David Koresh (real name: Vernon Wayne Howell; August 17th, 1959 – April 19th, 1993) was the leader of a Branch Davidian religious sect, believing himself to be its final prophet. Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh on May 15th, 1990.
Koresh was born in Houston, Texas to Bobby Wayne Howell and Bonnie Sue Clark. Koresh's father left his mother for another teenage girl before Koresh was born, and the two never met. Meanwhile Koresh's mother moved in with a violent alcoholic who abused the young Koresh. Koresh's mother later left this individual and left Koresh with his grandmother for three years. She later married a carpenter named Roy Haldeman and the couple retook custody of the young Koresh.
A dyslexic with poor study skills, Koresh did not fare very well in school, and was placed in special education classes. He dropped out of high school in his junior year.
At the age of 22 Koresh impregnated an underage girl. At about the same time he claimed to have become a born again Christian in the Southern Baptist Church, and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Having an eye for the pastor's daughter, he tried to talk the pastor into making his daughter sleep with Koresh, but the pastor would not have it and forbade Koresh from seeing his daughter. He ultimately expelled Koresh from the congregation a year later.
Koresh made his way to the Branch Davidian compound, and reportedly seduced the group's leader Lois Roden. The couple claimed that she had become pregnant (in her mid 60s) through their relationship, but that Roden had miscarried. Koresh claimed the miscarriage was God punishing Roden for stealing money. Koresh was able to usurp control of the group from Roden and her family. Following Roden's death in 1986 Koresh expelled Roden's supporters from the group, cementing his control over the group.
During the 1980s Koresh took a 14 year old girl as his first wife. He would sleep with a large number of women and girls, with some being as young as 12 years old.
In 1990 a California court granted Koresh's petition to formally change his name from Vernon Howell to David Koresh. He took the name David to symbolize a connection to the biblical King David. His last name Koresh was the biblical name of Cyrus the Great.
Koresh exercised near absolute control over the Branch Davidians, ruling every aspect of their lives. Children were beaten for the slightest offense, and grownups were required to engage in back breaking labor. Koresh himself often slept until early afternoon, and would engage in pleasures that he denied his people on the grounds that "God" said it was OK.
Raid and Siege
By the early 1990s government authorities had become aware of reports of child abuse - both physical and sexual - occurring within the compound. A 1992 investigation into Koresh by the Texas Child Protection Services failed to turn up any evidence.
Government officials also became aware that the Branch Davidians were stockpiling a large amount of armaments and related parts when the UPS passed on a report from a driver that the Davidians had taken delivery of a number of packages, one of which had broken open at delivery to reveal weapons.
The investigation into this stockpiling of weapons led the ATF to request a search warrant of the compound in 1993. The subsequent raid by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the subsequent siege by the FBI ended with the burning of the Branch Davidian ranch outside of Waco, Texas, in McLennan County. Koresh, 54 other adults and 28 children were found dead after the fire.
Following the fire, the remains of David Koresh were found in the burned out compound. Post mortem examinations showed that he had died from a gunshot to the head. After his death, Koresh was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery.
A small Branch Davidian church still exists in Texas, with its leaders claiming that Koresh was a false prophet. Another small group of Davidians still believe that Koresh was a genuine prophet of God and continue to stand behind Koresh.