Thursday’s developments:

  • Branch Davidian leader Vernon Howell agrees that three male cult members can leave the compound, but the trio isn’t released as of late Thursday night.
  • Federal agents say they have talked to about 50 cult members inside the compound during negotiations.
  • Authorities issue a warrant for cult member Paul Fatta, 35, who was away from Mount Carmel on the day of the deadly raid.

Weather no factor

Even though temperatures could drop into the upper 20s by Saturday, the weather will have “no effect whatsoever” on the way agents approach the siege at Mount Carmel, FBI spokesman Bob Ricks said earlier this week.

During Thursday’s briefing, Special Agent Dick Swenson said smashed windowpanes and other damage to the compound probably will make the Branch Davidians inside “pretty uncomfortable.”

That likely goes double for the hundreds of FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents keeping watch in the fields around the compound, crouched in Bradley Fighting Vehicles or M-1 tanks or just out in the field encampments.

At the media encampment along FM 2491, conditions range from primitive to relatively luxurious.

Some media outlets hauled in portable buildings and created relatively weathertight offices. Others have set up tents and similar bases of operations. But the vast majority make do with their vehicles.

Body identified

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — With his pistol still in his hand, the body of a member of Vernon Howell’s cult near Waco has been identified.

Three Texas Rangers told Michael Schroeder’s mother that federal agents had recovered his body four days after a deadly shootout Feb. 28 at the Branch Davidian compound.

Federal officials identified Schroeder, 29, as one of the dead Wednesday and released the names of sect members injured in the battle.

Schroeder’s family in Zephyrhills, which is about 30 miles northeast of Tampa, knew nothing about his fate until his mother, Sandy Connizzo, left for Texas to seek custody of her grandchild, Brian Schroeder, 3.

That was Sunday. On Tuesday, she called to tell her older sons, Bobby and Jimmy, that Michael was dead.

“Through persistent telephone calls, she was able to find out that Michael is dead,” Bobby Schroeder said. “And then at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, three Texas Rangers came to her hotel room to confirm it.”

Not an original name

Choosing “Koresh” as a name for a religious sect leader who believes he is a savior and lures away other men’s wives is actually not a new idea.

In the 19th century, a Civil War veteran named Cyrus Read Teed proclaimed himself the messiah and officially adopted the name Koresh, according to Mystic Places, from the Time-Life series “Mysteries of the Unknown.” Koresh is Hebrew for Cyrus.

It is not known whether Branch Davidian leader Vernon Wayne Howell, who changed his name to David Koresh, had ever heard of the earlier Koresh.

The charismatic Teed/Koresh was joined by several women who left their husbands when he abandoned a career selling herbal medicine cures and proclaimed himself head of a new religion called Koreshanity.

He established the World’s College of Life in Chicago and his church published a magazine called “The Flaming Sword,” which was published until 1949.

“…Spurred by threats from irate husbands whose wives had abandoned them to join the Koreshans, he bought a 300-acre tract near Fort Myers, Fla., in 1894,” Mystic Places recounts. Teed hoped for 10 million converts, but only 250 settled there.

Teed, born on a New York farm in 1839, served as corporal in the Union Army during the Civil War. Through his medical studies, he became convinced that the scientific view of an infinite universe was not acceptable to God.

He crafted his own theory, which he felt was inspired by divine revelation, that the earth actually is the concave inner surface of a sphere.

Outside the sphere was only a void, but other lands and peoples existed along the concave sides of the sphere, but could not be seen because of the dense atmosphere.

“One of the Koreshan beliefs is that we live on the inside surface of the earth,” said Peter Hicks, a Florida park ranger at the Koreshan State Historic Site.

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.