Steve Schneider, a top lieutenant in the Branch Davidian cult, has given the FBI the names of six dead cult members, but authorities said the information is impossible to confirm.
FBI special agent Richard Schwein said Friday that Schneider claimed five men and one woman were dead.
Schwein also said Schneider told negotiators Thursday that no children were reported injured, contradicting a report early in the standoff from cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, that his 2-year-old daughter was dead.
Schwein said the list of dead included Mike Schroeder and Peter Gent, who have been reported dead previously, but the other names could not be confirmed because “we have no reason to think they ever tell us the truth.”
The standoff, now in Day 42, remains at a standstill, Schwein said.
It began when federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried Feb. 28 to raid the Mount Carmel compound in an effort to serve arrest and search warrants on Howell. Four agents and an unknown number of cult members died.
Ninety-six people, including 17 children, remain inside the cult compound.
During Friday’s daily press conference on the standoff, Schwein also said cultists once again claimed their “high holy” Passover celebration began Wednesday and is supposed to last seven days.
“Sometimes Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday,” Schwein said, adding that Passover is whenever Howell wants it to be.
Schneider again told negotiators that he and Howell never promised to come out after Passover, and Howell was “still waiting to hear from God,” Schwein said.
In the past, Dick DeGuerin, who represents Howell, has said the cult leader and his followers would leave Mount Carmel after Passover.
Schwein said Schneider also claimed the Branch Davidians still had “details to talk to the attorneys about.”
Schwein said attorneys DeGuerin and Jack Zimmerman, who represents Schneider, will be allowed to communicate with their clients. But whether they are allowed back inside the compound will depend on circumstances.
Schwein said other requests for direct contact with the cultists would be considered on a case-by-case basis. But for now, officials will continue to isolate them.
“So far, it’s done no good,” he said. “We’d have to weigh . . . what they might add to the equation.”
The FBI’s patience is not unlimited, he said.
“We’re going to get them out of there, and they are going to go before the bar of justice to answer for the murder of federal agents,” he said. “Now it may be tomorrow. It may be next week—whenever we feel it’s appropriate for us to take whatever act is necessary. But they’re coming out of there.”
During the day Friday, someone apparently stepped outside the compound and set off a smoke device that released a dark orange plume into the sky.
Cult members also unfurled a sign listing several verses from the Psalms and Revelation in the Bible.
In addition, Schwein said, a cult member stepped out on the roof Thursday night, and one ducked out a window and shortly re-entered Wednesday night. He said the theory is the cultists were hiding from Howell while defying him.
“We, frankly, among other theories, think they snuck out for a smoke,” he said. “So we think, like sixth-graders, they snuck out to smoke, and there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for it.”
Schwein said he hopes the people inside can break from Howell.
“We hope they come to their senses,” he said. “Surely, someone in there must realize the end is coming, and it’s in their best interest to get out. Anybody who wants to leave — we’ll accept them with open arms.”
In court action Friday, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. denied a motion to release cultist Livingston Fagan.
Fagan, 33, has been held as a material witness in the McLennan County Jail since he walked out of the compound March 23.
Smith, however, agreed to a request that Fagan be allowed to visit his children, who left the group a few weeks earlier and remain in foster care in temporary custody of the state.
A similar hearing scheduled Friday to appeal cultist Kathryn Schroeder’s detention was postponed until April 28.
Her attorney, Scott Peterson, said the delay was necessary to give adequate notice to the ATF that he intends to subpoena Earl K. Dunagan, ATF resident-agent-in-charge from Austin, and Schroeder’s children, who came out of the cult earlier and have been taken to South Dakota by their father.
“My star witnesses are going to be the three children,” Peterson said. “I want them to testify that mommy was hiding under the bed with the three children.”
Peterson said he thinks a videotape the ATF reportedly made during the raid will show bullets going into Schroeder’s room, not coming out of it as federal agents alleged.