David Jewell watches the tragedy at Mount Carmel unfold and trembles.
His ex-wife, Sherri Jewell, is believed to be inside the compound at Mount Carmel, ready to die if it comes to that.
Some of Sherri’s friends and family blame Marc Breault, a former cult member, for her being there. He recruited her into the cult. Such talk angers David Jewell, a disc jockey who lives in Michigan, because he can’t help thinking of his 12-year-old daughter, Kiri.
“It’s all I can do to keep from saying to them, ‘If it hadn’t been for Marc Breault, my daughter would have been raped yesterday, and dead tomorrow.’ I owe him my daughter’s life,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.
In late 1991, Breault called Jewell. He asked Jewell if his daughter, a cult member like her mother, wore a Star of David.
Jewell said she did.
Breault told him that his daughter had been targeted for the House of David, the group of women and girls in the cult with whom Howell has children supposedly destined to rule the earth with him.
Acting on that, Jewell sued for custody of Kiri.
Jewell and his ex-wife worked out a joint custody agreement, but Judge Ronald Taylor ordered Sherri Jewell not to take Kiri near Howell.
Sherri Jewell left Michigan without her daughter, bidding her farewell.
“I have an indescribable sense of gratitude for Marc Breault,” David Jewell said. “To some extent, he perceives himself as somewhat of a villain. He was influential bringing some of the people there now into the group, including Sherri. But since then, he’s devoted every waking hour of his life to getting them out. The group now is not the group Marc Breault was part of. It’s changed into something sicker. He got out. That’s a sign of survival. But he’s also fought to get others out. That’s a sign of compassion.”
Jewell has never met Howell. They talked on the phone once, for about 20 minutes. It was enough to both shake him and give him compassion for those inside the compound.
“I have to admit to you that after my little conversation with him, I was confused myself,” Jewell said. “My sister was scared about me, after a 20-minute conversation. He makes you ask questions. If you have any spiritual awareness at all, he can make you ask questions of yourself. If he could do that to me in 20 minutes – and all modesty aside, I think I have a fairly strong mind – what in the hell is he capable of doing to people in a 12-hour Bible study? To people subjected to him day after day, month after month, year after? How confused can a mind get?”
Kiri Jewell recently taped a message to her mother, Jewell said. It aired on CNN.
Her eyes watering, Kiri tells her mother that she hopes she comes through everything all right.
But David Jewell said, “She does not think her mother will come out.”
Sherri Jewell last talked to her daughter and ex-husband about seven weeks ago.
She invited David Jewell down to Mount Carmel, to explore the message of Howell. He declined.
But the shootout Sunday, which left four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms dead, fills him with mixed emotions.
He’s thrilled that Kiri escaped, saddened that Sherri would not.
“I feel a lot of things about Sherri being there,” Jewell said. “Sadness. Anger. Justification. Bewilderment. How in the hell could she do this? I’m angry at the legacy she’s leaving to her child. No matter what now, Sherri will either be dead or in prison.”