While federal officials brought in their own experts, two Baylor University forensic anthropologists plugged Tuesday for a proposed university-community forensics lab and volunteered to identify the dead in the ashes of Mount Carmel.
John Fox, Baylor anthropology department director, said he would not be surprised to find the bodies of other people killed before the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Feb. 28 raid somewhere on the 77 acres of Mount Carmel.
“We have a community in excess of 100 people for a number of years,” he said. “With that many people, there will be rivalries.
“What I’m also suggesting is that a charismatic leader like David Koresh will have dissidents who try to get out from under his authority,” Fox said. “So there should be additional deaths out there during the time the community was in residence out there.”
Fox, professor of anthropology, and Susan Maki, assistant professor of anthropology, volunteered their services and those of their students through associates.
“Susan’s been in contact with the forensic network, people who have been contacted by the federal people,” Fox said, “but we’ve not been contacted, directly…When they get through answering the questions they have to answer from a legal standpoint, then they’ll probably hand the bodies over to the specialists.”
Other Waco area volunteers were told they would not help recover and identify bodies. Federal officials instead opted for a national disaster-recovery team to perform the task.
Bobby Boudreaux, a mortician with Waco Mortuary Services, said a team consisting of two pathologists and support staff from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office in Fort Worth had been told they would tag the bodies and put them into body bags.
A second group made of funeral homes from McLennan County would help transport the bodies to the medical examiner’s office for identification and autopsies.
However, the teams were alerted two times early Tuesday that the recovery process was to begin, only to be told by Texas Rangers that “they wouldn’t be needed,” Boudreaux said.
“It upsets me,” he said. “I had to call these people back and tell them they said no.”
Boudreaux also was upset because he has a contract with the county to transport any bodies leaving McLennan County and going to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.
“I went to the sheriff’s department…they told me that I would take the bodies out,” he said.
After being told he wouldn’t be transporting the bodies, he simply felt that federal agents were “running the show” and ignoring his contract.
Boudreaux did participate in the recovery of one body from the site Monday afternoon.
Couldn’t call it human
“It was burned and in bad shape,” he said. “You can’t identify it as a body…I couldn’t identify it as being human.”
McLennan County Justice of the Peace James Collier pronounced the person dead at the scene and ordered the body sent to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.
Once the federal recovery team arrives, it will recover the bodies, tag them and take them to the medical examiner’s office for autopsies and identification.
At least six Branch Davidians died in the initial Feb. 28 raid. About 85 more are presumed burned in the rubble of the compound.
Maki, one of three forensic anthropologists in Texas, said the main challenge facing those examining the dead would be determining the cause of death.
“How did these people die? Were they dead before the fire hit? Did they try to flee and were shot?” she asked.
“We never expected it to end this way,” Maki said. “If they’d just walked out, there would have been no need for us. Now you have a lot of charred remains. So we could identify them. It’s possible, too, that since we’re forensic anthropologist we may be called back.”
She said medical examiners cannot answer questions forensic anthropologists answer such as cause of death and if bodies were moved after death.
Maki said she didn’t think her chances were good that she’d be called in because “the Smithsonian Institute will probably be called, and the University of Tennessee has some great people.”
Maki has submitted a grant proposal asking for $150,000 to help create a forensics facility at Baylor, but she would not say to whom the proposal was submitted.
She said the Mount Carmel situation points out the need for the proposed Physical Anthropology Forensics Laboratory. Local authorities could save money with a facility close by, she said.