David Michael Jones, brother-in-law of Branch Davidian leader Vernon Howell, is the first victim of last Monday’s fire at Mount Carmel to be identified.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace David Pareya said Sunday evening that Jones, 38, died from a gunshot wound to the right side of his head.

Autopsy results did not indicate the caliber of the gun or the angle of the wound, he said, adding that it was not yet possible to determine whether the wound was self-inflicted.

Jones was the brother of Rachel Jones, Howell’s legal wife.

Three generations of the Jones family were members of the cult. David Jones’ father, Perry Jones, a longtime member of the Branch Davidians and one of Howell’s inner circle, reportedly was killed in the initial gun battle that morning.

Rachel Jones, her two children, sister Michelle Jones and Michelle’s young daughter fathered by Howell apparently perished in the fire.

David Jones’ mother, Mary Jones, lives near the compound and was notified Sunday of the identification of her son’s body.

Jones was a mailman identified in court affidavits as the one who raced to the compound early Feb. 28 to alert Howell to the impending raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represented Howell, said he spoke with Jones several times during his visits into the compound during the siege.

One of their conversations lasted about an hour, dealing mostly with Jones’ tip.

“He was called in when I needed to talk to him and he was very quiet,” DeGuerin said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from Washington where he is trying another case.

Jones told DeGuerin he had been driving his car, which had U.S. Postal service identification on it because he used it during his route, near the compound when he encountered a television photographer who appeared lost.

“The guy, looking nervous, said, ‘Are you really a mailman?’” DeGuerin said. Once Jones confirmed that he was, DeGuerin said the photographer warned Jones.

“He said, ‘There’s going to be a big gunfight with these religious nuts over there. You better get out of here,’” the attorney said.

KWTX Channel 10 had three employees in two unmarked news vehicles near the compound before the raid. However, Tom Pears, president of KWTX, said no Channel 10 employee said anything to anyone to indicate there might be an impending raid by federal agents.

Tarrant County medical examiners used fingerprints and dental records to identify Jones’ body, which had been found by investigators on top of the bunker at the base of the compound’s watchtower.

Health concerns

Examiners are using such records to identify the charred victims of the fire that destroyed the compound, home to Howell and 85 followers, including 17 children.

The fire ended a 51-day standoff between authorities and the Branch Davidians, which started when four ATF agents and six cult members were killed in the Feb. 28 shootout. ATF agents were trying to serve Howell with an arrest warrant for possessing automatic weapons.

Forty-four bodies have been retrieved so far from the rubble.

Pareya said authorities are confident they can identify most of the victims.

“The medical examiner indicates that they have a 90 percent probability of identifying the people that have been recovered,” Pareya said.

Health concerns are becoming a larger worry as the massive crime scene investigation enters its second week.

Because of exploding cans of food and decaying bodies, the McLennan County Health Department will be asked to address the health concerns of law enforcement officers going through the destruction, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Laureen Chernow said.

Insecticide bombs were used to clear hundreds of flies from one part of the ruins, Chernow said.

Three 25-foot dumpsters have been brought in to help clear the waste.

Chernow refused to comment on what progress is being made in the attempt to find the cause of the fire.

FBI officials maintain their snipers s saw Branch Davidians lighting the fire shortly after noon on April 19. The fire spread quickly, and within 30 minutes, the mammoth compound was destroyed.

Some cult members who fled insist that the tanks ramming the building—releasing tear gas on each trip—knocked over lanterns and started the fire.

DPS spokesman Mike Cox said Onyx, a 4-year-old black Labrador retriever from the Allegheny (Pa.) Fire Department, was still at the crime scene Sunday. Allegheny Fire Marshall John Klas said the dog is trained to help aid whether an accelerant was used.

Six autopsies have been performed.

Gunshots probed

Gunshots killed two people, and three other cult members died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, said Dr. Nizam Peerwani of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office on Saturday. He said further tests were needed before the final determinations could be made in a sixth victim.

Earlier last week, Justice Department spokesman Carl Stein said an FBI agent believed three people had been shot, adding that those with bullet wounds could have been suicides, homicides or victims of exploding ammunition.

Previously, Peerwani said he had seen no evidence of any shootings.

Houston lawyer Jack Zimmerman, who has talked to six survivors, said, “No one was shot because no one wanted to leave.”

Three of the nine Branch Davidians who survived the fire remain hospitalized at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Marjorie Thomas, 30, and Misty Ferguson, 17, are in serious condition in the hospital’s burn unit. Clive Doyle, 52, is listed in good condition.

Tribune-Herald staff writer Christopher Hall and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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.