What went on inside Mount Carmel continues to be debated more than a year after the death of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and most of his followers.
For some people, it’s all a matter of bad press.
But the best evidence that Koresh had sex with underage girls and took the wives of men in the cult as his own is Koresh himself.
Eight days after the raid on Mount Carmel — in which four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms died, as did five Branch Davidians — Koresh made an extraordinary video for the FBI, which had asked how the children inside the compound were doing.
Instead, Koresh proudly played his version of show-and-tell, trotting out 12 of his children, including nine by women other than his legal wife, Rachel, as well as four of his wives.
“I would like to show you my family,” Koresh says on the tape, “which obviously everyone in the world knows something about.”
Portions of the tape will be seen tonight on A&E’s “American Justice” and have appeared on ABC’s “Day One.” The Tribune-Herald viewed a copy of the entire video, courtesy of Justice of the Peace David Pareya of West, who used it to help identify the cult’s children after the April 19, 1993, fire that killed Koresh and as many as 80 of his followers.
As the video opens, a haggard-looking David Koresh is sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. He as on a T-shirt and pullover gym pants. In the background, you can hear the sound of babies crying.
Lots of babies crying.
Koresh shows off his legal children first, starting with his son, Cyrus. Then his daughter, Star.
It is 4:30 p.m. on March 8, 1993.
Without any fanfare, Koresh brings in Dayland Gent, whose mother was Nicole Gent. She had stayed in the cult after her father, Bruce, and her stepmother, Lisa, left. Koresh had the boy sing his ABCs, then he asked him, “How much do you love me?”
Dayland said, “Three.”
“Three?” an amused and slightly puzzled Koresh asked. “You love me three? No more than three?”
Paige, Dayland’s sister, and Nicole Gent appeared next.
In 1988, Koresh flew to Australia to claim Gent. He told Bruce Gent, who was then still in the Branch Davidians, that God had given his daughter to him as a wife.
“How did we meet?” Koresh asked Nicole Gent on the video.
“I met you five years ago at my parent’s house,” she said. “That’s when I learned the truth as well.”
“I came over to get you, didn’t I?” Koresh asked.
“Everyone knew about it but me,” Nicole Gent said.
Looking toward the camera, Koresh launched into a soliloquy.
“What am I doing with all these children?” Koresh asked. “What is going on here? These children I have for a reason. Unless you have your eyes and ears to open themselves up, to be able to really read the Scriptures and hear and understand the prophecies, the explanation would seem almost foolish.”
“Am I a mean person, Nicky?” Koresh asked.
“No,” she said and they kissed lightly.
Next, Koresh brought out Mayana Schneider, his child by Judy Schneider. Former cult members said Koresh’s New Light — his 1989 declaration that all women in the cult and the world belonged to him — had emotionally wrecked Judy and Steve Schneider, who were as much soulmates as husband and wife.
Frightened by the camera, manned by Steve Schneider, Mayanah Schneider said little. It was not typical of her nature, Koresh said.
“If you could see every one of them, and they’re all named ahead of time, you would see their nature is perfectly fulfilled,” Koresh said. “Mayanah loves to talk. Like a Mynah bird.”
After Mayanah, Koresh brought out another wife, Kathy Andrade, who had their daughter, Chanel. Chanel jumped around on the floor, between her mother and father.
“This is our jumper,” Koresh said. “She’s a very athletic little girl.”
Then looking into the camera, Koresh addressed Isabel Andrade, Chanel’s grandmother. She had visited Mount Carmel, shortly before the raid. Isabel Andrade asked her daughter if she had a child by Koresh. Kathy Andrade said no.
“Isabel, we tried to tell you, ‘Give us time to give you studies,’” Koresh said. “Everything I’d let you know. But, like most people, you got too hasty. What we do, most people by nature would not understand. Here’s your little grandbaby, Isabel. She’s happy. They’re all happy.”
Slumping further against the wall, Koresh pulled up his shirt and asked,” Want to see one of the holes?” The wound on his side, suffered during the raid, was black and red and looked to be about the circumference of a quarter. He had also been shot in the wrist.
“It’s kinda painful,” Koresh said, groaning, before sliding into one of the voices he liked to affect. “Ain’t nothin’ to a tough guy like me. Just flesh. It heals.” His head lolled against the wall, and he flashed a cockeyed grin.
Koresh next brought out Serenity Sea, his daughter by Michele Jones, the younger sister of his legal wife, Rachel.
“Here’s the controversial young lady,” Koresh said on the tape. “She’s my baby. Her name is Serenity? Why? She’s serene. Very serene.”
In an interview with the Tribune-Herald for its series “The Sinful Messiah”, Koresh denied fathering a baby by Michele Jones. Former cult members, however, told the newspaper that Koresh bragged in Bible studies of climbing into bed with Jones when she was only 12 and forcing her to have sex. Koresh told the story as if it were humorous, former members said.
“Wave,” Koresh said. Serenity Sea waved to the camera.
“Love daddy?” he asked. “How much do you love daddy?”
Serenity Sea stretched her small arms out as far as they would go.
“That’s a lot,” he said.
He asked her how old she was. Serenity mistakenly said she was 6 years old.
“Six?” Koresh asked, looking off-camera. “Four.”
Michele refused to come in front of the camera. But her daughter’s age, 4, meant that Michele was only 14 years old when she gave birth.
Then Koresh introduced his twins by Michele. “These are my babies, too,” Koresh said, holding one baby in each arm. “The rumors are true. Like I said before, if you don’t know the Seals, you don’t know why.”
Koresh also brought out Startle, 1, his daughter by Aisha Gyarfas, 17. Former cult members said Koresh began having sex with Gyarfas when she was 13. Her parents, visiting Waco during the siege, denied Koresh had fathered a child by their daughter, saying she was married to cult member Greg Summers.
But Koresh made it obvious he was Startle’s father. “Can Daddy have a kiss?” he asks Startle.
“This is the truth, not just a baby,” Aisha said.
The final one of his children whom Koresh brought out was Hollywood Sylvia, his son by Lorraine Sylvia, the wife of surviving Branch Davidian Stan Sylvia. Koresh also held up photos of his three children by former Branch Davidians Robyn Bunds and Dana Okimoto.
During the video, Koresh briefly brought out his legal wife, Rachel, whom he married when she was 14. She had something to say, said Koresh, who was brusque with her. Jones wasn’t one of is favorite wives, according to former cult members.
“Thanks a lot for killing my dad,” Rachel said. “My dad’s name was Perry Jones. He was an unarmed man. You guys just shot through the door and killed him.”
“Got anything positive to say?” Koresh asked.
“I just wish it had never happened,” Rachel said.
“OK,” Koresh said. “Next.”
Before ending the video, Koresh displayed some of his guitars, which had been painted by follower Cliff Sellors, who had been involved in a sham marriage with Robyn Bunds.
“This is some beautiful custom work,” Koresh said.
One guitar had the words, “The bird is the word,” at the top. It showed a hand from heaven shooting the finger — or the bird, if you will — at a group of people crowded along the bottom of the guitar, their grotesque gaping mouths pointed upward.
After displaying the guitars, Koresh ended his video by criticizing the ATF for raiding Mount Carmel, suggesting that the agency could have arrested him while he was jogging or “shopping at Wal-Mart.”
“ATF, you boys were wrong in your practices and habits,” Koresh said. “When there’s a question of whether kids or women are involved, keep your damn gun in your holster. I’m sorry some of you guys got shot. But, hey, God will have to sort that out, won’t he? Well, what can I say. They call me a rambling guy. We’ll sign off and God bless.”