Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin said Friday that the public will soon have proof that cult leader Vernon Howell was writing a manuscript on the Seven Seals when the FBI moved to end the 51-day standoff with the Branch Davidians.
DeGuerin said he had obtained a copy of a computer disk Ruth Ottman Riddle brought out of Mount Carmel’s flames. FBI agents seized the disk, but Riddle’s attorneys eventually got a copy from the U.S. Attorney’s office, said DeGuerin. He got his copy of the disk from Riddle’s attorneys.
The computer disk contains about 20 pages of the meaning of the first of the Seven Seals, as interpreted by Howell, also known as David Koresh.
“It’s very intelligently and beautifully written,” DeGuerin said. “It even includes a poem by David Koresh.”
DeGuerin declined to comment further, saying he wasn’t a Biblical scholar.
Howell, five days before the fire that destroyed Mount Carmel, promised to surrender to authorities after he wrote out the meaning of the Seven Seals, central to Branch Davidian theology and found in Revelation.
Howell claimed to be albe to “open” them, bringing about apocalyptic events such as war and famine that some people believe will end mankind.
“I hope to finish it as soon as possible and stand before man and answer any and all questions regarding my activities,” Howell wrote in a letter to DeGuerin, who was his attorney.
FBI officials, though, originally cast doubt on whether Howell was working on such a manuscript.
On April 19, FBI agents inserted tear gas into Mount Carmel. A fire erupted about noon — both sides blame the other for its origin — and more than 80 Branch Davidians died, including 17 children.
“The computer disk shows that David was sincere, contrary to FBI claims that he wasn’t working on it,” DeGuerin said. “I’m grateful for the disk. It’s proof of that. I’d rather be charitable and say the FBI was mistaken in believing David wasn’t working on it. But my true thoughts are that they weren’t mistaken at all. They didn’t want him out.”
FBI agent Richard Schwein of El Paso — one of the agency’s spokesmen after it began negotiating to end the siege following the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ failed Feb. 28 raid — said legal restrictions forbid him from commenting on DeGuerin’s claims.
Eleven Branch Davidians await trial on charges they murdered four ATF agents who were trying to serve arrest warrants accusing Howell of possessing illegal automatic weapons.
Cult member Kathryn Schroeder has pleaded guilty to forcibly resisting federal officers. She has not been sentenced.
“The trials are about to get under way, so no comment is my comment,” Schwein said. “Legally it has to be that way.”
Two Bible scholars are preparing Vernon Howell’s writings on the Seven Seals for public release, DeGuerin said.
Dr. James Tabor, a religion professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Dr. J. Phillip Arnold, who runs a religious think-tank called Reunion Institute in Houston, are transcribing Howell’s writings from the computer disk to paper.
“There were a number of Biblical references that he (Howell) would plug in without putting in the whole reference,” DeGuerin said. “They are making sure this is put in the final form that he wanted. Then it is going to be made public.”
Attempts to contact Tabor and Arnold were unsuccessful.
Tabor told the Tribune-Herald last week, though, that he was “more confident than ever” that Howell was indeed trying to decipher the Seven Seals in the days before the fire.
The FBI confirmed in August that they, too, are transcribing Howell’s writings on the computer disk.
That worries DeGuerin.
“They didn’t have all the codes,” he said. “We’re going to try to get it out before they release something and try to jumble up the meaning.”