A third victim of the Mount Carmel fire was identified Wednesday as James Loyle Riddle Jr., 32, a longtime follower of cult leader Vernon Howell.

His cause of death was not released.

Bullets, not fire, killed five of the Branch Davidians who died in the April 19 fire, said a Department of Public Safety spokesman.

He also cast doubt on the reported number of people inside the compound.

Tarrant County medical examiners believe at least five cult members were shot dead, said DPS spokesman Mike Cox. Details about the location of the bullet wounds were not released. Two of the identified victims, David Jones, 38, and Shari Doyle, 18, were shot in the head.

So far, 53 bodies have been sent to Fort Worth for autopsies.

Riddle was part of Howell’s inner circle, according to former cult members, one of the so-called Mighty Men sworn to protect the secret of the harem — the fact that Howell had sex with many of the women in the cult.

In 1988, Riddle, along with six other followers, stood trial with Howell for attempted murder. They were accused of trying to kill George Roden, who was a rival prophet of Howell’s.

A McLennan County jury acquitted Riddle and the rest of Howell’s followers. They couldn’t reach a verdict on Howell.

A native of Skyville, N. C., Riddle first followed Lois Roden, who was the Branch Davidians’ prophet in the early ‘80s. He left her for Howell, then changed his mind, said former cult member Marc Breault.

In 1986, Riddle accompanied Lois Roden to Palestine for Passover. Roden and Howell had a showdown.

When it was over, Roden had lost Riddle for good.

“He came to see Vernon get humbled, but he got reconverted,” Breault said.

Riddle was married to Ruth Ottman Riddle, who was injured in the fire.

Former members said it was a sham marriage, done to keep Ottman, a Canadian citizen, in the country legally.

Howell was the only man permitted to have sex in the cult, according to former cult members.

One of Riddle’s sisters, Rita Faye Riddle, is still being held by authorities as a material witness. She left Mount Carmel in March during the standoff between authorities and the Branch Davidians.

Breault said James Riddle was a fervent follower of Howell’s.

“He would do whatever Vernon told him to do,” Breault said. “He could get violent, though he was normally a nice guy. He didn’t debate theology. He was just a follower.”

An undetermined number of bodies are still in the cinder-block building that survived the fire, Cox said.

Nine Branch Davidians escaped the fire, although four of them required hospitalization.

Cult number doubted

Authorities at first believed 86 cult members, including leader Vernon Howell, died.

But Cox said the number of dead may be far less.

Although authorities said that 95 people were in the compound when the fire started, they were basing that on a figure quoted by Howell, Cox said.

“We expect to find some more,” Cox said. “But no one I know thinks we’re going to reach 85 or so bodies.”

Cox said authorities believe they may locate the bodies of all the victims by Friday.

“There are only two locations that we’re still looking at, the concrete structure and some of the underground tunnels,” he said.

“Those are our last two areas of concentration.”

A team of independent fire specialists have finished their final report and disbanded, Cox said.

Their report is considered evidence and will not immediately be made public.

But team leader Paul Gray of Houston said Monday that they believe the fire was set by the cult in at least two locations.

Cult members surviving the fire blame tanks ramming the compound for tipping over lanterns that they say ignited the blaze.

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.