Vernon Howell apparently has gotten his sign from God and has but one more task to finish before he leads his followers out of the Mount Carmel compound.

He has to write a lengthy study about the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation, his attorney said Wednesday.

Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin spent about an hour on the telephone with Branch Davidians Wednesday. He said Howell is working “day and night” to complete the manuscript on the meaning of the seals, which are central to the Branch Davidian sect’s theology.

“As soon as the manuscript is delivered to me and I’m able to speak with some experts on theology, he will come out and stand before you and the courts so his story can be told,” DeGuerin told reporters outside the Waco Hilton.

DeGuerin said Howell, also known as David Koresh, was finishing up on the first seal when he talked to him. DeGuerin said that task apparently took more than a day.

Howell also elaborated on news reports that Waco could be facing a natural disaster, predicting an earthquake that could damage the Lake Waco dam.

DeGuerin and Jack Zimmermann, who is representing top Howell aide Steve Schneider, said they are confident the Branch Davidians are really coming out this time.

“We’re starting a different phase of our representation now. We’re getting ready for trial,” Zimmerman said.

Howell and his followers have disappointed officials before.

On March 2, three days after the bloody Feb. 28 failed raid that left four federal agents dead, Howell promised to come out after a 58-minute tape of his preachings on the Seven Seals was played over a national Christian radio network.

After the tape was played, Howell said he had gotten a message from God to wait, and has been waiting ever since for a message telling him to leave.

On March 19 an FBI spokesman told reporters that Howell was talking about coming out “in terms of days, not weeks,” if he got the proper astrological sign.

But DeGuerin said he remains confident.

“I don’t think we’re getting the run-around. I think we’re winding down, and as soon as he gets his manuscript completed, David’s going to come out,” DeGuerin said.

DeGuerin read for the press a letter Howell dictated to him with instructions to release it to the public.

“I am presently being permitted to document, in structured form, the decoded messages of the Seven Seals. Upon the completion of this task, I will be freed from my waiting period,” Howell said in the statement.

Sign from God

Zimmermann said those inside the compound are taking the fact that Howell is writing down the meanings of the Seven Seals as the sign from God they have been waiting for.

“They view this event as that occurrence. So there was some excitement in Steve’s voice that wasn’t there before,” Zimmermann said.

That much was reflected in Howell’s letter as well.

“I have been praying so long for this opportunity to put the seals in written form,” Howell wrote. “I thank my Father who has finally granted me this chance to do this. It will bring new life and hope to many, and they won’t have to deal with me the person.”

Howell also called his transcription of the meanings of the seals “my final work.”

DeGuerin described Howell as “bright, cheerful, lucid and very logical” during the conversation.

City residents slighted

In the letter, Howell also upbraided residents of Waco for their “resentful spirit of indifference to our warnings of love” and repeated his prediction of an earthquake that would damage the Lake Waco dam.

“I was shown a fault line running throughout the Lake Waco area,” Howell wrote, referring to a revelation he said he got from God. “The earthquake in Waco is not to be taken lightly. It will probably be the thing needed to shake some sense into the people.

“Remember the warning came first, and I fear the FBI is willing to suppress this information and it may be left up to you (DeGuerin),” Howell wrote in his letter.

Two geological experts said the Waco area is crisscrossed by faults related to the Balcones Fault, which runs south to the San Antonio area. They also said that the Balcones Fault has not been active in living memory.

Long inactive

“Generally, in South Texas, the sense is that it was last active…about 20 million years ago,” said O.T. Howard, a professor emeritus of geology at Baylor University. “In this area, the sense is that it was last active…50 million years ago.”

Howard said there are theories that activity could have occurred as recently as 600,000 years ago along the fault, but that evidence is very sketchy.

Howard and Ed Garner, a research associate with the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology, said the Balcones is totally different from the San Andreas Fault in California.

They said the San Andreas, which caused the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, is along the borderline between two of the giant continental plates that form the earth’s crust.

Earthquakes there are caused by the plates moving in different directions and suddenly releasing tension or colliding. The Balcones, on the other hand, seems to have been created by the settling of the East Texas Basin millions of years ago.

“All the reasons for its movement no longer exist,” Garner said.

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.