Branch Davidian cult members Kathryn Schroeder and Oliver Gyarfas came out of the Mount Carmel complex Friday, marking the first releases in a week from the besieged compound.
But by evening there was still no sign of Kevin Whitecliff, 32, or Brad Branch, 34 — two other men inside the compound who have wanted to leave for two days.
Gyarfas, 19, of Australia was released at about 6:15 p.m., and Schroeder, 34, was released about 11 a.m., authorities report.
Earlier in the day, FBI spokesman Dick Swensen called the delay in the releases originally scheduled on Thursday a “setback,” but said agents are confident the situation can be resolved peacefully.
Two women and 21 children left Mount Carmel last week. Forty-two men, 46 women and 17 children are still believed to in the compound, which has been surrounded by authorities since a failed Feb. 28 raid that left four agents and at least two cult members dead.
A former cult member and “wife” of cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, called Schroeder’s release a positive development.
“It does mean something,” said Californian Robyn Bunds in a phone interview. “It’s a good sign. That means that maybe some other people will come out.”
Schroeder told authorities she was anxious to be reunited with her four children, who were released from the compound March 1, Swensen said.
She is apparently the widow of cult member Michael Schroeder, 29, who the FBI said was killed in a second Feb. 28 gun battle. His body was discovered in a wooded area behind the cult’s compound.
Swensen said Schroeder knows her former husband, Air Force Sgt. William Mabb, has been given custody of their three children earlier this week.
“She’s aware that her husband has the three children. There is a four child not of that husband that she is anxious to come out and take care of,” Swensen said.
Schroeder has a 3-year-old son who was Michael Schroeder’s child, according to court documents. All four children had lived with the Schroeders at the Mount Carmel compound outside Waco.
Children’s Protective Services spokeswoman Francesca Kupper would not say if Schroeder will be able to see her remaining child.
“We cannot release any specific information on any of the children within our custody,” she said.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler said Friday afternoon that she could not say yet if Schroeder is being charged with any offense.
“Our general posture is that if somebody is not charged, they will be held as a material witness,” she said.
Dan Conroy, deputy associate ATF director, said Schroeder can go back to the compound after the siege is over if authorities determine she hasn’t done anything wrong.
Meanwhile, Gyarfas’ sister, Aisha Gyarfas Summers, 17, is still believed to be inside the compound. Their parents also used to live in the compound but returned to Australia in 1989.
According to people who know the family, Gyarfas’ sister was recruited by Howell to be one of his many wives and has at least one child by him.
Gyarfas, according to friends in Australia, has been in the compound for a little more than a year. Before joining the group, he was an apprentice in his father’s upholstery business in Melbourne.
A friend described him as impressionable and added that he is “a kid who does not know what he wants to do in life.”
Swensen said Howell talked to negotiators Thursday night from 7 to 8:15 p.m.
“This is the first time Koresh has talked to negotiators in over two days,” he said, adding that the last talks with the cult leader were Tuesday. Negotiators have been dealing with Steve Schneider, the cult leader’s top lieutenant.
Howell’s state of mind was about the same, Swensen said, adding that he has a wound in the flesh of his side that may be infected.
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers and ATF continue to look for Paul G. Fatta, 35, who is wanted on a charge of conspiracy to manufacture and possess unregistered machine guns.
Fatta may have been within reach of authorities the day of the raid.
The New York Times has reported that Fatta went to sell guns at an Austin gun show the day of the raid. He returned to the compound Sunday afternoon to find that police had blocked off Texas Farm Road 2491. He learned what had happened by turning on his car radio.