco. Mr. Leahy's 40-page analysis, which he gave to FBI negotiators on April 8 after an agent requested a copy, was derived from an exhaustive review of Mr. Koresh's teachings.
Its conclusion was chillingly clear. In order for Mr. Koresh to fulfill what he believed was his divinely ordained role, Mr. Leahy wrote, "David and some of his followers must be killed for their beliefs. The end must be a fiery conflagration.'
Mr. Koresh is among an estimated 86 people presumed dead after a catastrophic fire at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco on Monday, April 19, a fire that federal officials say was started by members of the sect under orders from Mr. Koresh.
Mr. Leahy says he immersed himself in Mr. Koresh's teachings after the Feb. 28 raid on the compound at Mount Carmel because he couldn't shake the question: "Where the hell is he coming from?'
He also had a personal interest. His wife, child-welfare worker Joyce Sparks, had investigated allegations of child abuse at the compound. In the course of that investigation, she had spent many hours listening to Mr. Koresh's rambling religious dissertations.
Mr. Leahy's conclusion, which sounds prophetic considering Monday's blaze, rests on the presumption that Mr. Koresh was not a con artist but a man who "does in fact truly believe that he is God's ordained prophet for these end times.'
Proceeding from that assumption, and reviewing hundreds of passages of Scripture cited by Mr. Koresh, Mr. Leahy apparently predicted not only the shape but also the timing of the tragedy at Mount Carmel.
His sources included Mr. Koresh's public statements as well as tapes of his teachings obtained by law enforcement officials. In addition, Mr. Leahy had the notes from Ms. Sparks' religious discussions with Mr. Koresh.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Jamar confirmed Wednesday that negotiators were familiar with Mr. Leahy's brief. He said it was one of many analyses provided to them.
"There were also a lot of other people with the same authority that these people had who were saying it wasn't going to happen,' said Agent Jamar. "And remember, there was a report of a planned mass suicide that was supposed to happen last year at Passover. That ultimately didn't happen, and there was more than one report like that.'
"The thing you have to remember,' said Agent Jamar, "Mr. Koresh's prophecies are adjustable.'
According to Mr. Leahy, Mr. Koresh was far more intellectually sophisticated than suggested by the popular picture of him as a dyslexic ninth-grade dropout. In addition to citing the Bible, Mr. Leahy says, Mr. Koresh quoted the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Winston Churchill.
Mr. Leahy concluded that Mr. Koresh and his followers took as absolute, God-given truth that:
* Mr. Koresh was the reincarnation of Jesus, who was the reincarnation of David, king of Israel, and his followers were the "chosen people' to which the Bible refers.
* They were exempt from civil laws because they followed God's higher law, by which they had done nothing wrong. The strict discipline of children, Mr. Koresh's polygamy, the cult's armaments, all have biblical precedents.
* The Bible foretold everything that had happened to them, including the Feb. 28 attempt to serve a search warrant, Mr. Koresh's wounds, the FBI's decision to bombard the compound with sounds, and what Mr. Koresh viewed as authorities' slanders against him.
* The siege was one of the "tribulations' described in the apocryphal Book of Baruch, which Mr. Koresh sometimes cited. Each tribulation lasted seven weeks, meaning this one would end on or about April 18.
* Anyone who worshiped on Sunday was of Satan rather than of God. The Bible not only allowed but also demanded that sect members deceive such outsiders, including their attorneys and federal negotiators.
* By revealing the meaning of the Seven Seals described in the Book of Revelation, Mr. Koresh would destroy the followers of Satan, including the government and organized religion. Mr. Koresh believed he had opened five of the Seven Seals, and in order to open the Sixth Seal, Mr. Koresh and his followers must die.
* Their deaths would involve a great fire, which would consume the forces of Satan arrayed against them.
According to Mr. Leahy, the image of fire and fiery destruction is found in several passages cited by Mr. Koresh: Psalms 50:3 ("a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him'); Isaiah 26:11 ("yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them'); and Jeremiah 21:14 ("I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it').
But the key text, the one that unequivocally laid out Mr. Koresh's plan, according to Mr. Leahy, is Revelation 6:9-11. It describes the opening of the Fifth Seal, after which are heard the cries of "them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.'
According to the writer of Revelation, these martyrs are told that they must await the coming of "their brethren, that should be killed as they were' -- Mr. Koresh and his followers, according to Mr. Leahy.
"David has told the world that we are on the Fifth Seal,' Mr. Leahy wrote. "Quite simply, the Branch Davidians must be killed now to progress to the Sixth Seal.'
"I see no conceivable scenario for a peaceful resolution of this situation,' Mr. Leahy's report concludes.
Marathon days and nights of trying to enter Mr. Koresh's mind left him drained and depressed, Mr. Leahy says.
"I had a terrible foreboding, even before I reached the conclusion,' he says. "I thought, "Something is terribly wrong here.' '
Mr. Leahy says the end did not come exactly as he expected. He says he thought the Branch Davidians would provoke a gun battle or hurl explosives at federal authorities, not torch the compound.
And although the FBI is describing the fire as a mass-suicide, Mr. Leahy says he believes Mr. Koresh would have convinced himself that the government was murdering the chosen.
As he watched tanks ram the compound, he says, he wondered how federal agents could have played so neatly into Mr. Koresh's plan.
"Why in God's name did they (federal authorities) pick that date, the exact date?' he asks.
Staff writer Lee Hancock contributed to this report.