Former Branch Davidian cult member Sheila Martin’s 11-year-old disabled son was returned to her Tuesday after a ruling by District Judge Bill Logue.
Logue’s ruling also said Martin’s two other children may be returned to her.
Martin, who left the Mount Carmel compound during the 51-day siege, said she was “very happy” about her son’s return.
“He’s just the same sweet, loving boy,” she said. Her son, who has cerebral palsy, had been placed in foster care until his return home.
State officials recommended that her 4-year-old daughter and her 7-year-old son be returned to her care within a month after she has demonstrated that she can adequately care for her son.
Even if her other children, who are staying with their grandparents, Joseph and Helen Martin in New Jersey, return, Martin says things will be different.
“It’s never going to be the same as before,” she said. “This is the beginning of a lot of things.”
Martin’s husband, Waco attorney Douglas Wayne Martin, a top lieutenant in Vernon Howell’s cult, died during the April 19 fire along with at least 80 others in the compound.
The couples’ four other children — Wayne Jr., Anita, Sheila Jr. and Lisa — died in the blaze.
Logue allowed the state to maintain temporary legal custody of the 11-year-old and the six other children addressed in Tuesday’s custody hearings so authorities can continue to monitor how the children are adjusting to their new homes.
The state maintains temporary legal custody of 12 of the 21 children released from the compound.
State officials say they are working to place all 12 in the legal guardianship of their relatives.
Twenty-one children were released by Howell, also known as David Koresh, in the days following the Feb. 28 firefight between the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the cult.
They were the only children to leave the group before the April 19 fire. All of the 21 children have been placed in the care of family members.
Linda Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, said most of the children receive counseling.
She said the children are not experiencing serious problems, but that some have what people would call “flashbacks.”
“The one experience that seems to be common to all is moments that trigger memories of the compound,” she said.
Edwards said the religious beliefs of the parents or relatives who have custody of the children are not a consideration. The fact that a relative or parent is a Branch Davidian is not enough for the state to refuse legal guardianship, she said.
Former cult members have said they witnessed abuse to children while in the group. They say Howell had sex with girls as young as 12 and sometimes whipped babies until their bottoms bled.
Edwards said a home study, which involves family history, is done in each case. Patterns of abuse or discipline philosophies would hopefully be revealed during the study, she said.
Logue also ruled that Kathryn Schroeder’s 3-year-old son would remain with his maternal grandparents in Florida until Oct. 19 when a permanent custody hearing is scheduled.
State officials said the child’s grandparents, William and Sandy Connzo, and aunt and uncle, Robert and Ellen Schroeder, want custody of the child, but that the state’s ultimate goal would be to reunite the child with his mother.
Kathy Schroeder’s ex-husband William Mabb, has permanent custody of her other three children.
Schroeder’s attorney, Scott Peterson, said he believes Schroeder will eventually get custody of her 3-year-old son. Her son has visited her since she left the compound and talks with her weekly on the phone.
Schroeder, a cult member who left the compound during the standoff, pleaded guilty to forcibly resisting federal officers. In exchange for her cooperation with the government, prosecutors have agreed to drop murder, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons charges against her.
Her husband, Michael Schroeder, died during the second gun battle against the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Feb. 28.
Logue also ruled Ken and Molly Sonobe of Hawaii would remain in charge of their 4-and 6-year-old granddaughters who the Sonobe’s wish to adopt.
The two girls are the daughters of Florecita and Scott Sonobe, who died during the fire.
The judge allowed Ursula Gehrmann of Hawaii to remain in charge of her 7-year-old half sister. The girl’s parents, Margarida and Neil Vaega, died during the fire. A permanent custody hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19.
The cases of the five children not considered in Tuesday’s hearing will be reviewed in October and January.