A McLennan County justice of the peace said he will subpoena FBI audio tapes to help determine how some Branch Davidians died at Mount Carmel.
“If the FBI has the information that Bob Ricks said they have concerning the deaths of David Koresh and Steve Schneider, I want that information down here for my inquest,” said Justice of the Peace James Collier of Mart. “They said they had the proof, so we’re going to see that proof.”
Special Agent Bob Ricks told a Tulsa Rotary Club in August that FBI audio tapes picked up evidence that Schneider killed cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, when he tried to flee the April 19 fire that killed more than 80 Branch Davidians.
Collier said he intends to pursue any evidence needed to pin down how the Branch Davidians died. However, 11 cult members are set to stand trial in November for murder in the deaths of the four ATF agents. He’ll postpone the inquests, if necessary, to obtain audio tapes or other evidence.
“The FBI opened the door on this,” Collier said. “They’ve got to come forward or get on the stand and say they don’t have it.”
Four McLennan County justices of the peace — Collier, David Pareya of West, and John Cabaniss and Cindy Evans, both of Waco — will meet in October to discuss ground rules for the inquests.
The four justices of the peace were called to Mount Carmel after the fire.
“We need to lay out some sort of procedure,” Pareya said. “A lot of the people we need to testify will be the same people.”
Pareya said local justices of the peace have received complete autopsies for 12 Branch Davidians.
He said he received a complete autopsy for Mark Wendel, the husband of Jaydean Wendel, who died when agents for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided Mount Carmel on Feb. 28. They were trying to arrest Howell for allegedly possessing automatic weapons. Four ATF agents and at least five Branch Davidians died in the resulting shootout.
Collier declined to name the 11 Branch Davidians for whom he has complete autopsies until their inquests are scheduled.
The inquests will be complex, Pareya said.
“Say someone died of a gunshot,” he said. “Was it self-inflicted? Was it homicide? Or was it an accident? Were there signs of ammunition being cooked off? Was there evidence of powder burns, indicating a contact wound? It just goes on and on.”
Rulings coming out of the inquests will be scrutinized — and not just by insurance companies.
“There are going to be a lot of people sitting on fence posts watching us,” Collier said. “We know that. Given the statements made by Bob Ricks, do you think Dick DeGuerin will keep up with what happens?”
DeGuerin is the Houston attorney who represented Howell. He has criticized both the ATF and the FBI for their actions at Mount Carmel.