The New Zealand family members of one Branch Davidian identified late Wednesday said the remains will probably be cremated and sent home.

Leslie Vaega, brother-in-law of 24-year-old Rebecca Saipaia of Samoa, said the family might cremate the ashes.

“I think the family wants it back there.”

McLennan County Justice of the Peace David Pareya said Saipaia was found on top of the ammunition bunker at Mount Carmel. The cause of death is pending.

Details are scarce, but Pareya said Saipaia wore a watch that stopped at 12:20 p.m. on the day of the fire.

The April 19 blaze, which ended a 51-day standoff between the cult and the FBI, killed more than 70 people in the compound.

Leslie and his wife, Poia, are former cult members who rebelled against cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh.

Saipaia and Leslie’s brother, Neil Vaega, were in the compound when the fire engulfed it.

The family says it has not received official word about Neil’s death.

“No, it wasn’t a shock,” Leslie said of Saipaia’s death. “We assumed right up to the fire they wouldn’t come out.”

Leslie said he expected the people inside would die. However, he didn’t expect a fire to do the killing.

“Vernon had taught that they would come out fighting,” he said.

“I believe Vernon taught them that in order to not feel the flames . . . to put the gun to their heads and shoot or have someone do it to them.”

Poia said that her parents were notified of her younger sister’s death last week. She said it was her sister’s choice to be in the compound.

“I could blame myself for getting my sister involved,” she said, “or Neil for first introducing the family to Howell, or Howell himself.

“Yes, he was the one who was in control of the people’s minds there,” she said.

“I believe ultimately they were going to take their own lives.”

But she believes it could have ended differently—that the FBI had other options. She also thinks the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms could have isolated Howell from the beginning to avoid the whole standoff situation.

“I believe that former members’ suggestions weren’t taken into great consideration,” she said.

And finally, she is angry that authorities didn’t do anything long ago.

“Yeah, probably more lives would have been saved . . . if authorities would have taken more notice of us.”

Though her family has suffered much grief, Poia said, some good has come out of the standoff because it is allowing her family to warn others about the dangers of cults.

“We hope through our experience, to share with others,” she said. “We’re doing our own campaigning over here in the hope that people here would see the signs . . . just avoid being caught up in groups like this.”

Meanwhile, Pareya released more details on four Branch Davidians killed in the fire.

He said 38 people had been identified as of Wednesday, with a total of 25 names released. Pathologists say they have found the remains of 78 bodies in the Mount Carmel ruins. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner has said 22 people died from gunshot wounds.

  • Michele Jones, 18, was found in the ammunition bunker. Her cause of death is pending.
  • Pablo Cohen, 28, of Israel was found on top of the ammunition bunker. He died from smoke inhalation and his body suffered extensive charring.
  • Jaydean Cornwall Wendel, 34, died of a gunshot wound to the head. The location of her body is not known.

Meanwhile, David Thibodeau, one of the handful of cult members who escaped the fire, appeared before a federal grand jury Wednesday.

Balenda Ganem, his mother, reiterated that her son does not believe the Branch Davidians started the fire at the compound.

She said Wednesday that Thibodeau did not wish to be interviewed.

Also Wednesday, a judge granted an order allowing Branch Davidians to remove any personal property that may remain on the 77-acre compound.

The order, in response to a request filed by Waco attorney Gary Coker on behalf of group member Janet Kedrick, was granted by state District Judge Bill Logue.

Most property inside the sprawling compound was destroyed, but about a dozen cars and vans, two buses and two boats remain on the quarantined grounds.

Logue ordered that Branch Davidians be allowed to remove any property “and to place these items in a safe place.”

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.