Branch Davidian cult members had copies of affidavits detailing abuse and weapons use 11 months ago that could have been instrumental in Vernon Howell’s efforts to evade attention of authorities, a former cult member said.
Marc Breault, former confidant cult leader Howell, also known as David Koresh, believes the leak of the confidential documents could be connected to an alleged tip-off federal authorities blame for an unsuccessful raid on the Mount Carmel compound. Breault said authorities are investigating.
But at least one former cult member said loyal members could have secretly made copies and given them to Howell.
The raid left four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and at least two cult members dead. Authorities still surround the compound.
At the very least, Breault says the affidavits, which detailed allegations of physical and sexual abuse and weapons use, could have long been a tool to thwart authorities, such as Children’s Protective Services.
Breault said Howell would know how to prepare for visits by authorities. “He would know what angles we were talking about,” Breault said. “It would have really told Vernon what we are doing and where we are coming from.”
How the cult obtained the documents is unknown.
Breault said two sets of affidavits existed. Some were delivered to authorities in the United States by an Australian private detective in the summer of 1990. Another set was intended for a Michigan child custody case involving Kiri Jewell, whom Breault helped leave the cult.
Geoffrey N. Hossak, a private investigator in Australia hired to alert authorities in America about the cult, said he is “distressed” that Howell had the affidavits.
“Realistically where could he have gotten his hands on those?” he asked.
Hossack said he supplied copies to authorities at the La Verne Police Department in California, Internal Revenue Service, immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Public Safety in Waco and the U.S. State Department.
Officials who commented said it was unlikely the information would have been released to the public.
Gary Renick, head of investigations for the San Antonio district of the INS, said confidential information is not given out to the public, but it could be shared with other law agencies.
Bob Branson, IRS spokesman at the Austin district office, said his agency can share information with other agencies, but otherwise it is kept “under lock and key.”
If the State Department had such documents, a press officer said, it is possible anyone could have obtained them through a Freedom of information also could be passed on to other authorities, she said.
Sgt. Terry Lee of the Texas Department declined an interview.
La Verne police officials did not return phone calls Friday.
Breault and former cult members in Australia said the affidavits were kept confidential and not given out to anyone.
Poia Vaega, a former cult member in New Zealand, said her copies of the affidavits appear undisturbed. However, she said, it is possible that her relatives, who are in the cult, could have gotten copies.
Other confidential documents have been found in the possession of one of her relatives, she said.
David Bunds, a former cult member and son of current cult member Don Bunds, said he found the documents in April 1992 at his parents’ house in Pomona, Calif.
Breault and other former cult members believe the cult had the first set of affidavits because only Breault’s affidavit was entered into legal records for the custody case.
David Bunds found affidavits from Michelle Tom, Jean Smith, Allison Manning, Bruce and Lisa Gent and Elizabeth Baranyai, wife of Marc Breault.
Bunds said the affidavits appear to be computer printouts and are unsigned.
He said he went to the house with his mother Jeannine Bunds and sister Robyn Bunds to clean up after men in the cult who lived there suddenly left.
“I found these in the kitchen near the phone on a shelf,” he said.
Men in the cult used the house as a residence, while women in the cult used a house in La Verne, Calif.
Last April, the men suddenly were ordered back to Texas by Howell. Before leaving, Don Bunds turned the house back over to his wife, Jeannine Bunds, who had left the cult with her daughter, Robyn. Jeannine and Robyn, both former “wives” of Howell, have lived in the house ever since.