Authorities removed what is believed to be the body of Peter Gent on Tuesday from the Branch Davidian compound.

Members of the Branch Davidian cult housed in the compound during the 51-day siege buried a body, which they said was Peter Gent, in front of the complex on March 8.

Authorities spent most of Tuesday using shovels and Bobcat tractors to dig for Gent’s body before finally removing him from the compound at 3:40 p.m.

Authorities could not immediately identify the body and will have to wait for a Tarrant County medical examiner to confirm the identity.

Peter Gent’s stepmother, Lisa, said she “suspected Peter was dead by now.”

“We had for quite a few weeks,” she said. “I’m dreading going through a funeral, but we really had no hopes that anyone was alive. I guess that will help us come to terms with the situation.

“At least it’s something concrete we have to come to terms with,” Gent said.

“Before, it was like fighting a phantom that was always there.”

Gent said she didn’t know how the medical examiner could identify Peter’s body because his dental records had not arrived in America.

According to Gent, an Australian government official called her Tuesday morning asking about the records and their location.

Authorities also recovered four bodies they found in the tunnel system below the compound, Public Information Officer Laureen Chernow said.

Mike Cox, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman, could not point out the tunnel system’s entrance.

However, he and Chernow said the bodies were buried under garbage and other debris.

“There was a lot of vile waste in the tunnel.” Chernow said.

“A lot of human waste in the tunnels, which really held up the recovery.”

They also said rain had filled the tunnels, hampering recovery efforts during the weekend.

Cox said he didn’t know how extensive the underground tunnels were, but they were “pretty complex” and made of both dirt and concrete.

Investigators believe the bodies were those of cult members killed in the Feb. 28 shootout with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents, Cox said.

Four agents were killed and 16 were injured when the ATF tried to execute a search warrant against cult member Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh.

An unknown number of cult members died in the shootout.

A standoff between the Branch Davidian cult members in the complex and federal agents lasted for 51 days before a fire destroyed the compound, and all but nine of the people inside are feared dead.

The five bodies were sent to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Worth, where autopsies will be performed.

Officials believe they now have recovered all the bodies they expect to find at the scene.

Meanwhile, in Washington, an ATF spokesman said internal investigators of the federal raid on the cult may be delayed because of criminal cases growing out of the action.

That could mean it will be months before the public learns exactly what went wrong with the Feb. 28 effort to serve arrest and search warrants on the Branch Davidian headquarters.

Testifying last week before the House Judiciary Committee, ATF Director Stephen E. Higgins was asked repeatedly about the tactics agents used in serving the warrants and the fact that the raid was not halted when it became apparent that the cultists knew agents were on the way.

He turned aside most of the questions, saying the topics were being reviewed internally in the Treasury Department, which includes ATF.

But ATF spokesman Jack Killorin said Tuesday that when internal investigations collide with criminal probes, the criminal cases take precedence.

“We don’t want to do anything that could interfere with fair trials for defendants,” he said.

Since no one can predict how long the criminal trials might take, the length of the delay of the internal investigations was not immediately clear.

“The access to information for review is probably going to have to yield to the use of that information in a prosecution,” Killorin said.

He said that taking statements from ATF agents for a review of the raid, then interviewing the same agents could result in inconsistencies.

Other information that could be held up because of litigation could include the content of conversations reportedly recorded in the Branch Davidian compound by the FBI during the Waco siege.

“There is a great deal of interest in getting access to this kind of thing,” he said, “but it is probably going to be made public first in the court proceedings.”

Cox News Service contributed to this story.

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.