The whipping room, harsh beatings and children versed in paramilitary procedures — not true, say the mother and grandmother of three Branch Davidian children who survived the fire.
Kathy Jones, the ex-wife of cult member David Jones, who died in the Mount Carmel fire April 19 along with about 80 others, said her sons, ages 13 and 11, and her 9-year-old daughter are not “abnormal, deprived little children.”
Her mother, Janet Kendrick, a longtime Branch Davidian who was the caretaker of the cult’s Palestine property, said her grandchildren act the same as any children suffering the trauma of a shootout and separation from their parents.
Her husband, Woodrow Kendrick, is charged with attempted murder of a federal officer in connection with the Feb. 28 shootout between cult members and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Jones, whose children stayed at the Methodist Home after being released from the compound shortly after the shootout, now cares for her children and is hoping to win permanent custody.
Caretakers at the home, who looked after 20 of the 21 children released, said the children talked of a whipping room and cold baths. They said the children knew much about war but were unfamiliar with some foods such as jelly.
Jones and Kendrick refute the reports from Dr. Bruce Perry and others detailing spankings with a wooden paddle that left lesions on some children.
However, they acknowledged that cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, had multiple wives. They said the wives — who others have said included married women and under-age girls — were with Howell voluntarily.
Perry, associate professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine who examined the children, also reported that girls as young as 11 were taken as “wives” by Howell, and children learned paramilitary procedures. He also termed the atmosphere the children were raised in as one having an “unhealthy, malignant and predatory quality of sexuality.”
However, Perry fell short of saying the children were abused.
Jones, though, said professionals who examined the children distorted the facts and “analyzed my kids to death.”
God’s going to get Dr. Perry one of these days,” Kendrick added. “He’s being paid to tell lies.”
Jones does not consider herself a Branch Davidian, though she maintains some of the values she received while growing up in the group.
She left her husband, cult member David Jones, and the cult in 1989. She has since remarried and has a 1-year-old son, George.
Kendrick and Jones denied reports that the children had unusual paramilitary knowledge or knew only cold baths.
“My kids said they never took a cold bath out there,” Jones said.
Kendrick said the water was warm in the summer. In the winter, it was heated in a big pot for baths.
Some of the children may have been forced to take cold baths if their parents were too lazy to prepare a warm bath, Jones said.
She said most of the children didn’t know the difference between a pistol and a revolver as one report suggested. Jones said some of the children’s parents might have taught them, though.
Both said it is not abnormal for children to play war games. They pointed out that toy guns are commonplace.
Jones said she doesn’t believe what professionals tell her is wrong with her three children. They were worried, she said, that her oldest son was trying to build bombs “and kill everybody.”
“That’s not what it is. He’s much more creative,” Jones said. “He’s never talked anything about bombs.”
They told her that he has “all this anger and resentment” and that he hits and cries, she said.
“Don’t kids usually hit each other?” she asked. “He’s always done that.
Her 11-year-old son was insecure because of the way he talked, they told her, and her daughter was depressed and withdrawn.
“He’s been like that all his life,” she said of her son, adding that her daughter “doesn’t act like that at all to me.”
Children at Mount Carmel were firmly disciplined, Jones said, adding that the adults there believed they should do more than “dust their bottoms.” Adults need to “let them know” that they are being spanked, so they would learn, she said.
The Branch Davidians believe children should be spanked when they understand what “no” means, Jones said. Kendrick added that this usually occurred when the children were 8 or 9 months old.
Jones said she never bruised any of her children. But bruising doesn’t mean that a child is being beaten, she said.
“Especially if you have a child that you spank every day . . .” she said. “I’m saying it can happen.”
If a parent spanked the same area “four or five times a day . . .you can’t tell me he won’t eventually get a bruise,” she said.
“Little George, he can get into something 50 times a day. Now I’m not saying I’m going to spank him 50 times a day, but several times he’s going to get a whop,” she said. “If you hit his diaper . . . basically, right now, he’s really not going to feel it.”
Kendrick added, “It talks in the Bible about if you love your child you correct him.”
The children were not whacked if they spilled milk or other beverages, they said.
“Basically our kids didn’t drink milk,” she said, adding that it was used for cooking most of the time.
Jones said the children usually didn’t drink with their meals unless they had a “few swallows of water.” They were given juice and water about an hour later, the women said.
Both said the children know what jelly is. Kendrick said it was served to the children on occasion as a “treat.” Jones said they “had it off and on.”
As for some of the young girls becoming wives, both said it was up to the girl and God.
Kendrick said she didn’t know of any 12-year-old girls who had sex with Howell.
However, former cult members have said Michele Jones, Howell’s young sister-in-law, had sex with him at 12. Birth records show the girl gave birth at the age of 14.
Aisha Gyarfas, a pregnant 17-year-old with a 1-year-old daughter named Startle, told FBI negotiators that Howell fathered her children.
Both Gyarfas and Michele Jones died in the fire.
“From what I understand . . . David was very choosy,” Jones said of Howell’s practice of taking more than one wife at God’s bidding.
“Only God did the choosing,” Kendrick added. “Some were quite willing, and God never chose them.”
Jones said that being a wife was “something voluntary.”
“He just didn’t get someone pregnant and then dump them,” she said, adding that outside the group young girls get pregnant all the time and are abandoned by the fathers.
As for the issue of age, Jones said, youth doesn’t necessarily mean a person doesn’t know what he or she wants.
“In a lot of ways, we put emphasis on age, but a lot of time age doesn’t matter,” she said.
Kendrick said all women belong to God.
“God promised him Madonna,” Kendrick said, not as his wife, but to “save her.” Kendrick explained that Madonna personified all the sins of today.
They said they didn’t think Howell’s sermons, which at the time contained crude sexual references such as “hard on,” were harmful to the children because it was the only way to get through to the sinful people of today.
Kendrick said Howell told his followers that God told him to talk that way.
The children learned to recognize the words that were used in the outside world but not to use them, they said.
“Unless you make it a big issue . . . it just goes in one ear and out the other,” Jones said.