(April 19, 2006)—A handful of surviving Branch Davidians gathered Wednesday at a local restaurant to mark the 13th anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the 51-day standoff with federal agents at Mt. Carmel, outside of Waco.
This is the first time since the standoff that survivors have not gathered at the compound site for a memorial service.
Those who did show up Wednesday for a service at the site are forming a new church called The Branch, The Lord, Our Righteousness.
It’s the seventh incarnation of the group, which moved into the area in 1935 under the leadership of a Bulgarian immigrant, Victor Houteff and established a commune on 189 acres in the area of what is now the private Vanguard school.
The size of the group swelled in the late 50s on the strength of a prediction that the kingdom of God would be established on April 22, 1959.
That didn’t happen, however, and the group scattered and splintered.
Most of the remaining members moved to a new commune on the site outside of Waco where David Koresh and his followers held the agents at bay 13 years ago.
Six of those followers, meanwhile, are about to be released from prison.
Most of those who will be freed over the next two months escaped from the compound near Waco as it burned to the ground on April 19, 1993.
The six men went to federal prison for manslaughter, weapons offenses or both in connection with the Feb. 28, 1993 shootout, which left four federal agents and six Davidians dead.
Once the men are out, they will be under supervised release for three to five years.
Among other things, they will be barred from associating with one another.
A seventh Davidian is also still behind bars but is not scheduled for release until next year.
Most of the convicted Davidians were sentenced to 40-year terms, but in 2000, a judge reduced most of the sentences to 15 years.
Kevin A. Whitecliff, 44, to be released next week in San Antonio; convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
Jaime Castillo, 37, to be released next month in Los Angeles; convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
Paul Gordon Fatta, 48, to be released next month in San Diego; convicted of conspiracy to possess machine guns and aiding Davidian leader David Koresh in possessing machine guns.
Renos Lenny Avraam, 42, to be released next month from Oakdale, Louisiana; convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
Graeme Leonard Craddock, 44, to be released next month from Oakdale, Louisiana; convicted of possessing a grenade and using or possessing a firearm during a crime.
Brad Eugene Branch, 47, to be released in June from Manchester, Kentucky, convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
Livingstone Fagan, 46, to be released next year from Marion, Illinois; convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
Ruth Riddle, released in 1997; sentenced to five years for using or carrying a weapon during a crime.
Kathryn Schroeder, released in 1996; sentenced to three years after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of forcibly resisting arrest. She was the only Davidian to testify against the others.