THE BRANCH DAVIDIAN WARS, PART 2

Disclaimer: In hosting Amo Roden's version of events, I am not vouching for its accuracy.

The first shots late that afternoon did not alarm me. "George is showing off his gun," I thought. I walked away from the stove to the front door of the trailer which was used as a community center and looked out. George was sprinting. He ran from the front of the Roden house to a large shed behind the community center. At 250 pounds, George was not built for sprinting. I was amazed at how high his knees were pumping. "War games with the visiting Israelis," I decided. I went back to cooking dinner. From where I was I could hear bullets whine by about 200 feet behind me. "Men never grow up," I reflected.

"What the hell is going on?" Steve Rodebaugh burst through the back door.

Suddenly I realized that I might be listening to a war. "Oh my God!" I walked to the front door and shouted. "George, what the hell is going on out there."

"There are some men out here shooting at me," George yelled back. He was surprisingly calm.

"I'll call the sheriff!" Steve turned to rush back to the phone in the office.

"Wait a minute!" George was so nonchalant it was hard to take the situation seriously. "Hey George, should we call the sheriff?"

"Yeah, call the sheriff." George still sounded calm.

Steve started for the office. Halfway there I stopped him with a yell. "Steve, when the Williams kids get off the bus, get them into the church." The school bus was almost due; the shootout was in their back yard. The church was at the front of the property, well out of the line of fire.

I stayed in the kitchen. Even though the trailer was out of the line of fire, I wanted the appliances between me and the bullets. I continued cooking. When it was over people would be hungry. I accepted George's obvious assessment of the situation; he was not in real danger. Later from personal experience with assassins I realized that his confidence was based on faith in God rather than objective reality. I did not know there were 8 men with 3000 rounds and semi-automatic rifles out there intent on killing George.

I fretted a bit because I could not pick up my son when he got off the school bus at the farm. Even though it was only two miles, the farm was in a different school zone. My car was in front of the Roden house, the war started in the front yard and followed George and Don into the back yard. I hated being late, but trying to retrieve my car would be lunacy.

From the window, I saw Teresa Rodebaugh hurrying across the field toward the front gate. She circled wide around the Roden house. Steve ran to meet her just to get his arms around her. They went toward the front gate. Ten minutes later the school bus stopped and they hurried the Williams kids into the church.

I would be very late to meet my son Stanley. Compulsive punctuality was a legacy from my mother. "He'll wait at the Zanter house," I consoled myself.

The bullets were still whining behind the community center. By now there had been several hundred rounds. I watched out the windows, pacing from one to another, occasionally returning to the stove to stir. The trailer had not been hit so I wasn't worried so much about a stray bullet as I was about George.

I seemed a very long time before the sheriff arrived. George timed it at 45 minutes but despite a clock in the kitchen I was too excited for timing the shootout. Finally 4 sheriff's deputies arrived. Their cars were in perfect formation coming down the driveway. I went to the stove to turn off dinner. By the time I came out the front door the shootout was already over. Eight men in camouflage lay on their bellies in the driveway. Deputy sheriffs stood over them. I hoped the omnipresent Texas fire ants were nibbling them.

George was standing next to my car holding a compress against his chest. There was blood and a gaping hole in his t-shirt. "Oh my God, George!"

"Its not serious," he reassured me. He seemed to be enjoying the excitement although I could see he was in pain. The deputy sheriff's cars started pulling out. The first one went past me as I stood close to the driver's side of the car. A handsome long-haired hippy sat behind the driver. I didn't recognize him, but I just had my first look at Vernon Howell aka David Koresh. George went off to the Hillcrest Baptist Hospital. The remaining deputy sheriffs were milling around. I spotted a station wagon pulling up the driveway. When it stopped three men got out and stood beside it talking. I didn't know them so I walked over.

One of them introduced himself as Perry Jones. "We've come to take the property over, but don't worry, you can still stay here." The other two stood there smiling pleasantly.

I suddenly realized that these three were part of the group of assassins that had wounded George. No wonder George was so vigilant about preserving the property from Koresh and those he nicknamed the Palestinian Terrorists! I was furiously angry in an instant. "Get the hell off this property!" I shouted.

A deputy looked our way. "Hey lady, don't be making trouble, keep it down." I walked up to a deputy standing behind him.

"Those three men are with the men that shot George! I want them off this property before you leave." The deputy walked over and talked to them. They got back into the station wagon and left.

After they left I went to get Stanley, almost a hour late. Sure enough he was sitting at the Zanter kitchen table. I had never had a better excuse for being late and I described the shooting in detail. Then we went back to Mt. Carmel. I don't remember dinner so I suppose we all ate separately. We congregated in the yard to compare notes about the shooting. Theresa Rodebaugh had been held hostage by three of Koresh's men, she was released during the shootout. Bobby Roden, Jonathan's new bride, met three of Koresh's mighty men on her front steps. One of them told her there would be trouble but she could just leave. Later I surmised that she was the tool used to get George armed for the shootout. George had ignored his gun except to show it to Stanley two weeks before. On her way off the property, Bobby stopped at the office and warned George that there were armed men on the property.

Don Williams was sanding the rust spots on the trunk of my car when George walked up to him carrying his UZI. "Get your .357, Don."

