Death may be Vernon Howell’s only ticket out of Mount Carmel.

Cult expert Rick Ross and others say they do not expect the Branch Davidian leader to surrender.

“It’s bleak,” said Ross, who deprogrammed one former member from the cult and has spoken with several others.

“If he really sees himself as Christ … he will die, and he alone will die,” Ross said of Howell, who also goes by David Koresh. “On the other hand, it may be that many will die for the sins of David Koresh.”

As first reported in the Tribune-Herald’s seven-part series about the cult titled “The Sinful Messiah,” Ross warned authorities that Howell’s group was “very dangerous.”

Howell thinks he is the next Christ. Ross said Howell probably thinks he has no future if he surrenders and could face years in prison.

“I don’t think a … self-obsessed egomaniac can handle that,” he said.

Howell may therefore choose to kill himself so he can leave “on top,” Ross said.

“He’s had his fame,” he said. “He’s becoming the major news story in the United States … Now he’s faced with prison.”

Geoffrey N. Hossack, a private detective from Australia who tried to warn local, state and federal authorities about the cult, said he created a profile of Howell in 1990.

He said he believes Howell’s two greatest fears are fear of failure and fear of being exposed.

Hossack said Howell expects to be arrested, jailed and killed, and in 1,335 days after his death, God will take vengeance and kill the authorities. Howell expects his followers to die for or with him, he said.

Ross said Howell’s followers will not leave him unless he lets them come out. ”One of the greatest tragedies of this situation is the people are basically good people,” Ross said of the men, women and children holed up in the compound. “Their lives have been destroyed by this man.”

Ross offered to be a consultant free of charge to local agencies should they offer exit-counseling to survivors.

Ross said he does not believe Howell is injured.

“At first he said he had been severely wounded … and then you know he was reportedly walking around.” Ross said if Howell had been shot in the stomach, as he claimed, he probably would have bled to death by now.

“This man is a liar,” he said. “He is a constant liar. His truthfulness cannot be counted on.”

Ross said Howell is using children as bargaining chips to get his message out to the world.

“He is totally and completely self-obsessed, cold, uncaring,” Ross said. “He was able to bargain with his own children to get air time. What kind of human being does that?”

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.