Vernon Howell is dead and Satellite City gone, but Waco will be remembered Wednesday when FBI Director William Sessions visits here.
Sessions, a former member of the Waco City Council, will pay tribute to area residents for the “kindness and generosity” they showed federal agents during the 51-day siege at Mount Carmel, said city spokeswoman Sandy Test.
Local officials invited to the 3 p.m. Wednesday ceremony at the Texas State Technical College student center include Waco Mayor Bob Sheehy and McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell.
The public also is invited, Test said.
Speculation on when and how Howell was shot remained just that Monday. No new information was released concerning the cult leader’s death.
Justice of the Peace David Pareya on Sunday said the 33-year-old Howell was shot between the eyes.
Toxicology tests are planned to determine how much carbon monoxide was in Howell’s body. The higher the level, a medical examiner’s official said, the greater the likelihood Howell was alive when fire swept through Mount Carmel on April 19.
So far, six of the 72 Branch Davidians removed from the rubble have been identified. All six were shot in the head.
Arson investigators have said the fire that destroyed the compound 10 miles east of Waco was deliberately set in at least two places. Cult members who survived the inferno, though, blame the tanks that rammed the compound, releasing tear gas for upsetting kerosene lanterns.
FBI Special Agent Richard Schwein of El Paso said agents heard gunfire during the burning of Mount Carmel.
“There was a barrage of gunfire,” he said. “But they had been shooting at us all morning, so it was hard to tell what was going on.”
Schwein said agents could not tell if shots were being fired or ammunition was exploding.
“It’s very hard to discern between shots being fired and ammo going off,” he said. “And a lot of ammo was cooking off. A lot.”
A Branch Davidian filed an $18.06 million lawsuit against the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on Monday. Stan Sylvia, a longtime cult member, said the two government agencies were negligent in the deaths of his wife and two children.
Lorraine Sylvia, 40; Rachel Sylvia, 14; and Hollywood Sylvia, 2, are presumed to have died in the Mont Carmel fire. Their bodies have not been identified yet.
Attorney John Coale of Washington, D.C., said Sylvia had lived in the compound but was working in California when cult members engaged in a shootout with ATF agents Feb. 28.
Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died in the shooting.
“He wants to have justice done, to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” Coale said. “He feels there was a lot of gross negligence in the original raid, and with the FBI later.”
During the 51-day standoff that followed the shootout, Coale said, authorities did not allow Sylvia to talk to his family.
Spokesmen for the FBI and ATF declined comment.
Bill Carter of the FBI and Les Stanford of the ATF said they had not seen the claims, which were filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Former cult members told the Tribune-Herald during the preparation of its series “The Sinful Messiah” that Lorraine Sylvia had joined the House of David, the women in the cult supposedly having children by Howell to one day rule the Earth with him.
Howell was Hollywood Sylvia’s father, according to the former cult members.
Also Monday, state officials said that McLennan County commissioners have the final say on whether any burials will be allowed in the Green Acres cemetery plot on Mount Carmel.
Family members have asked to bury some of the Branch Davidian victims there.
But County Judge Jim Lewis noted that the small plot with a handful of graves on it is not registered as a cemetery. He also let it be known he firmly opposes the idea.
“We are not going to bury someone in an unregistered cemetery,” Lewis said.