According to Don, as soon as he came out of the house and rejoined George, several men dressed in combat fatigues stepped out from behind Jonathan and Bobby's house just up the drive and yelled at George, then began to shoot at him. They both ran for cover. I saw the slower of them, George only. Don was slender and athletic, and apparently being shot at inspired him. Don took shelter behind a farm implement in the Roden house back yard. George got behind a wide tree that stood on the west end of a storage shed, about 40 feet beyond Don. Don had only 6 bullets in his .357. It wasn't his war, he probably didn't know what it was all about. He kept his head down as some of the bullets bounced off the farm implement that sheltered him and waited. Don never fired a shot that day, but his reputation saved George. Perry Jones' sons, Sam and Danny had cased the compound for Koresh while they stayed there for most of September and October. (Their brother David came with Koresh to murder George.) Besides knowing just where everyone lived; Koresh knew that Don Williams was a crack shot and had paramilitary training. Rushing past Don to get George was instant death, and Koresh wasn't that brave. One armed man was all his 8 men planned to face that day. They kept their distance and hoped for a lucky hit.

As we compared notes, Connie Harvey was the only one who knew what Vernon Howell aka David Koresh looked like. Later when she accused Steve and Teresa of conspiring with Vernon, I wondered when she met him.

The day after the shootout was quiet, George wasn't up to much. The day after that he was in pain. I was amazed to learn that Dr. Moore, who treated George in the Emergency Room at Hillcrest didn't give George antibiotics. I went back to Hillcrest with George. We waited in a small examining room. When Dr. Moore arrived I challenged him. "How come you didn't give him antibiotic?"

"Antibiotics kill stomach bacteria." He was bland.

"But it was a bullet wound," I protested.

"Bullet wounds are very clean," he assured me.

"Not when they go through a dirty t-shirt!" I had lost all trust in Dr. Moore. "Don't let that man touch you George!"

Dr. Moore and George both ignored me. The doctor poked at George's chest with a swab. "Looks fine," he said. We still didn't have a prescription for antibiotics when we left.

The next day George was sure something was wrong. He drove us up to Dallas and found a doctor. As soon as the doctor examined George's wallet, he ordered x-rays. I waited for the results. The wound was impressive. There were about thirty fingernail size fragments in a grapefruit size pattern. The bullet had exploded inside the magazine of George's UZI and blown the side of the magazine into George's chest. The spent bullet ran along a rib. The doctor put a drain in George's chest along the path of the spent bullet and gave him antibiotic. Thinking about it I concluded that George had a lot of enemies and Dr. Moore was one.

There were more enemies than even I suspected. The man George later described as his worst enemy, Judge Bill Logue used the occasion of the assassination attempt to slander the title of the property and George. His remarks appeared in the Nov. 4,. 1987 Waco Tribune Herald. The judge claimed that the property had been under litigation since 1966. The truth was that there had not been any dissent over the property since the Rodens purchased it on Feb. 27, 1973 for the church until Koresh filed a claim on it in deed records on Oct. 30, 1987, 4 days before the shooting. The judge shouldn't have known about Koresh's claim. The judge claimed that he issued a restraining order in 1979 to protect Lois Roden from George. The truth was that George's mother Lois went to court to take the church away from George and she got it. The judge claimed that when he met with Perry Jones and an unnamed attorney (most likely Wayne Martin) 3 weeks before the shooting they only talked about old times. I doubt it.

I had arrived in George's life at a point of maximum conflict. Those attempting to destroy the church since the 60s believed that George was so unpopular with the membership that they could quietly take him down. A small setback like George's survival wasn't going to stop them. Even when Donna Harvey's brief in the Texas Supreme Court resulted in an indefinite postponement of the sale of the property for back taxes, they didn't quit. That December Koresh (using his birth name Vernon Howell) gave the county over $60,000.00 dollars to pay the back taxes mooting (making irrelevant) the tax lawsuit.

Meanwhile my relationship with George was broken. George promised to support me in that marriage contract I hated. He used that empty promise to talk me into giving him my savings to keep the church bills paid. I resented being browbeaten for my last dollar. He accused Steve and Teresa of conspiring with Koresh based on an accusation by Connie Harvey who claimed her sister had a secret source of information in Vernon's group. Connie was jealous of Teresa and quite a liar as well as a speed addict. I knew Steve and Teresa were innocent. I invited them to stay at my farm that winter and help me with firewood, etc. Stanley and I would stay in the main house, they could have the pear house. I thought I was pregnant, and knew I was broke and had no firewood. I had a husband I preferred to avoid. I was going home.

By January I knew I was pregnant. Steve and Teresa scrounged firewood from the deadwood lying around the farm and cut it up for the stove. I was anemic and weak. When George visited I railed at him over my lack of food. George called my parents and told them he could not support me, they would have to send money. I was humiliated. My parents sent an urgent request that I call them. I cried for an hour first. When I called they agreed to send me $200.00 per month on the condition that I would not share it with George. That was no problem to me. I wasn't in a mood to help George.

George became irrationally jealous of Steve and furious with me because I would not give him gas money. He was so verbally abusive that I once bounced a pipe wrench off the hood of his car as he was leaving. I was flattened by the chronic anemia I had suffered from since 1984, poverty, and stress. George came to the farm every day to give me lectures on my wifely duty and call Steve and Teresa names. I realized when he missed a day just how much I dreaded his visits.

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