George Roden, serving a six-month sentence for writing legal motions saying he would have God sic herpes and acquired immune deficiency syndrome on judges, was depicted Thursday as a man who let the downtrodden live rent-free on his property.

Barbette Roden of Bellmead told jurors her father-in-law didn’t like to turn away people in need.

One couple living with Roden were hitchhikers he picked up.

“He let them stay with us because they needed a place to stay, a roof over their head and food,” Mrs. Roden testified.

She and other prosecution witnesses rebutted the gun-toting religious fanatic image of Roden that attorney Gary Coker has promoted in his defense of eight members of the rival Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists accused of trying to murder Roden in a Nov. 3, 1987, shootout near Elk.

Mrs. Roden, married to Roden’s son Jonathan, and Don and Sylvia Williams testified they rarely saw Roden carry a gun.

“I just remember seeing him carry a gun on that day,” Mrs. Roden said. “I don’t like guns. I think I would have remembered it.”

Don Williams, an unemployed photographer who testified that Roden let him and his family live on the property in exchange for an occasional odd job, gave the first under-oath account of what happened during the shootout.

Williams said Roden approached him while he was repairing a car at about 3:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and said two armed men were on the property. After getting his .357 Magnum revolver, he left his house and saw Roden pointing toward the other houses, Williams said, and heard him holler, “Who are you and what do you want?”

“Someone hollered back, ‘We have a warrant,’” Williams said. “Then three shots were fired and George and I ducked between cars. George said the cars were not a good place to be and we looked up and a couple more men were visible. We started to go around the house and there were two other men.”

Williams said Roden hid behind a tree and crawled to a shallow ditch as gunfire broke out. Under questioning from prosecutor El-Hadi Shabazz, Williams said one of the men wearing camouflage suits yelled, “Don’t shoot anybody but George.”

During a lull in the shooting, Roden asked if Vernon Howell — the leader of the Branch Davidians, who is on trial with seven of his followers — was with the men, Williams said.

Roden blamed Howell for his mother’s death in 1986 and claimed Howell raped his mother, Williams told Coker. He also testified that Roden blamed Howell for a $500,000 fire that destroyed an administration building.

During Coker’s cross-examination, Williams said the eight defendants yelled, “Please leave, George, please leave,” at one point, adding that he and Roden didn’t believe they were free to leave.

“If you were being shot at, would you walk out from behind a tree?” Williams asked.

Coker asked Williams if the men had not said, “Don’t shoot anybody, George,” instead of “Don’t shoot anybody but George.”

“That’s what it sounded like to me,” Williams said.

Shabazz told visiting Judge Herman Fitts of Wichita Falls that he expects to call George Roden as a witness today. Coker said he may challenge Roden’s competency.

“I want George to testify,” Coker said. “I just want the jury to know that oftentimes he and the truth as strangers.”

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.